Abuse has a pattern similar to an addiction. Once the abuser has utilized an abusive method for a long period of time, the victim develops a tolerance to the abuse so it no longer has the same effect. This aggravates the abuser who then escalates.
It should be noted that there are seven primary ways a partner can be abused: mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially, verbally, and sexually. So abuse is not just about physical violence.
However, it is in the escalation that the abuser can become more obsessive, intense, erratic, and dangerous. Knowing these signs can be the difference between life and death.
The following checklist is slightly modified to be gender neutral but taken otherwise in whole from Gavin De Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear. Remember an abusing partner (AP) can be male or female, from all socioeconomic groups, from any demographic, and have a variety of traumatic history.
- The victim has intuitive feelings that they are at risk.
- At the inception of the relationship, the AP accelerated the pace, prematurely placing on things as commitment, living together, and marriage on the agenda.
- The AP resolves conflict with intimidation, bullying, and violence.
- The AP is verbally abusive.
- The AP uses threats and intimidation as instruments of control or abuse. This includes threats to harm physically, to defame, to embarrass, to restrict freedom, to disclose secrets, to cut off support, to abandon, and to commit suicide.
- The AP breaks or strikes things in anger. They use symbolic violence (such as tearing a wedding photo, marring a face in the photo, etc.).
- The AP has a history of battery in prior relationships.
- The AP uses alcohol or drugs with adverse effects (such as memory loss, hostility, and/or cruelty).
- The AP cites alcohol as an excuse or explanation for hostile or violent conduct (“That was the booze talking, not me; I got so drunk I was crazy”).
- The AP’s history includes police encounters for behavioral offenses (such as threats, stalking, assault, and/or battery).
- There has been more than one incident of violent behavior (including vandalism, breaking things, and/or throwing things).
- The AP uses money to control the activities, purchases, and behavior of the victim.
- The AP becomes jealous of anyone or anything that takes the victim’s time away from the relationship; AP keeps the victim on a “tight leash,” requires the victim to account for their time.
- The AP refuses to accept rejection.
- The AP expects the relationship to go on forever, perhaps using phrases like “together for life,” “always,” and/or “no matter what.”
- The AP projects extreme emotions onto others (such as hate, love, jealousy, and/or commitment) even when there is no evidence that would lead a reasonable person to perceive them.
- The AP minimizes incidents of abuse.
- AP spends a disproportionate amount of time talking about the victim and derives much of their identity from being in the relationship.
- AP tries to enlist the victim’s friends or relatives in a campaign to keep or recover the relationship.
- AP has inappropriately surveilled or followed the victim.
- AP believes others are out to get them. AP believes that those around the victim dislike them and encourage the victim to leave.
- AP resists change and is described as inflexible, unwilling to compromise.
- AP identifies with or compares themselves to violent people in films, news stories, fiction, or history. AP characterizes the violence of others as justified.
- AP suffers mood swings or is sullen, angry, or depressed.
- AP consistently blames others for problems of their own making; AP refuses to take responsibility for the results of their actions.
- AP refers to weapons as instruments of power, control, or revenge.
- Weapons are substantial part of AP’s persona; AP has a gun or they talk about, joke about, read about, and/or collect weapons.
- AP uses “male/female privilege” as a justification for their conduct (treats victim like a servant, makes all the big decisions, and/or acts like the “master of the house”).
- AP experienced or witnessed violence as a child.
- The victim fears the AP will injure or kill them. The victim has discussed this with others or has made plans to be carried out in the event of their death (designating someone to care for children).
All thirty characteristics do not have to be met before the AP is determined to be a threat. However, the most important ingredient in determining the level of threat an AP poses is the intuition of the victim. Listen to it, it might save a life.