Dear Abby’s Abigail van Buren lists 15 warning signs of an abuser (excerpt):
1. Pushes for quick involvement: Comes on strong, claiming, “I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone.” An abuser pressures the new partner for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.
2. Jealous: Excessively possessive; calls constantly or visits unexpectedly; prevents you from going to work because “you might meet someone”; checks the mileage on your car.
3. Controlling: Interrogates you intensely (especially if you’re late) about whom you talked to and where you were; keeps all the money; insists you ask permission to go anywhere or do anything.
4. Unrealistic expectations: Expects you to be the perfect mate and meet his or her every need.
5. Isolation: Tries to cut you off from family and friends; accuses people who are your supporters of “causing trouble.” The abuser may deprive you of a phone or car or try to prevent you from holding a job.
6. Blames others for problems and mistakes: It’s always someone else’s fault if something goes wrong.
7. Holds others responsible for his or her feelings: The abuser says, “You make me angry,” instead of, “I am angry,” or says, “You’re hurting me by not doing what I tell you.”
8. Hypersensitivity: Is easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really mad. Rants about the injustice of things that are just a part of life.
9. Cruelty to animals or children: Kills or punishes animals brutally. May expect children to do things that are far beyond their ability (whips a 3-year-old for wetting a diaper) or may tease them until they cry. Sixty-five percent of abusers who beat their partner will also abuse children.
10. “Playful” use of force during sex: Enjoys throwing you down or holding you down against your will during sex; finds the idea of rape exciting.
11. Verbal abuse: Constantly criticizes or says blatantly cruel things; degrades, curses, calls you ugly names. This may also involve sleep deprivation, waking you up with relentless verbal abuse.
12. Rigid gender roles: Expects you to serve, obey, remain at home.
13. Sudden mood swings: Switches from sweet to violent in a matter of minutes.
14. Past battering: Admits to hitting a mate in the past, but says the person made him (or her) do it.
15. Threats of violence: Says things like, “I’ll break your neck,” or “I’ll kill you,” and then dismisses them with, “Everybody talks that way,” or “I didn’t really mean it.”