abuse article

Who is an abuser: How to Recognize Signs of Emotional Abuse and Resist it

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Abuse is a serious issue that can occur in any type of relationship. It can take many forms, such as emotional, sexual, financial, and physical abuse, and is often used by the abuser to control and manipulate the victim. According to the World Health Organization, one in three women worldwide have experienced sexual or physical violence, most often at the hands of a partner. Unfortunately, many victims may not fully realize they have been abused until after they have left the relationship. It is important to recognize the signs of abuse and know how to get help if you or someone you know is a victim of violence.

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The topic of abuse and violence in relationships has traditionally been considered taboo and not openly discussed. This was particularly true for older generations who placed a high value on maintaining appearances and not airing their personal conflicts in public. This mindset often led to victims of abuse being expected to endure mistreatment in silence, as it was seen as a sign of patience and a willingness to preserve relationships at any cost. However, this perception is changing and with more visibility of abuse cases in the media, the public is becoming more aware of the pervasiveness of this problem.

Often people assume that violence is more common in dysfunctional families, but this is not at all the case. Abusers, that is, people who force victims to the desired behavior, can be very well off, have a large and seemingly strong family, can have a good education and high social status. In addition, due to insufficient knowledge of the issue and relatively little coverage of the problem, victims are sometimes unable to assess the state of affairs: the situation is attributed to the complex nature of the partner, his conflict, isolation, and much more.

There is a tangible difference between ordinary quarrels and conflicts, which are normal in human relations, and abuse. Unlike conflicts and quarrels, in abusive relationships, the roles and presence of power are always clearly distributed. The victim cannot become an abuser in the same relationship. In general, people who act as abusers, as a rule, lack empathy (at the same time, understanding and recognition of other people's emotions can be fully available), respect for the boundaries of another person and the ability to observe them, but there is a desire to control, authoritativeness.

It is important to distinguish between normal conflicts and disagreements in relationships, and abuse. In abusive relationships, the power dynamic is clearly unequal, with one person exerting control and dominance over the other. The victim in an abusive relationship cannot also be the abuser. Abusers often lack empathy and respect for the boundaries of others, and have a strong desire for control and dominance. They may display authoritarian behavior towards their partners.

Research shows that women are disproportionately affected by abuse, with nearly a third of women between the ages of 15 and 49 experiencing sexual or physical violence by a partner at least once in their lifetime. The situation has worsened further in 2020 when quarantine and self-isolation measures were introduced in many countries, resulting in a 200% increase in family crimes in some months.

Emotional abuse often goes unnoticed but can have severe consequences for the victim. Those who suffer from emotional abuse may experience symptoms such as confusion, fear, difficulty focusing, self-doubt, nightmares, physical pain, and heart palpitations. Long-term effects can include anxiety, insomnia, and even social isolation.

photo: criminallawgroup.com.au

A study by London-based company Three Hands found that abuse rarely takes only one form. Forcing the victim to do something often goes hand in hand with threats, intimidation, and economic pressure. It is estimated that 95 percent of victims of violence are not able to recognize the power dynamic in their relationship because of the complexity of the impact.

In cases of abuse, the effects often extend beyond the confines of the home and can have a significant impact on the victim's daily life. Victims may struggle to work, may be forced to rely on their abuser for financial resources, or may become exhausted from the added responsibilities of caring for children and managing household chores that are imposed on them by the abuser.

Abusers often use manipulation tactics to make their victims feel guilty for the abuse, justifying their actions with seemingly rational explanations. If you feel uncomfortable or ashamed in your relationship, it may be a sign that it is not healthy. Abuse begins where comfort ends.

Sometimes, abuse can take on more subtle forms and may not involve direct threats or overt control.

Some signs of abuse include:

  • Monitoring and controlling the partner's behavior, including their spending.
  • Threatening the safety of the partner, their loved ones, or property.
  • Constant criticism
  • Humiliation or attempts to shame
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Gaslighting, making the partner doubt their own perceptions of reality and competence
  • Planting feelings of guilt
  • Obsessive instructions on how the partner should behave or feel
  • Pathological jealousy
  • Mockery and ridicule
  • Obstruction in achieving personal or professional goals.

It's important to be aware of these signs and to seek help if you suspect you are experiencing abuse.

Emotional swings can be a sign of abuse in a relationship. Some couples may enjoy the thrill of passionate arguments, but if the emotional distance between you and your partner is deliberately manipulated, this can be a sign of abuse. If your partner goes from showering you with gifts and attention one day to refusing to talk to you the next, without explanation, and you feel uncomfortable with this behavior but your partner refuses to change it, it's something to consider.

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Individuals often base their interpersonal relationships on the experiences they had while growing up, particularly within their family. While personal growth can lead to changes, a person may continue to mirror the behavior of those close to them, such as parents. Those who grew up in a family where relationships were built on control may be inclined to replicate that behavior.

Abusers often use control as a means to maintain power in a relationship. It is easier for them to exert control rather than negotiate and establish equal partnerships. It can be difficult to recognize and navigate the boundaries of a healthy relationship, which is why seeking help from a therapist or a trusted loved one is recommended.

Victims of abuse can come from all walks of life, regardless of income, education, or social status. However, certain individuals may be more susceptible, such as those who are financially dependent on the abuser, have limited contact with family and friends, or are elderly or have serious illnesses. These individuals may be more likely to fall under the control of their abuser and may be less likely to speak out about the abuse they are experiencing. Breaking free from an abusive relationship can be challenging.

Victims of abuse may remain silent about their experiences for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Wanting to preserve the family at any cost
  • Feeling needed by the abuser
  • Fear of public condemnation or judgement
  • Reluctance to burden loved ones with their problems
  • Fear of expressing themselves or speaking out
  • Guilt imposed by the abuser
  • Lack of knowledge or understanding of what to do after leaving the relationship
  • Feeling like they don't deserve help
  • Fear of potential repercussions or trouble
  • Seeing cruelty as a normal aspect of family life
  • Pressure to keep abuse a secret within the family
  • Protection of the abuser or their reputation
  • The abuser's high status in society
  • Belief that their story of abuse will not be believed.

Every individual has the right to feel safe and make their own choices. However, a person who is experiencing abuse must ultimately decide for themselves whether to give their partner another chance. It is not possible to change a partner if they are not willing to change themselves.

When facing an abuser, it is important to prioritize one's own safety and well-being. Many victims of abuse may feel a sense of responsibility for the abuser and have a fear of hurting them, even if their actions are justified. Abusers who are used to exerting control may not easily let go of their partner and may resort to persuasion, promises, threats, and even violence to maintain control.

It is not the responsibility of the victim to try and end the relationship alone. To ensure physical and psychological safety, it is important to seek help from law enforcement agencies, support organizations, and trusted individuals. If facing threats, it is crucial to take action to protect oneself.

photo: verywellhealth.com

If a victim of abuse decides to leave their abuser, it is important to prepare emotionally to avoid going back. Some experts suggest analyzing and documenting one's feelings from the experience, noting particularly unpleasant situations. This can help strengthen their resolve when the abuser tries to manipulate them into staying.

It is important to remember that the abuse is not the fault of the victim but the abuser, and change will not occur simply because the victim requests it. It is also important to be prepared for the fact that ending the relationship will be difficult emotionally.

It's important for the victim of abuse to have an escape plan in place, both logistically and legally if necessary. The abuser may not let the victim go easily and may resort to measures such as slander and surveillance. This can be particularly dangerous if the abuser has access to the victim's electronic devices and accounts.

It's crucial for the victim to have support from allies, whether it be from family, friends, or professional support such as legal and psychological support. It's important not to wait for the "perfect" moment to leave as it may never come, it's better to act when the safety is at maximum.

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