How To Identify A Potential Abuser (Part One)

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Abusive people are mean. They may not physically hurt anyone, but they do all kinds of personal damage. Thankfully, there are plenty of red flags that you can watch for – in friends, in romantic relationships, or even in business.

If you know a “Person X” and suspect he or she could be abusive – anything from manipulative to murderous – you should check out this series of red flag checklists I put together.

            Part One: Family and History (Allow a little wiggle room. Many people come from less-than-ideal families and turn out just fine.) Freud wasn’t right about everything, but we do learn a lot about how we’re supposed to behave and what life is like when we’re very young.

  • Was Person X ever abused (physically, verbally, emotionally, or neglected) as a child? Was Person X’s mother abused when he/she was little? Did he/she witness domestic violence? This could teach a child that close relationships include intimidation, power plays, and pain.
  • Was Person X been raised in an extremely strict or religious home? Intolerance can lead to intolerance or incredible rebellion; neither extreme is especially healthy.
  • Were/are parents disrespectful and critical of each other and/or their kids? How do  parents handle conflict with each other? Do their disagreements quickly lead to verbal abuse? Kind of intuitive how this could turn out.
  • Is Person X obviously uncomfortable with physical contact with parents or siblings? Unless the same discomfort exists with all people, this is a sign of (at the very least) unresolved family issues or even (perhaps) childhood physical or sexual abuse.
  • If male, does Person X seem like a mama’s boy today? It’s a good indicator that mama is manipulative and Junior will be, too.
  • Does Person X still try to out-do the same-sex parent? Immaturity. What’s keeping him/her from growing up?
  • Was Person X ever in foster care? This would be a scary and confusing time for a child who may not understand why Mom or Dad wasn’t there. The experience could be as traumatic as the reason for it.

Just because a couple of these fit your Person X, don’t jump to any conclusions. By the same token, just because someone had a perfectly normal, boring childhood doesn’t mean they’re immune to abusive behavior! These are only cautionary signs, telling you that the more that apply, the more you should pay attention.

Coming next, Part Two: Perception of Responsibility. Stay tuned!

Maybe it goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway: if you are a victim of domestic, dating, or even friend abuse – you don’t have to be. You don’t deserve it, you didn’t do anything wrong, and you’re worthy of better. There are tons of resources out there, so please don’t wait for the behavior to escalate – reach out and get out. And because most people don’t know what to look for, please share this post. Knowledge is power, right?

– Adina


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