Dear Abby: Is my daughter headed into an abusive, controlling relationship, or am I imagining the signs because of my own experience with domestic abuse for many years? She is 18 and, of course, parents are “idiots” who don’t understand anything. The young man tries to control where she is, won’t let her go anywhere without him and questions her if he thinks she spent too much of her own money.
To me, these are signs of the beginning of years of hell, but to her, they’re cute because he “cares,” or I don’t understand him. Am I being unfair because of my own past? – Been there in Pennsylvania
Dear Been There: Unfair? Not at all! You have listed some of the classic signs of an abusive partner, and your daughter is headed for trouble. Please share this column with her because it’s important she recognizes more of them:
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: If you are late, interrogates you intensively 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 isolate you 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 or mistakes: It’s always someone else’s fault if something goes wrong.
7. Makes 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. Also 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 partners 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 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 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.”
Anyone at risk should contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 or thehotline.org.