What is New?


February 1: New groundbreaking children's book by Australian author Ava Keyes called "Scapegoat". Story here
January 21: Added a new video by Med Circle interviewing Dr. Ramani Durvasula on the How to Tell If You Have Abusive Parents post
December 22: Newest post: Black Sheep at Christmas? Making Christmas Better... , or go here for the whole list of topics having to do with the holidays
December 14: Gaslighting: How a Parent Can Drive a Kid Crazy: Therapist Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC, takes on the subject of children who are being gaslighted by parents and why she thinks it is the most egregious form of child abuse. Story here
PETITION: the first petition I have seen of its kind: Protection for Victims of Narcissistic Sociopath Abuse (such as the laws the UK has, and is being proposed for the USA): story here and here or sign the actual petition here
Note: After seeing my images on social media unattributed, I find it necessary to post some rules about sharing my images

Saturday, April 11, 2015

What are types of abuse? Scapegoating, bullying, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse

name of art: "Stop Abuse"
image is © Lise Winne
watercolor, ink and graphics, 2015
(for questions regarding use of images or to contract an image for your next article
contact: LilacGroveGraphics (att) yahoo.com)

The meaning of abuse: to intentionally hurt another person. Some professionals in the mental health field also consider inappropriate control of another person to be abuse too. Inappropriate control can mean: slavery, enslaving, expecting you to provide for their needs and wants and deny or sacrifice your own to your own detriment, telling you what to do that is not in your best interest (with an implied punishment if you do not), telling an adult they can't marry, telling an adult they can't move, telling an adult they can't have children, telling an adult that they will be punished if they go against any wishes of their aggressor, and so on. These are just examples.

Verbal abuse includes: name-calling, insults, defaming, belittling, defining in a negative prejudicial way, trivializing what another person says through an entire altercation, false unproven accusations on a consistent basis, disparaging your character and disguising it as a joke, constant chiding, interrogations meant to humiliate, taunting, goading, yelling and raging, continual use of "always" and "never" statements, baiting, condescending (between adults), patronizing (between adults), talking over you and not letting you speak, responding to your thoughts, views, desires, feelings, expressions (and even happiness) as an irritant or an attack (active link from Wikipedia). The point of verbal abuse for a perpetrator is to disable a victim's self esteem, to get him to think of himself as inferior to others, to get him to think that he does not have the same rights and privileges of kindness as others, to get him to think that he deserves verbal abuse because he is inferior. It may also mean that the perpetrator wants a victim to grovel for relief from verbal abuse. Verbal abuse almost always escalates to emotional abuse. Verbal abuse can escalate to physical abuse if there are threats of any kind. For a more in-depth discussion on verbal abuse go to this post.
For an excellent article on the effects of verbal abuse on its victims go here.

Emotional and psychological abuse: threatening physical or emotional harm, the silent treatment, imposed isolation (keeping you from your friends and family), slander and smear campaigns, destruction of pets or property, brainwashing, gaslighting, shaming, sabotage, scapegoating, favoritism, perspecticide, blaming you for everything that goes wrong in the relationship between you, consistently negatively comparing you with another, punishing (adult to adult), intimidation, manipulation, trying to control your actions through rewards and punishments, bullying (punishing, threatening or verbally abusing you from a position of power), domestic theft, emotionally blackmailing (threats and punishments used to control your behavior or to capitulate to demands), false accusations (unwarranted or exaggerated criticism or blame), frivolous litigation, grooming (maneuvering you into a dependent position that will make you dependent on your abuser, or grooming you to look at abuse as acceptable), harassment (unwarranted and chronic unwelcome communications or actions), infantilization, stalking, unwanted interrogations, targeted mocking and sarcasm, deceiving, invalidation (of emotions, experiences, so that the victim's perspectives are discounted), mirroring, neglect (ignoring a dependent's needs), normalizing (getting a person accustomed to abuse, or coercion, or breaking the law), objectification, parentification, splitting (the practice of regarding others as completely good, or completely bad), triangulating, rationalizing manipulative behavior, vilifying a victim of abuse or bullying, brandishing anger (putting on an act of anger to shock you), expecting you to "walk on eggshells" around their explosive rages and "punishments", feigned victimization, "guilt trips" over erroneous allegations, sexual objectification, impeding or interrupting sleep, expecting perfectionism from you at all times, projection, pathological lying and Munchausen's and Munchausen by Proxy. The point of emotional abuse for a perpetrator is to disable a victim emotionally so that the victim is grieving, sad, upset, depressed, in shock, feeling isolated and unloved, and in general, suffering emotionally from cruelty or unkindness. It may also mean that the perpetrator wants a victim to grovel for relief from emotional pain, thereby making the victim more compliant to the abuser's demands. The point of psychological abuse for a perpetrator is to get a victim to think that he is disabled mentally, to play with the victim's perceptions (perhaps the victim discovers lies, subterfuge and smear campaigns against him), to instill in him that he does not have the same rights and privileges of others because he is "crazy". It may also mean that the perpetrator wants a victim to think of himself as disabled psychologically so that he will accept fault in altercations with the abuser because he is mentally deficient, or lean on the abuser for a sense of reality.
For a more thorough discussion of emotional abuse go here.
For an excellent article on psychological abuse, go here.
Or take the Walking on Eggshells quiz to see how bad your situation is.

According to this psychology article by Melissa Dahl emotional and psychological abuse can be as damaging, or more damaging, as physical and sexual abuse. Parents trying to exert too much control can be the main culprit:
“Psychological abuse” covers a wide variety of mistreatment, including parents bullying kids, exerting excess control over them, or insulting or threatening them; at the other end of the spectrum, isolating or ignoring kids is also considered to be psychological abuse.
According to this Wikipdeia article:
... research shows that emotional abuse is a precursor to physical abuse when three particular forms of emotional abuse are present in the relationship: threats, restriction of the abused party and damage to the victim's property.[44]

A new law in Britain makes emotional abuse and family scapegoating of children illegal; another new law makes emotional abuse in an adult relationship illegal too.

Physical abuse: intentionally hurting you in any physical way, putting you in physical danger, unwanted touching, sleep deprivation, explosive rages which violate your boundaries and make you feel fearful, imposed physical isolation, slapping, pinching, poking, scratching, biting, pushing and shoving, yanking things away from you, hitting, punching, crushing you, shaking you in a rage, blocking you from passing, leaning into you to lecture you (adult to adult), unwanted tickling, putting their hand over your mouth in a rage, domestic theft of personal property, domestic theft of shared property, property damage in a rage, abduction, kidnapping, physical stalking (i.e. following you), drowning, freezing, burning, tripping, poking you in the eye, sexual abuse and assault, sexual touch, keeping you from leaving or staying, favoritism (showing consistent preferential treatment to one person, while physically punishing or isolating you), false imprisonment, purposely cutting you, making you eat or drink when you do not want to, making you shed clothes when you do not want to, forcing you to shake hands with another abuser, physical unwanted handling of you, pushing you into traffic, slamming you up against a wall, pushing you off a precipice, using or threatening with a weapon to inflict personal injury, intentional transmission of disease or toxic substance, poisoning and bunny boiling.

According to this Wikipedia article:

Physical abuse is an act of a person involving contact of another person intended to cause feelings of physical paininjury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm.[1][2] ...

... Physically abused children are at risk for later interpersonal problems involving aggressive behavior, and adolescents are at a much greater risk for substance abuse. In addition, symptoms of depression, emotional distress, and suicidal ideation are also common features of people who have been physically abused. Studies have also shown that children with a history of physical abuse may meet DSM-IV-TR criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[3]

How do I tell if someone is abusive? 
In order for a person to be correctly labeled as abusive, it is usually not a once in a lifetime offense or behavior, but a pattern of behavior where the person adopts several verbally abusive traits and several emotionally abuse traits, at the very least. Abusers primarily adopt abuse to dominate another person. They tell them what to do, including how to perceive events ... they also tend to tell the victim what the victim is experiencing, feeling and thinking, without asking for accuracy. This is called perspecticide.
Most abusers interrogate targets for information about their lives often using love bombing and mirroring to get information. Covert narcissists (vulnerable narcissists), sociopaths and psychopaths reveal little information about themselves, however. Overt narcissists (grandiose) will usually try to make the conversation turn back to themselves, often using comparisons to what you have revealed about yourself. The interrogations of the former can prove to be much more damaging than the latter for targets.    
Most abusers practice a cycle of abuse.
Most abusers practice gaslighting, perspecticide and, if they are not physically abusive, idealize, devalue and discard (i.e. eventual silent treatments, ghosting, shunning, ostracizing) 
Most abusers have personality disorders (see below).
Abuse tends to be overwhelmingly generational (passing down the generations).

How can I tell how dangerous the situation is with my abuser? And if it is dangerous, how do I get out of it?
Go here where I discuss this topic in depth.

Perfectionism: Almost all abusers expect "perfectionism" from their victims. Abusers are known to want "perfect" actions, looks, feelings, and attitudes. They are also known to interpret the attitudes and looks of their victims as an excuse to abuse (punish).

Abusers have been known to take command of telling the victim what the victim is feeling, thinking, and doing and why it is, or is not, perfect enough (or "a punishable offense"). Interpreting in this way is called erroneous blaming, another form of abuse. Erroneous blaming and perfectionism almost always go hand-in-hand. Mocking, put-downs, verbal abuse and gaslighting usually are part of the arsenal of weapons perpetrators use when expecting perfectionism from their victims.

One of the first signs of an abusive family is that the authority figures tell you what you are thinking and feeling. If you are having an argument with them, they also make it known that they don't care what you feel, that your job is to only care what they feel. They also expect you to perform duties to perfection, even when you are no longer a child.

-- more about "perfectionism" from this post.

Financial Abuse:
Financial abuse occurs in 98 percent of abusive relationships. The point of financial abuse for a perpetrator is to disable a victim financially. Additionally, many perpetrators practice financial abuse as a way to get their victims to grovel for money so that the perpetrator can gain power and control over his victim, and can dictate the terms of receiving money, food, travel fare, etc. Go to my post here where I discuss this topic at length.

Child abuse:
Go here for an excellent post on signs of child abuse and what you can do. Child abuse becomes part of a family system and is passed down the generations if it is not stopped. If you grew up being abused or expected to walk on eggshells around your parents, here is an excellent post and another excellent post for moving beyond the experience. Please also see How to Tell if You Have Abusive Parents post and child abuse before the 1980s at the bottom of this post.

Sibling abuse: 
Sibling abuse is the #1 cause of domestic violence.
Go here for a thorough discussion on this form of abuse.

Peer to peer bullying: According the national website on bullying, bullying is defined as:

unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.

According to the same website, bullied victims suffer long lasting health problems for many years. Furthermore, if bullying is not stopped, the perpetrators tend to become more violent:
If bullying is not addressed early on, it can mark the beginning of a violent trajectory that can quickly escalate ... In fact, one recent study found that youth who admitted to verbally bullying peers in middle school were seven times more likely than their peers to report physically abusing their dates four years later.

Scapegoating is being abused by more than one abuser. Scapegoating is most common in alcoholic and narcissistic families. I have written about scapegoating in alcoholic families here. Or go to my art blog here where I wrote extensively about scapegoating in both alcoholic and narcissistic families.

What does scapegoating look like from a real live person? This forum user described her situation:

As an adult, I was often confronted with my npd-enmeshed parents snarling at me "after ALL we've done for you, you won't do...". I grew up terrorized by my parents ... as a young child, and as a teen, I was terrorized. I was hit. I was slapped. I was screamed at. I was punished for trivial matters, such as perceived "what's that look on your face" insubordination. I was parentified. I had household duties unsuited for a child, then rebuked for not executing them perfectly. I was held responsible for my parents' emotions, and subjected to their rages. I never knew when my parents would ignite, and because I was such a quiet and well-behaved child, I was rarely ever responsible for their rage directed at me. They were stingy, financially and emotionally ...

What they've "done for me" is to create enough anxiety and angst in me to send me to therapy at least four times in my life. When they thought I was seeing a therapist a decade+ ago, when I went NC for first time for several months, both my parents were outraged, offended that I sought help, angered that I was "telling stories" that revealed their true nature ... father was outraged, livid, that I was "getting bad advice from someone" ... My current therapist thinks my parents are "high-functioning sociopaths", and she terms my case as one of the worst she's ever encountered in her many decades of therapeutic practice. And there I was, enduring that cruelty for so many years, so many decades, passively accepting it as my fate and "my duty". 
~ daughter (forum ID)

What does scapegoating look like to an outsider? Usually in families that scapegoat, there is a hierarchy going on. The head of the family practices favoritism to determine how people rank in the system (for a full exploration into the subject, see my blog post on favoritism in the family). Who is favored is largely determined by who most resembles the head of the family, the one making the decisions about the hierarchy. All battles within the family are solved using this system. In other words, person C almost always has to apologize to person A, even if person A is the most culpable and responsible for what happened in an altercation. It is a simplistic form of parenting (or solving family problems) where the person lower in stature is the one blamed. The person on the bottom rung eventually gets blamed for everything. The scapegoat is also the most abused and bullied by the family, to the point where the scapegoat often finds it too painful to stay in the family. Scapegoats can also be ostracized from the family. When ostracism is severe and long lasting, the scapegoat learns to be independent of his family, and as ostracism becomes a pattern for issues large and small, has no desire to be hoovered back in to his dysfunctional family again, no matter what kind of carrot stick is involved. As he tells others outside of the family of his experiences, the rest of his family tries desperately to discount him, often using slander to separate themselves from him. However, there is often a need to fill the void: a replacement scapegoat becomes the next victim and emotional dumping ground. Sibling abuse is chronic and rampant in this kind of family system. Expecting infantilization from the victim, as well as over-compliance, over-reporting when interrogated, pleasing behaviors, accepting abuse are some of the signs of scapegoats. The body language displaying fear and pulling in, is also a sign of victimization of scapegoating. To understand why victims of family abuse and family violence should not be pressured into "making up with their abusers", go to this post where I discuss this subject in depth.  
Does your family act like a judge, jury and executioner and do they act like this?

For a list of all other types of abuse, go here.

Who are victims of abuse? Anyone can be a victim. Perpetrators tend to pick victims they can use in some way or another. Most abusers are addicted to flattery and the power of seduction (depending on what the abuser has to offer, he can seduce with appearance, accomplishments, looks, sob stories, mirroring his victim, through fake compassion and other methods that he thinks his victim will fall for). Many abusers seduce either people who are vulnerable and alone or weakened in some way, or people who are wildly successful so that he can make himself look better through association with that person. The seduction of high status people is different from weakened individuals. In seducing high status people, the main objective is to exploit status, to gain entry into the inner circle, to take credit and bully others out of the way, so that the victim is isolated and relying on him. The traumatized, vulnerable, easy prey kinds of victims generally tend have these characteristics: "people pleasers", nurturing, empathetic, naive, self doubting, overly conscientious, trusting and forgiving, giving benefit of the doubt, submissive and dependent or overly generous, impressionable, vulnerable to declarations of love and insincerity, showing signs they haven't reached the potential they deserve, open about their feelings or lives, with low self esteem and poor boundaries. Sometimes abusive parents groom one child (usually the parent's assigned scapegoat) to behave in these ways, making that child vulnerable in later years to being prey for other abusers (lovers, spouses and coworkers who have picked up on the aura of insecurity).

Who are abusers? Do they have personality disorders?
According to this Wikipdedia article:

Male and female perpetrators of emotional and physical abuse exhibit high rates of personality disorders, particularly borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder.[38][39][40] Rates of personality disorder in the general population are roughly 15%-20%, while roughly 80% of abusive men in court-ordered treatment programmes have personality disorders ...

If you are with an alcoholic, heavy drug user, or addict, his or her condition can mimic the aforementioned personality disorders. The difference is that when they give up their drug for good, they do not act like a person with a personality disorder any more unless they have become permanently brain damaged (alcohol can sometimes permanently damage the part of the brain responsible for empathy).

Abusers take great risks and gambles with their relationships, and bet on the fact that their victims cannot live without them. Most victims can and do live without their perpetrators and find ways to escape abuse.

If you have an abusive mother, who you suspect might have narcissistic personality disorder, you can take the "piper test" to assess the level of your abuse and how your mother may still effect you: link here.

Here is a list of five ways a narcissist gets into your head.

Take a not-too serious test about how much narcissism you may posses here.

Children who become abusers are at two ends of the spectrum: 1. they are taught by parents that they are more special than others, or 2. they are abused and neglected children. Most psychological literature points to the fact that abuse is a "learned" personality disorder because most abusers put on "acts" (they can and do seem perfectly normal, considerate and even empathetic in society, but behind closed doors are terrors). It is also thought to be "learned" because the favorite child in an abusive family (usually termed as "The Golden Child" in psychology literature) most often ends up with the same personality disorder his parent has (not always, but it is more common than not, as psychologist Dr. Ramani has declared).

There are also a smaller minority of psychologists and psychiatrists who claim that abusers may have a brain disorder, or a spectrum disorder related to autism and Asperger's, or brain damage caused by abuse at a young age or they have learned to disassociate from relentless child abuse by having two or more personalities (Multiple Personality Disorder). For those who have multiple personalities, one of their kinder personalities is assigned by the person-host to fit into society, to be worthwhile to know, to seem normally empathetic, while the abusive personality who has no empathy at all is the one they assign to their closest family members and partners. Multiple Personality Disorder only shows up in children who have endured extreme child abuse; this would not explain why so many golden children end up being abusers (since many golden children are treated as though they are infallible, many of them being conditioned and groomed to perpetrate abuse, first in the early home against their siblings). It would also not explain why a parent has assigned a family scapegoat(which is typical in abusive households). It would also not explain why similar forms of abuse appear in several generations of the same family.

Perpetrators of abuse use mirroring to seduce, and to be able to sound like others they meet (see my post on mirroring here). They pretend to have compassion, to have the same interests and ambitions, to have almost identical thoughts and feelings as the people they meet. In fact, they can come across as irresistible soul mates if mirroring is perfected to an art form. They use some mirroring and compassion as tools to get information from others so that it can be used against them later (narcissists always blame and punish if relationships aren't going the way they want them to).

But soon the masking, mirroring and all of the other acts begin to slip as they get bored, or feel entitled to something from you, or want to dominate or exploit you. Lack of respect for you and for your boundaries, treating you as though you are a child who needs to hear lectures and learn lessons, or treating you with indifference, indeed showing any signs of emotional abuse are the first signs that you are probably relating to someone with a personality disorder. When they are confronted about their dominating and cruel behaviors, the evil side takes over and expresses extreme forms of revenge and retaliation, with threats and escalation of abuse common. The person on the receiving end is either abruptly discarded or tortured in some manner (either verbally, emotionally, psychologically or physically). Then the mask comes on again when they blame and play the victim. Then they try to get their victims to shut up, terrified that others will see the evil and abuse behind the mask too. The premise for giving you undeserved torture is that it is actually misplaced rage and revenge meant for their childhood caretakers. Abusers may be abandoning and cruel because their caretakers were abandoning and cruel, and that is the only way they know how to treat others who disagree with them or confront them. Their caretakers may have had a personality disorder too, or a drinking problem with anger management issues, or they may have been incestuous.

Whether a child grows up feeling too special or too neglected, abuse is passed and perpetuated down through the generations unless it is stopped. Stopping it is possible if there are many victims within the same family. Enlightenment happens when ostracized abused members bond with one another.

Read the experiment that Kevin Dutton did on stunning the amygdala part of the brain to see what it felt like to be a psychopath (which is the part of the brain that is responsible for empathy, the part of the brain, incidentally, that is damaged in chronic alcoholism). Mr. Dutton, who is a researcher at Oxford, said of his experience:

It’s as if you’ve had a six pack of beer, but you don’t feel the tiredness and sluggishness that go with it. Your inhibitions are gone, but you’re very very alert… A lot of us drive around with a foot hovering over the brake pedal too much. Psychopaths drive around without any thought to the brake pedal at all, with their foot flooring the gas. It was a beautiful feeling, I must say.

However, he also realized the consequences: damaging ones life and the lives of others.

Alcohol and abuse: Drinking alcohol can increase the likelihood of violent acts for those with a predisposition to abusive behaviors, according to this article. In some cases, the rate of violence can increase ten fold while under the influence of alcohol.

According to The National Institute on Alcohol Misuse and Crime:

... 40% of state prisoners convicted of violent crimes were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their offense − the more violent the crime, the greater the likelihood that alcohol was involved.

According to this post on crime and alcohol:

Two-thirds of victims who suffered violence by an intimate (a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend) reported that alcohol had been a factor. Among spouse victims, 3 out of 4 incidents were reported to have involved an offender who had been drinking.

Alcohol-involved violent incidents known to law enforcement were more likely to have multiple victims than other violent incidents

About 1 in 5 (19%) alcohol-involved violent incidents known to law enforcement involved a firearm, knife, blunt object, or other non-personal weapon

The rate of violence tends to decrease in older people (40 and over) when alcohol is not involved. However, when alcohol is involved, this age group showed a remarkable increase in rates of violence to the point where this group is on par with 21 - 29 year old offenders.

Alcohol can damage the part of the brain which is responsible for feelings of empathy (amygdala). One of the traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is lack of empathy. A link between the disorder and alcoholism has been written about extensively. 

Why do people abuse? According to this trusted link for issues on emotional and mental health (the whole post is well worth reading):

Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.

Do perpetrators usually escalate abuse? Yes. (from the same link as the previous):

Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to violence. And while physical injury may be the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic abuse are also severe. Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy your self-worth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make you feel helpless and alone ...

The first tell tale sign that you are in an abusive relationship is that the person tries to control you and what you say and who you associate with. They are forceful about their opinions and insist that you have the same ones. They interrogate you or sweet-talk you for information too soon in the relationship, and too fast, eventually demanding disclosure at all times, whether you want to disclose or not. Demands for disclosure happen as the relationship deepens. Eventually many victims feel fear over the pressure to disclose from their perpetrators (from the same link as the previous):

There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up—chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive. 

What are some other red flags of abusers at the beginning of a relationship?
* While many people engage in "me-talk", that is not necessarily a sign of narcissism (i.e. an abuser -- the most common abusers have Narcissistic Personality Disorder). The first tell-tale sign to look for is someone who tries to disparage others while elevating themselves in stories, who tries to make himself look superior to others through bragging and chiding. Another subtle clue is love-bombing (appearing to be obsessed and in love with you). Subtle clever, joking put-downs, coupled with charm and a loving slap on the back or a reach out to squeeze your arm or hand, are also the beginning sign.

If this slips past your notice, here are other red flags:
*in the beginning of the relationship mirrors your likes, dislikes, spiritual persuasions, interests, and so on.
* too intimate too fast
* unusually "touchy-feel-y"
* Says he was the victim in his past relationships, but has rarely gone to a therapist or any self help groups. Doesn't display the symptoms of PTSD (which is what real victims suffer from), shows few signs of self reflection, while making you seem like you are the person of his dreams that will make everything right in his life again. Takes no responsibility for his role in what happened to the endings of his relationships
* seems to have a lot of expert knowledge about most subjects, yet does very little in-depth study
* seems to take command in situations without hearing your wishes
* tries to get you financially dependent or plays fast and loose with your money or time (conning)
* puts you on a pedestal
* after his ex files for divorce, runs a smear campaign to discredit her
* strategizes
* attempts to be your source for everything, thus subtly trying to isolate you from your loved ones
* spins the facts, always paints himself as a hero
* seems hypocritical (drastic difference between what he says and what he does, as well as how he acts towards others and how he expects to be treated)
* is pleased that he has hurt or is hurting his ex.
* If his ex is going through life tragedies, he reacts with smug satisfaction, power and pleasure, rather than concern.
* suggests ways to make someone else jealous (unlike empaths, abusers feel jealousy intensely; and they also like to provoke jealousy and use it as a weapon)
* can be critical, chiding and insulting of others (often using humor), but will retaliate cruelly if criticized by others
* any signs of sulking or the silent treatment
* any signs of stalking or obsession (poor respect of boundaries and the word, "no")
* tries to make you doubt the intentions of others (to get control of you)
* tries to make you doubt your sanity (to control your perceptions, thereby relying on him for a sense of reality)
* tries to make you look stupid, mentally deficient or crazy around others
* peppers your stories with patronizing comments, unsolicited advice or subtle putdowns
* suggests ways of punishing those who have hurt you (making suggestions to you of  punishing another person or revenge is a sign of an abusive person, whereas normal people will suggest protecting yourself, getting restraining orders, changing locks, learning self defense, being in the company of people who will protect you, getting help)
* tries to get you to accept abuse by minimizing his abuse of you, or making you feel responsible for any abusive behavior
* takes steady steps in the direction of "divide and conquer" between you and your allies or loved ones
* expects others to fight over him, or to compete
* expects from you what he would never expect from himself in a similar situation (the hallmark of all abusers is that they are hypocrites)
* can sound robotic (emotionally flat and uncaring)
* lecturing
* hot and cold
* expects all of his questions answered, expects disclosure at all times, expects every detail to be revealed
* treats you like a child who needs to learn lessons
* two-faced
* forceful, leading, arrogant, imperious, condescending, gets too close (in your personal space), leans into you or wags his index finger while talking, gives you orders, constant unsolicited advice or lectures, insists on making the decisions, insists on scheduling your life and micromanaging your actions
* in a disagreement either insults you or says things like "You're better than that"
* an aura of being exploitative
* tells or retells what your feelings, thoughts, perspectives and motivations are (it will usually sound "dark")
* when drinking, has some of the above signs

How perpetrators practice abuse:
A lot of abusers practice "idealize, devalue and discard". In addition, most abusers practice dominance (wanting to be in charge, expecting compliance), humiliation (trying to make you feel defective, child-like or crazy), blaming you for everything that goes wrong in the relationship, threats (including subtle scare tactics), intimidation and denial (making excuses, blaming abusive behavior on you or on outside circumstances, denying that the abuse occurred, shifting the responsibility of the abuse onto you).

The cycle of abuse goes like this (though there are many variations, depending on the source). This one is from the perspective of the perpetrator:
first: the abuse, second: worried over being caught and excuses, third: tries to regain control of the situation (charm is a typical "weapon" that abusers use, creating a honeymoon phase), fourth: planning and fantasizing abusing you again (uses disapproval, withdrawal of affection, coercion, threats; decides who, how and what to control in your life), fifth: set-up (finds a way to make you pay, creating a situation where he feels he can justify abuse). Back to the beginning: abuse.

What does the discard phase look like for a victim?
Most abusers practice emotional and psychological abuse during the discard phase. However, if the relationship has gotten to a phase of physical violence you are in danger and it is highly recommended that you consult a domestic violence center (privately, without your abuser's knowledge). Even pushing, shoving, leaning into you to lecture at you, physically leading you by the hand or gently touching you on the back to lead you into situations where the abuser is expecting you to follow his orders at all times, are the beginning phases of physical abuse. A domestic violence center will help you exit the relationship safely.

For abusers who practice emotional and psychological abuse, what does the discard phase look like from a real live person? Most often it starts with the silent treatment or total abandonment and rejection without explanation. It is most often sudden. I found this post from an anonymous poster named Cheryl H which sounds like the typical experience:

When the Narcissist has sucked the life out of his victim and she no longer is willing to adore him or idolize him because of the increasing severity of abuse, she begins to fight back to try and regain her self esteem. The Narcissist being paranoid and in need of the constant narcissistic supply, and desperate to keep his illness a secret, must now take measures to do damage control. This damage control is meant to weaken and break the will of his victim. He wants her to be silenced and believe she was the cause of all that was wrong in the relationship. The covert abuse is gone and the game plan is seek and destroy. The Narcissist knows he is on his way to a new supply, or has even found one so, to use the old adage he will be more than happy to "kick her when she is down" so his secret stays safe ...

... The Narcissist knows the true nature of the tete-a-tete and revels in his mastery of the dance. Each phase so well rehearsed and each victim measured and observed to increase the intensity for the next victim. It is a convoluted and cruel relationship, with the Narcissist holding all the power and control and delighting in the game, from seduction to destruction. He is fully aware what he is doing, Yes, he means to hurt because if he can witness the hurt he causes, just like a serial killer this is how he gets pleasure in his unfeeling soul. The Narcissist is bewildered when his victim strikes back and will convey how much this behavior hurts him. He doesn't feel sadness, he feels his "entitlement" has been withdrawn and his grandiose ego is hurt.

How does someone become a victim of abuse? 
Anyone can become a victim.
However, there are kinds of people that abusers generally like to target: victims who are empathetic and nurturing, creative, famous, in the public eye, rich, or alternatively, economically disadvantaged, loners, hookers, the disabled, socially unpopular people, people going through traumatic life experiences, people who are unusually trusting and innocent, people with poor self esteem, children, adults who act childlike, adult children of alcoholics, adult children of borderline personality disordered parents, adult children of narcissists, adult children of the antisocial personality disordered (sociopaths). A huge majority of victims are in the helping professions (see next question: "Who do abusers target?").
As has been said before, victims who come from dysfunctional homes where they are a family scapegoat are particularly vulnerable. Scapegoats become groomed to accept abuse and blame. The blame scapegoats receive is usually erroneous: family members interpret the scapegoat's feelings, thoughts and attitudes in a dark way. They often are abused by "that look on your face" for instance.
When scapegoats protest abuse, or show autonomy, the abusers escalate, often severely, by ostracizing, slandering and withdrawing emotional support, money, affection and support for all life events (weddings, birthdays, graduations, holidays, awards, ceremonies). This is in an effort to keep the scapegoat compliant in terms of continuing to accept blame and abuse from the family. Predatory abusive personalities outside the family pick up on the general aura of trauma and solitariness in scapegoats and find an easy target.
Children who have been sold into slavery by a parent also become easy targets for abusers.
People who have been chronically abused, or who find that they get out of one abusive relationship, only to discover that they are in another, can have Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (a condition phrased by Christine Louis de Canonville).

According to this FBI web page:
The reactions of psychopaths to the damage they inflict most likely will be cool indifference and a sense of power, pleasure, or smug satisfaction, rather than regret or concern ... After interacting with psychopaths, most people are stunned by these individuals’ ruthlessness, callousness, and denial or minimization of the damage they have caused.

Who do abusers target?
Here is one kind of test you can take to see which kind of personalty you are and whether your type of personality is one listed as a personality that abusers target:

INFJ personality types, are the most likely to be targets of abusers. These are generally people in the helping professions: school teachers, nurses and other health care workers, therapists, leaders of causes, writers who study human conditions, yoga instructors, acupuncturists, message therapists and nurturers and do-gooders in general. They are guided by intense morality and feel their purpose in life is to help others. It is the "helping others" mentality that attracts abusers. They can easily be shamed into helping to the point of renouncing all of their own needs and desires. Since they put other people first, they can die trying to be saints, especially to hyper critical selfish abusers. They can also be deeply wounded by being discarded, which tends to happen when they are sick or exhausted, or for any other reason where they can no longer give. Abusers love to send the message that their victims are only good when they are helping, and disposable when they need self care or having a medical crisis.
ENFJ personality types are very much like INFJs except they are more in leadership capacities: altruistic presidents of nations or colleges, carrying the torch for human rights, administrators and coordinators in the fields of rights and protections. Abusers pick on these personality types to take advantage of their altruism and need to help others. Abusers also attach to make themselves "look better" and to be in the spotlight. They love/hate the high profile of these personalities. But in the end abusers don't like to be out-shined, so they will do everything they can to erode and sabotage with erroneous roadblocks, to slander at the least sign of weakness, to get supporters to doubt, and go in for the kill when their targets are facing tragedies or a downturn of luck.
INFP personality types are generally artists, musicians, dancers, researchers, architects and writers. They also show up in mental health fields, innovative healing arts, yoga and as alternative workshop leaders. They are deeply contemplative. They can be "studio hermits" driven by their work to the exclusion of almost everything else. Morality and principle are their guides, and they parent from that perspective too. They are highly idealistic, altruistic and have a penchant for withdrawal and depression if others take advantage of them or hurt them. Abusers know they can deeply wound these sensitive personality types; this is one reason they are chosen as targets.
INTJ personality types are bookworms and perfectionists. They tend to be in sole entrepreneurial fields like software or mechanical engineering, troubleshooting, freelance consulting, systems analysis, laboratory work, musical instrument repair, computer repair, science or technology innovations, and military strategy and anything that requires intense study with fixing a problem. INTJs become targets of abusers because they are loners and "fixers", and use innovative techniques to get to the bottom of a problem, and they die trying sometimes, especially if their abusers keep telling them they don't measure up and need to try harder. Their "lone" status also makes them an easy target for slander, deeply wounding and disabling their sense of belonging.
Take the fast test HERE if you want to know if you fall into the category of "easy target". The lengthy Meyers-Briggs test is more useful, however, but it costs money.

To find out which professions attract the most psychopaths (abusers) and which attract the least, go to this post here from Time Magazine.

Two people tell me they are the victim of the other. Who is telling the truth? 
Victims generally go to therapy for months or years and are diagnosed with disorders related to abuse like PTSD. They also often attend self-help groups. They usually go into therapy saying "What have I done wrong? Why do I have a target on my back? I don't understand what just happened to me. Have I done something to cause this?" They are often depressed and appear fearful, preoccupied, withdrawn. Their self esteem can appear shattered. If they have grown up in a dysfunctional family, they can display a lack of good sense about boundaries, work hard at their relationships (even if they are abusive ones), and can be "wishful thinkers". Most victims are self reflective.
Perpetrators go into therapy blaming, looking and feeling self righteous, and use a variety of persuasion techniques such as you would find in courtrooms or politics. They almost never show signs of self reflection, and rarely show signs of depression or trauma. They would rather be dead than go to therapy. Self help groups also don't generally have perpetrators in them. If they feel like they are being criticized (or critiqued) by a therapist, they often stop therapy abruptly, and in a huff, unless the courts or Child Protective Services has required them to be there. They use therapy to explain their side of an argument, why they are not at fault and why their victims are. It's all about deflecting, subterfuge, rebutting, twisting and faking out. In fact, the telltale sign is that everything that has gone wrong in their lives is someone else's fault. They go into therapy saying things like: "He (or she) is crazy! He doesn't have a good grasp of reality." They use excuses for control and domination such as their victims having a psychological disorder, or a disability, or they are too old or young, or they aren't smart or developed, or they need the perpetrator's protection, or any other excuse where the perpetrator feels they might get approval and backing for being bullying, dominating and controlling.
Other favorite phrases of perpetrators are: "He (or she) made me do it!" or "I needed to do it for my own self preservation," or "if he didn't act this way, I wouldn't have hurt him" or "I couldn't deal with his version, so I refused to talk to him" or "I would never say or do such a thing!" (many times), or "They have such a vivid imagination" or "anyone would act that way under that much stress", as excuses for why they are, or were, abusive and controlling.
Perpetrators are either condescending, patronizing, lecturing, passive aggressive, overtly or covertly bullying, needling, using insults as comedy, keeping their own motivations close to the chest, tell stories that don't measure up ...  or they act like children who have been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. They rarely show adult behavior in the way of deep self reflection, respecting others, allowing autonomy and differences, showing interest in a different perspective, being good researchers and listeners, discussing things as a way of understanding another person, researching family dynamics, or playing fair (team-playing).
When confronted, they either interrupt, deny, condescend, leave the room or give the silent treatment. A long history of diverting, deflecting and blame-shifting is evident in their relationships.
Victims are often self effacing and make excuses for their perpetrators' abuses (Stockholm Syndrome ... here is another link). Some victims can act childlike too: co-dependent, eager to please, listening to inappropriate-for-their-age lectures, innocent and unassertive, accepting more blame than they should, overly forgiving, often financially dependent in some way (with signs in their mutual history that their abuser has withdrawn money suddenly or stolen something as a form of punishment), and fixated about not being loved. The big difference is that victims are capable of respectful communication (rarely showing arrogance or retaliatory behaviors), and are content that others have autonomy and differences. They are team players and not particularly invested in their egos (i.e. they don't take credit without spreading the credit around to everyone).
Many therapists can tell the signs right away from these cues.
(Note: sometimes people can show signs of both perpetrator and victim: that can mean they are from an abusive family and have learned both styles of coping).
Another post I liked on the subject came from ANA (After Narcissistic Abuse website).

Are abusers capable of reforming their ways?
It is a complicated issue.

Therapy where the abuser(s) and victim(s) are being treated together in order to save the relationship are disastrous and can exacerbate abuse. Abusers use the opportunity of therapy to put all of the failure of the relationship onto their partner by saying that he (or she) is insane and needs help. Link to an article about that here.

Anger management courses don't seem to work with emotional abusers and batterers. Anger is only a bi-product of abuse. The real problem is domination, control and lack of empathy.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has this to say:

While people do have the capacity to change, they need to deeply want to and be committed to all aspects of change in order to begin to do so — and even then, it’s a lot easier said than done.

In discussing why abusers abuse , it is clear that a lot of the causal factors behind these behaviors are learned attitudes and feelings of entitlement and privilege — which can be extremely difficult to truly change. Because of this, there’s a very low percentage of abusers who truly do change their ways.

Very few services recommend couples or family counseling, and, in fact, treats victims separately from perpetrators. 

Some of the ways to tell whether an abuser wants to change (or is changing) is:
* is he completely admitting to what he has done?
* has he stopped blaming you for his abuse?
* does he fully admit and understand that reacting abusively was his choice?
* if he has gone through a program, does he demand credit for recovery, or is he humble about his achievement?
* is he willing to share power equally with you?

Abusers who are out to dominate their victims, who are obsessed with power and control, are jealous and possessive, who have victims who are financially dependent on them are the most resistant to change. Abusers who are not as invested in power and control, who primarily have poor relationship and conflict resolution skills, are the abusers who can be treated more effectively.

David Adams, a psychologist and co-director of a Boston-based abusers’ education and intervention program, Emerge, has this to say (from this Salon article):
The first part of the program provides very basic education about what abusive behavior is. And that’s important because a lot of abusers don’t think what they’ve done is abusive. Yelling, name calling, undermining her reputation, isolating her socially — even things like punching holes in a wall. A lot of people don’t think of this as constituting abuse.

So we educate them about this, how the abuse impacts their victim, their children ...
... The essence of our program is really teaching empathy. Because if you had to identify a core personality characteristic among most abusers, it would be narcissism. A lot of people think of rage when they think of abusers. They think of people who are angry. But for a lot of abusers, that’s not the issue. It’s control, a sense of entitlement. Part of what narcissists tend to do is take any kind of disagreement as a sign of betrayal. They are really big on loyalty. They blame other people for their problems.

I like to describe empathy as a muscle that gets stronger with use. Most abusers have very flabby empathy muscles, so to speak. Part of what we do is have them report ongoing interactions with their partners and then ask the other men in their group to see it from the partner’s perspective. Because it’s easier to spot other people’s abusive behavior than your own abusive behavior. We really engage them in that process.

One of the main challenges to recovery is that abusers are manipulative. As David Adams goes on to say:

... one of the ways that abusers manipulate is to put on a big show of remorse. A lot of perpetrators cry more than their victims do. Clergy often see this as a signal that things are changing, they’re overly impressed by that. But for narcissistic abusers, they aren’t crying about their victims. They are crying about what happens to them.

They have this saying in Alcoholics Anonymous, “Fake it till you make it.” A lot of real change starts with phony change, really. Anyone who has problems they don’t want to address — their initial efforts to change are often not very sincere.

That’s kind of standard. I think the important thing is that people be clear about what real change is, so we can have consistent expectations. We send a brochure to the partner that says, “How do I know that he’s changing?” Can you get angry at him without him getting more angry?

Most abusers will apologize once or twice, but if they don’t get immediate results, they will take it all back and say, “You’re the problem.” I think we help victims to be more savvy.

Dr. Adams's program has a high rate of success. Other programs have a success rate between a quarter and a half. 

As with addictions and drugs, punishments and jail time are very unsuccessful at reforming abusers.

When victims ask their perpetrators to get help, many abusers become more abusive at being challenged. All that many perpetrators want is for their docile little mouse to be back into a subservient role, not questioning them or their motives, and behaving in the way the abuser wants them to behave. Compassion, or learning how to be compassionate, and being committed to their relationships, is the only way that abusers get better.

According to the non-profit organization, The Women's Center, most victims leave their abusers:

Most victims of domestic violence leave their abusers, often several times. It may take a number of attempts to permanently separate because abusers use violence, financial control, or threats about the children, to compel victims to return ... Since the risk of further violence often increases after victims separate from their abusers, it can be even harder for victims to leave if they cannot obtain effective legal relief. Victims who receive appropriate legal assistance at an early stage increase their chances of obtaining the protection and financial security they need to leave their abusers permanently.

If you are a victim of emotional abuse, it is important to learn how to set up boundaries and of finding ways to move beyond the relationship. Counselors for victims tell their clients to work on themselves and to become independent of their abusers. The greater majority of abusers do not want to change. Also, abusers only change if there are consequences to their abusive behavior. If victims are always abandoning relationships with them, or insisting on tough boundaries and non-abusive ways of communicating, abusers may want to change. Changing makes good sense not only to them, but to keep it from being repeated down through the generations. If victims cave in, they will insure that abuse will be perpetuated.

If you are a victim of physical abuse, it is important to contact a domestic violence shelter to help you get the protection you need before making steps to leave. According to The Salvation Army:

  ... about 75 percent of the time, victims are murdered either while they’re in the process of trying to leave their abusive partners or after leaving ... thus the importance of having safeguards in place.  

Is there any fallout for abusers, or do they just keep going from victim to victim, letting themselves off the hook throughout their entire lives by telling themselves and everyone else that everything was their victims' faults? 
Many abusers gamble away too many relationships and get caught too many times to get away with their behaviors forever. While some abusers go through life with their masks of deception on, running away from people who have caught onto them, the greater majority come to a point where narcissistic supply has dried up. At any rate, their lives are not authentic lives of creativity, meaningful deep relationships, joy, integrity, deep understanding and fulfillment. They live shallow lives, paranoid, looking for the next fix of flattery, the next high profile person to latch onto, the temporal, illusory feelings that will make them feel better than everyone else again. Many abusers live for high stakes, for the moment only, getting thrills from the pain they cause to others, and end up abandoned, alone and lonely, shunned for their lack of integrity and exploitation of others. They become reviled and exposed by people with morals. Many abusers discard so many of the good people in their lives, that all they have left at the end of their lives are other abusers whom they previously used as lackeys to carry out dirty deeds. These co-abusers eventually treat their fellow bullies as prey (i.e. live by abusing, die by being abused, much the same way soldiers "live by the sword, die by the sword").

As Carrie Barron M.D. said, addressing this directly to narcissists in this Psychology Today article:

Narcissism feeds self-esteem in that denial covers up (suppresses) limitations so they are not in your face. You do not have to feel weakened by them or make the tiresome effort to change. Inflated self-esteem keeps you psychologically intact, organized and safe. If others are attracted to your strut and charisma, you can breeze through life with a facile ease.

But there is a problem. True narcissism is a defective solution. It is a flawed defense, an unsound shield.

Child abuse before the 1980s:
Many people who suffered child abuse before the mid 1980s may have been misdiagnosed with other mental illnesses. This is because mental health professionals were looking at patients who exhibited emotional and mental disturbances as being "internal-generating" instead of "outside-generating". Psychologist Alice Miller was instrumental in changing how the mental health field judged mental illness. She saw that many children who were abused and neglected were being labeled with disorders like Aspherger's, Schizophrenia and neuroses. Being mis-labeled with these disorders exonerated parents, siblings or others in a child's life who were abusive or neglectful. Many mental illnesses and emotional disabilities are now being attributed to childhood abuse and traumas. This started in the mid-1980s with child abuse detection being taught to mandated reporters (teachers, school bus drivers, school administrators, police and others who work with children or families).

"Narcissists Destroy Who they Cannot Control" video:
(by Smakintosh)

remember children:
Thank you to the Plight of Women website for sharing this blog post with their readers


  1. Hello - thank you for this post. I only recently discovered I was the family scapegoat and all the implications behind that. I don't have the resources to cut ties yet but I'm working on it. Here's my full story if you care to read it and thanks again: https://hubpages.com/relationships/If-You-Dont-Understand-It-It-Must-Be-Drugs

    1. Kate,

      Thank you for your story. Wow, is that a familiar story too! The thing about your story, and my story, and so many other survivor stories is that they sound remarkably the same in terms of not being listened to, of being expected to play a role *for the parents*, of off-the-wall fantasy criticisms, and the gaslighting, always the gaslighting ...

      It is a very good story for others to see in terms of what survivors of family scapegoating go through. So, thank you for writing it!

      I have included a quote from your page to get others to go over and read it:

      You don’t want to see your parents as mentally ill. They should be your protectors, gently guiding you into the perils of adulthood, always with your best interest at heart. But sometimes they don’t. And sometimes it takes a few decades to see it. Even when my therapist blanched at my family stories and tossed around the words “mental abuse” it never registered. Until now.

      "Your parents are not supposed to talk to you the way my parents did to me. Just because it's not physical abuse, doesn't mean it can't be damaging (although there was a little bit of inadvertent physical abuse, but with my parents' generation, it was the only way they knew to raise children). I spent my whole life wanting their approval. Imagine the lifelong frustration of never achieving that. They even indulged in the classically psychological archetypes of having a scapegoat and a golden child, my brother being the latter and guess who as the former? And I never knew any better. Because that was our reality." -- Kate West

  2. Thanks for this great post, i find it very interesting and very well thought out and put together. I look forward to reading your work in the future.
    Family Violence Intervention Program Duluth

    1. Thank you for writing in, AA.

      Many more posts coming, including a lot of healing posts.


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