Because abusive relationships don’t usually start out with obvious abuse, it’s very important to learn early signs of danger. Abusers can use sweetness and charm to win you over or intermix it with aggression to keep you involved. Rob Andrews, a domestic violence counselor in Australia, has described a very simple test for people in relationships. For the Andrews “no” test, simply observe the reaction of your partner whenever you change your mind about something or say “no” to the person. Expressions of disappointment are okay. Annoyance or anger or “how dare you” are warning signs.
Abusive people are most often controlling, self-centered and act entitled. If a person acts as if you have no right to disagree or say “no,” take that as a serious sign of potential abuse. If the person is already being aggressive or threatening, do not try to be assertive or confrontational. Just figure out how to withdraw and end the relationship if necessary. Tell a trusted person about your situation, and get whatever help you need. It is not your responsibility to control the abuse. The only person who can stop the abuse is the abuser.
If you are in a long-term hostile relationship or have been convinced the abuse is your fault (“I wouldn’t get mad if you didn’t _______” ), think of the ways you have resisted, survived and held onto your self-respect, dignity and hope. Change self-blame into self-praise for being strong and resilient. Remind yourself that you do not deserve abuse or violence – no one does.
Males are far more likely to abuse females than vice versa because of thousands of years of considering females inferior and subservient to males. Also, male violence is more dangerous because men in general are bigger and stronger than women. Far too many males have learned an attitude of entitlement and an historical – even a “god-given” – right to dominate females. Both genders have been brainwashed to accept that dominance and mistreatment. That indoctrination is a lot to overcome, but it can be done.
You cannot expect to reverse centuries of social stereotyping, but you can learn to recognize and avoid toxic and dangerous people. Most people are not dangerous abusers, but look out for those who are.