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Before an abuser starts physically assaulting their victim, they typically demonstrates their abusive tactics through certain behaviors. The following are five major warning signs and some common examples: 


Abusers can be very charming. They can be very engaging, thoughtful, considerate and charismatic. They may use that charm to gain very personal information about their partner. They will use that information later to their advantage. 

For example; a male abuser might ask their female target if she has ever been abused by anyone. If she says, "yes", he will act outraged that anyone could treat a woman that way. Then when he becomes abusive, he will tell her no one will believe her because she said that before and it must be her fault or two people would not have hit her. 

Another example; a female abuser may find out their male partner has experimented with drugs in his past. She will then threaten that if he tells anyone about the abuse, she will report him as a drug abuser and he will lose his right to have access to their children. The threat to take away children is one of the most common threats abusers use to maintain power and control over their victims. 

In yet another example, couples in the LGBTQ+ community may experience a male abuser telling a male partner that if they tell anyone about the abuse they are experiencing, they will out them to everyone at their work or family.  


Abusers isolate their victims geographically and socially. Geographic isolation includes moving the victim from their friends, family and support system (often hundreds of miles); moving frequently in the same area and/or relocating to a rural area. 

Social isolation usually begins with wanting the victim to spend time with only them and not their family, friends or co-workers. They will then slowly isolate them from any person who is a support to them. Eventually, they may not allow the victim to have contact with friends or family at all. 


Jealousy is a tool abusers use to control the victim. They may constantly accuse their partner of having affairs. If they goes to the grocery store, the abuser may accuse them of having an affair with the grocery clerk or draw attention to the slightest of gestures between their partner and a stranger. 


The goal of emotional abuse is to destroy the victim's self-esteem. They often blame the victim for their violence, put them down, call them names, and make threats against them. Over time, a victim may no longer believe they deserve to be treated with respect and may come to internalize the blame for the abuse as their fault. 


For some survivors of domestic violence, the emotional abuse may be more difficult to heal from than the physical abuse. 


Abusers are very controlled and very controlling people. In time, the abuser will control every aspect of the victim's life: where they go, how they wear their hair, what clothes they wear, whom they talk to. They will control the money and access to money. Abusers are also very controlled people. While they appear to go into a rage or be out of control we know they are very much in control of their behavior. 

The following are the reasons we know their behaviors are not about anger and rage:

- They do not batter other individuals - the boss who does not give them time off or the gas station attendant that spills gas down the side of their car. They wait until there are no witnesses and abuse the person they say they love.

- If you ask an abused person, "can they stop when the phone rings or the police come to the door?" They will say "yes". Most often when the police show up, the abuser looks calm, cool, and collected and the victim is the one who may look hysterical. If they were truly "out of control" they would not be able to stop themselves when it is to their advantage to do so.


- The abuser very often escalates from pushing and shoving to hitting in places where the bruises and marks will not show. If they were "out of control" or "in a rage" they would not be able to direct or limit where their kicks or punches land.

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