10 Early Warning Signs for Family Violence
Article by Sophie Phoon
Trigger Warning: This article discusses family violence
Those who have suffered domestic abuse often say that they never would have thought their partner to be capable of such things at the very start. This is because it almost never begins the way you think it would. The most perceptive of women can end up in abusive relationships because the warning signs are just not obvious.
Abuse often begins very subtly and escalates over the course of the relationship, so that by the time the red flags appear, you have already formed an attachment to the abuser. That is why lists like these, which can help you spot a potential abuser, are so important.
The following early warning signs are ones that you may be able to identify in the “dating stage” of the relationship, before any proper commitment has occurred (before you move in together, get engaged, have children…).
Please note that this list is not fully comprehensive, and it also doesn’t mean that someone who shows some of these signs will end up being physically abusive. We are also aware that women may be perpetrators of violence and abuse. However, the majority of violence is directed towards women, so for simplicity we have used ‘he’ to denote the abuser. If there is anything we have missed, please let us know in the comments below.
1. Blames exes for failed relationships:
They will not take any blame for past relationships failures, they will always put the blame on their ex. In fact, this might even be used to flatter you. They might say something like, “Thank God you’re nothing like that bitch.”
2. Looks uncomfortable when you talk to other men:
They might not say anything when another man talks to you, but they may look very uncomfortable with the situation. This is an early indicator of jealousy, which may be an attribute of abusers.
3. Hypersensitive to perceived slights:
The smallest setbacks will be massively inconvenient to them; e.g. someone walking too slowly in front of them, the server accidentally bringing them the wrong thing at a restaurant, a child crying in a public area. During the dating stage, all their anger will be directed towards other people, but eventually it may shift to you.
4. Makes decisions for you:
Abusive people tend to view others as inferior or incapable of making their own decisions. They will set up this power play early on by doing things such as ordering for you at a restaurant (without your permission) or planning social activities for the two of you without consulting you first.
5. Makes you feel needed:
In the early stages, he might play the ‘lost puppy’ card – he just needs a “good woman” and you’re the one for him. This quickly turns manipulative as he tries to make you feel guilty for not spending enough time with him, or treats your other friends with suspicion and resentment.
6. Pressures you to commit early:
Abusers may come on very strong, wanting you to commit to a serious relationship early on. Many women in these relationships find themselves engaged within six months. He may say things like, “I’ve never experienced this kind of love before.”
7. Equates jealousy with love:
He may be jealous for your time, your love, and your energy. He may feel jealous of the other people in your life who he sees as being a drain on your resources. He may want you all to himself and if you question it, he may say that it’s just that he loves you so much.
8. Disregard other people’s rights:
Abusers may have a deep sense of entitlement; they see themselves as being the centre of the universe and others as irrelevant. Early on, you may notice his disregard for other people’s feelings and rights (not yours, not yet). For example, he might light up in a non-smoking area or cut in front of other people in a line.
9. Monitors your social activity:
This might stem from jealousy and a desire to be in control of your life. He may constantly ask where you are going, who you’re going with, why, etc. He may unexpectedly show up at your house, constantly call you, check the mileage on your car, or read your messages or emails. If you question him, he might pass it off as concern for your safety.
10. Predatory self-esteem:
In order to feel good about himself, he might feel the need to put other people down. At the very beginning, this negativity may be directed towards other people, but over time the focus may shift towards you and your children. According to Psychology Today, when abusers come in for court-ordered therapy, they tend to show very high levels of self-esteem, while their victims will have low self-esteem. As therapy progresses and the victims begin to recover, the abuser’s self-esteem decreases.
If you are in need of support relating to family violence or abuse, or if you would like further information, please visit White Ribbon at www.whiteribbon.org.au/find-help/support-services/