What some people fail to recognize is that just because someone doesn’t put their hands on you doesn’t mean they aren’t abusive. Abuse is control, blatant disrespect, in words or physical action. Emotional abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse.
Most people would like to believe that they could recognize an abusive person after only a few conversations. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Abusive people are often hard to spot. If you’re not the target of their abusive behavior, you may never know what they’re actually like until their victim speaks out about the abuse.
According to psychotherapist Amy Lewis Bear, “Abusers can be highly skilled at projecting an attractive image that convinces others they have solid personal values and wouldn’t be capable of abuse. An abuser’s thoughtful and caring behavior toward others gives their victims more reason to take the blame.”
Even though it’s sometimes hard to spot an abuser, it’s not impossible. It’s important to know how to spot an abuser; not only to avoid being a victim but for the family and friends who inevitably blame themselves for not being able to stop the abuse.
1. Abusers are regular people, but here’s the catch…
Remember, abusers don’t seem like normal people because they’re good at pretending – it’s because they are ordinary people, who lead entirely normal lives outside of their cycles of abuse.
The catch? They like playing the blame game.
Avoid anyone who blames their negative actions and feelings on someone else. Feeling like victims, the abuser see themselves as justified in whatever retaliation they enact and whatever compensation they take. Blamers will undoubtedly cause pain for you if you come to love one.
2. Abusers don’t abuse everyone
Too often abuse victims are not believed at first because others have only had pleasant interactions with the abuser. “Bob would never do that. He’s smart, successful, and just so nice.” To you! This is a dangerous trap to fall into, and it’s important to remember that abusers will never abuse everyone. They are selective because if they abuse everyone they come across, no one will get close enough to them to be manipulated, and controlled.
If someone’s past partners all have the same story of being abused, it’s a red flag. But if only a few persons come forward with abusive stories, the abuser can claim they are just disgruntled, while trotting out people who they didn’t abuse to sing their praises. Even one accusation should be taken seriously.
3. Abusers don’t abuse all the time, but when they do…
They may start out with small acts of abuse – manipulation or subtle gaslighting – and then build up to a more controlling nature. Or, they may exact outbursts of violence – such as yelling or hitting – and then immediately become nurturing or loving again.
If an abuser were mistreating their victims 100% of the time, they wouldn’t have anyone to control or abuse, because everyone would avoid them. The key for the abuser is to balance abuse with signs of remorse, and just enough false love to avoid driving their victims away.
The thing with abusive people is the acts of abuse are almost never just a one-time thing. “They may have elaborate excuses for these incidents or blame the person they attacked by saying they “had to” or that they “were provoked,” states WebMD.
4. Abusers rush into relationships
The abuser will continuously seek out potential victims once their abusive behavior is recognized and their influence is denied. This may result in the abuser getting into a string of failed relationships. And this is one of the most overlooked hidden behaviors in an abusive person.
An abuser cannot abuse without a victim, and their self-esteem demands someone to control.
The abuser needs to sweep a new victim off their feet and get them emotionally invested in the relationship before their abusive tendencies kick in. Something they can only keep hidden for so long. Time is an abusive person’s enemy, and a potential victim’s friend.