If you are wondering whether someone you are dating may turn out to be an abuser . . . well, the fact that you are wondering may be a warning sign in itself. Ask yourself what makes you question. It may be you are picking up on subtle signs that make you uncomfortable. In general, it's a good idea to listen to your instincts.
It's not always possible to identify a potential abuser before abuse occurs. However, here are some 'red flags' that give cause for concern. Some of these come from information put together by Women's Rural Advocacy Programs in the U.S.
- Heavy drinking or drug abuse (especially if he uses substances as an excuse for what he does: "The alcohol made me do it.")
- Jealousy or possessiveness. This may be a bit flattering at first, but will be a curse later on. You will never convince him that you are innocent of his accusations.
- Past child abuse and/or witness of domestic violence. Not all children who come from violent homes become violent, but violence is a learned behaviour and in some cases boys learn it from their fathers.
- Inability to handle frustration. If he blows up and explodes at small things, and reacts with a tantrum over minor things, he may act out frustration with violence in a marriage. How he deals with anger is the key.
- An extreme temper. This speaks for itself. If you feel fear when he acts out his anger, that fear is a warning signal. Listen to it!
- Verbal abuse of parents or other family members; violence toward siblings or others; abuse or mistreatment of pets. These are all signs of his capacity for abusive treatment of others. How does he talk about women he was involved with in the past? You may be immune now, as the person he is trying to win, but remember that someone who can be disrespectful and cruel to others can eventually turn on you too.
- Attitude toward gender roles. Abusive men often have a sense of entitlement based in beliefs that men should be in control, head of the family, etc. and women should be accommodating and submissive.
- Attempts to control you. If the person you are dating needs to know where you are and who you are with all the time, calls you excessively to check up, tries to tell you who your friends should be, expects to make all the decisions, these are all signs of the sort of control that goes along with abuse.
- Unsettling behaviour. If you find that the person you are dating acts strangely sometimes, makes comments that make you feel uneasy, “playfully” threatens or suggests violence, you may be picking up on a dark side to him.
- Poor self-image; insecurity about his own masculinity. If he feels compulsive about always being "one up" and dominating and he lives out a macho role at all times, you will be subject to his control and possibly treated like one of his possessions. He may feel he has the right to treat you like his property, to do as he pleases.
- Acceptance of violence as an appropriate problem-solving method.
- A pattern of blaming others for his problems. If he never accepts his faults and responsibilities when things go wrong, be ready to be blamed for everything.
- Abuse during the dating period is a guarantee of further abuse that will become more frequent and severe. Don't marry him with the belief that "I can change him." You won't.
- Isabel Johnson Shelter
- Children Exposed to Violence (Y's Kids)
- Information about Abuse
- Community Education
- Community ResourcesLinks