With Oscar Pistorius dodging a murder conviction for killing his mate and Ray Rice losing his contract with the Baltimore Ravens for beating his, domestic violence topped the news headlines this week. Survivors of such violence shared their decision to stand by or leave their abusers, causing the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft to trend on Twitter. News agencies asked experts on domestic violence to discuss why men, particularly athletes, hit women. And the NFL faced accusations that it had long known the extent of the brutality Rice had unleashed against his wife.
Largely missing from media reports about domestic abuse are the signs people can look for early in their relationships that hint their partners could turn violent in the future. Contrary to the Lifetime movies you’ve seen, people typically don’t switch from Prince Charming to raging brutes overnight. Beware if your mate displays any of the following behaviors:
Confesses to Previous Episodes of Abuse
The late Maya Angelou famously remarked, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them—the first time.” Perpetrators of domestic violence often reveal their abusive natures before actually taking a swing at their current partners. They may not cop to beating their previous partner to a pulp, but they might mention the time they “accidentally” shoved their ex or twisted their ex’s arm.
Dr. Joseph Carver, a clinical psychologist and contributing writer to the Counselling Resource website, has stressed how important it is to listen carefully to these “bad stories.” He describes abusers as “losers” and notes that such personality types disclose who they really are by the stories they tell.
“‘The Loser’ tells stories of violence, aggression, being insensitive to others, rejecting others, etc.,” he said. “They may tell you about past relationships and in every case, they assure you that they were treated horribly despite how wonderful they were to that person. …People define themselves with their stories, much like a culture is described by its folklore and legends. Listen to these stories — they tell you how you will eventually be treated and what’s coming your way.”
Takes Fury Out on Objects
Beware of people who throw or kick things and punch holes in the wall when they’re upset. Such individuals are showing you the capacity they have for violence. When you eventually upset them—and you will—you may very well wind up on the receiving end of their kicks and punches. Date people who cope with anger in a healthier way.
Jekyll and Hyde Personality
Your mate may have two distinct personality types—one private and one public. The public persona may serve to hide your partner’s dark side, allowing him to abuse others in private with impunity. You may have been drawn to this person because he’s a community leader, social activist or even a member of the clergy. While this individual may make a living helping others, it does not mean he’s kind at heart. As you get to know him, his true nature will come out.
“Being partnered with a Jekyll/Hyde type who is a saint in public and a schmuck in private is a nightmare because no one wants to believe that such an altruist could possibly be abusive in private,” according to Heartless Bitches International.
Alternatively, your partner may engage in a “mean and sweet” cycle with you, the CR website points out. One day he’ll insult you or make a nasty remark for no reason. The next day, he’ll apologize and romance you to win you back again. This cycle will eventually erode your confidence, making you a perfect target for more intense episodes of abuse.
Wants Marriage/Children Immediately
It’s harder to escape from an abuser once you’ve done something to tie yourself down to the person, like having children or walking down the aisle with him. That’s why some abusers rush to marry or impregnate their partners right away. It helps them avoid spending months pretending to be Mr. Right. In fact, some abusers have been known to engage in birth control sabotage to get their partners pregnant against their will. The problem has become so common that last year the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued guidance to help physicians spot the signs of birth control sabotage in abusive relationships.
Be suspicious of anyone who wants to make a permanent commitment to you after knowing you for a short period of time.
Berates You, Exes and Wait Staff
If your date generally speaks disdainfully of women, beware. If he characterizes all of his exes as “psychos,” behaves rudely to waitresses and puts you down, he not only has major problems with women but will also use his misogynistic views of women to justify mistreating or abusing them. When tensions rise between the two of you, he’ll regard you as another of those “psycho” women who did him wrong. Someone who berates you will eventually destroy your self-esteem, making you feel as if you deserve to be belittled, insulted and beaten up. Get out before you’re this man’s verbal punching bag as well as his literal one.