I am grieving a friendship with a woman I have known almost my whole life, a woman who has been my best friend for years. After doing all I could to try and help her break out of the tragic cycle of abuse she is trapped in, I had to take a step back and reevaluate what I was condoning by remaining silent on the issue. After the realization that I was beginning to question my own integrity, I was reluctantly forced to end our friendship.
I realized that although I would do “almost” anything for her, I refused to shield my eyes from actions which shake the strong moral foundation of which all my personal opinions and beliefs are built upon. It was made clear to me that in order to remain in this friendship, I must keep my opinions about the domestic abuse my friend is enduring to myself. I am to act as if nothing has happened. As if I have not seen the bruises from his hands on her neck, or heard her cry as she has outlined his threats to have her killed. I am to keep silent on the topic, not offer advice or support for help, not tell her of the hours I have spent praying for her, crying for her, worrying for her. I am expected to bite my tongue and greet the narcissistic sociopath who has beat my best friend into submission with a smile painted on my face.
After a particularly horrifying incident, which I will not go into detail about due to the privacy of all involved, where family and friends were finally made aware of the sickening physical abuse my friend was enduring, I thought to myself, “Thank God, she finally has the support and love around her to leave. She can save herself; she is strong enough to regain control of her life and live happy and free!”
But, as many who are exposed to the evil of domestic abuse know, this was not the case. Although police had responded to the scene, she refused to press charges. She put her belief in this man who was claiming that he would change, and instead of falling into the many outstretched arms from family and friends willing to help, she turned in.
I reached out immediately after the incident, and she told me she was not ready to hear my advice or opinions, that she would contact me when she was. At that moment, I knew she was gone from me. I knew I could not play the role that her sociopathic husband expected of me. I would not stay silent or submissive. I would not show any respect for this man who deserves none. So, I ceased contact and continued praying.
And then, information began to be released on the sickening murder case of a mother, her unborn child, and two daughters at the hands of her husband. As the story was featured on the media, I was overcome with a wave of nausea as the picture of this mother and her daughters morphed into my best friend and her kids in my mind. And I was once again faced with the reality of what may likely be my best friend’s fate.
After seemingly failing to help my best friend break out of the cycle of domestic abuse, it made me question what we, as a society, can do to put an end to domestic abuse of all forms. So I did the only thing I know that brings me peace and clarity–I began to write. In my own form of therapy, I constructed this list of narcissistic behaviors that can oftentimes be mistaken for love and attention in the beginning of a relationship but are actually warning signs of domestic abuse.
1. Domestic abusers may shower their victims with extravagance. The beginning of a relationship often includes special dates and gifts to show interest and love in one another. But the textbook narcissist will go above and beyond to win over their victim at the start of the relationship. Extravagant gifts, luxurious vacations, and sweetness overload. Friends will often comment that the relationship seems to be moving too fast. The domestic abuser will later use these shows of extravagance as leverage during fights as well as examples for what a great person they are.
2. Domestic abusers may appear to be the “perfect gentleman” to others. To narcissistic domestic abusers, appearance is extremely important. They will always put on in act when surrounded by others. They will be the first person at a party to offer you a drink, help your old granny out of her recliner, or carry all the bags to your sister’s car. They want everyone in their victim’s life to think that they are top-notch citizens, which will help to throw doubt on any abuse claims from the victim.
3. Domestic abusers may be extremely jealous and paranoid. They will constantly accuse the victim of flirting or cheating with others. Something as simple as the victim thanking a waiter will make the abuser believe that a line was overstepped. A hug from a friend is turned into a love affair. Friendships with members of the opposite sex will be forced to end. College buddies will be deleted from Facebook, and phone numbers blocked.
4. Domestic abusers may isolate their victims. Abusers will make their victims sever ties with family and friends who seem to be a threat. The blunt, honest “framily members” will get the first boot as they are the ones most likely to notice the abuse and question the relationship’s health. Abusers will also financially isolate their victims. Coercing the victim into quitting their job to further enhance control is a huge red flag because the victim is more likely to feel “stuck” due to monetary issues.
5. Domestic abusers will constantly be in contact with their victims. The abuser will text/call their victim continuously to keep tabs on them. When they are not together, the abuser’s jealousy and paranoia will skyrocket and they will feel the need to be aware of every action of their victim. Abusers will demand pictures and/or proof of where the victim is and with whom.
7. Domestic abusers may use gaslighting techniques to discredit their victim. This technique is used by abusers to make their victim feel at fault for any abuse, or as if the abuse was not nearly as bad as the victim made it seem. This part of the abuse is the most vicious mental attack against the victim because it can cause the victim to question their own mental stability and recollection of events. (i.e., “If you hadn’t done XYZ than I wouldn’t have slammed your face against the window,” or “It wasn’t even that bad, just a drunken disagreement.”)
8. Domestic abusers may be overly apologetic. When abusers are called out on their actions and know that they have been seen for the monster they really are, they will act extremely subdued. They will be apologetic, they will say all the right things (i.e., “I need to get help, I want to change.”) They will put on award-winning acts that they have read and rehearsed the script for. They will say whatever necessary to keep the victim in their clutches and create a facade of “recovery.”
These characteristics can be connected to each other and are based on the abuser gaining and keeping total control over their victims.
My hope in sharing these warning signs of domestic abuse is to make people aware of what to look for before they become trapped in the cycle of abuse. There is a way out of any domestic abuse situation as long as you are willing to make the first step. There are numerous organizations, clinics, and professionals who are readily available to victims of domestic abuse. If you are in an abusive relationship, reach out. Your family, friends, and doctors are there to listen and to help. Although my friendship with my best friend is on hold right now, I will never stop praying for her, and I will always be waiting for her with open arms if and when she is ready.
If you are in an abusive relationship, and need to escape to shelter, please visit Domestic Shelters to find a safe haven, and for counseling and help. You can also call the Safe Horizon domestic violence hotline at 1-800-621–HOPE (4673).