By Mable C. Dunbar
Here are some signs that might describe a victimized person. Even though previous abuse and low self- esteem may be risk factors for becoming a victim, anyone can fall prey to abuse. Embarrassment, shock, or fear for children’s wellbeing may keep the victim in a relationship with an abuser. Women who expect God to miraculously deliver them from such relationships without taking decided steps to help themselves can be at high risk to remain in an abusive relationship. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of an abused woman.
She has probably been hurt in former relationships, or does not feel that she is good enough to be loved for who she is. She has low self-esteem. She finds it difficult to protect herself and feels that if a man pays her intense attention she should give in to his demands because he might be her last or only chance for an intimate relationship or marriage.
She feels that she is alone and that no one understands her predicament. She tends to isolate herself out of fear of angering her partner if she has friends. She often feels uneasy around other people, especially authority figures and individuals with strong, assertive personalities. Even though she isolates herself, she is fearful of rejection and abandonment.
She perpetuates negative messages heard from her parents (or significant others) and judges herself and others harshly based on those messages without challenging whether or not the messages are true or accurate. Because she is often isolated from friends and family who could give her positive messages about her value, she only has the negative feedback from her abuser. This makes her feel hopelessly deficient in almost every way.
Because she is desperate for love, acceptance, affirmation, and approval, she’ll do anything to make people like her. Not wanting to hurt others, she remains loyal in situations and relationships even when evidence indicates that the loyalty is undeserved. She often attracts emotionally unavailable people with addictive personalities.
She lives life as a victim, blaming others for her circumstances, and is attracted to people who are controlling and people who like to “be in/take charge”. She often confuses love and pity and associates with people she can take care of or rescue. Because of her intense desire to be needed, she interprets her abuser’s dependency on her as love.
She takes responsibility for solving others' problems or expects others to be responsible for solving hers. This is not surprising, since her abuser tells her that his abuse is her fault. She may wait for someone (including God) to save her from her abusive relationship. This enables her to avoid being responsible for her own life and choices.
She has difficulty with intimacy, security, trust, and commitment in her relationships. Because her abuser has made her focus on his needs, wishes, and requirements, she often loses sight of who she is as an individual. Lacking clearly defined personal limits and boundaries, she becomes enmeshed in her partner's needs and erratic emotions to the point of justifying his abusive nature.
An abused individual has a strong need to be in control. An abuser keeps her focused on trivial demands such as the time of meals, the type of clothes she wears, or the rules of the house. She hopes that if she carefully controls these things, she will not be abused. When her abuser harms her and criticizes the way she has complied with his rules, she may feel that she did not do something correctly and becomes more controlling of her surroundings. She overreacts to change, especially those things over which she has no control.
She has a dependent personality that is terrified of abandonment, so she stays in situations or relationships that are harmful to her. Her fears and dependency stop her from ending unfulfilling relationships and prevents her from entering into fulfilling ones. Because she feels so unlovable it is difficult or impossible for her to believe that anyone can really love her for who she is. So she does everything to please others in the hopes of being good enough to get “love” from them. She has difficulty understanding and defining a healthy relationship in which her needs should be considered and attended to.
She denies, minimizes or represses her feelings that might have occurred as a result of her traumatic childhood or the painful relationship in which she finds herself in now. She may be unaware of the impact that her inability to identify and express her feelings has had on her adult life. She has a difficult time maintaining intimate relationships. She often describes herself as feeling numb.
Denial, isolation, control, shame, and unfounded guilt feelings can be legacies from her family of origin or abusive experiences. As a result she feels hopeless and helpless. She thinks of herself in defeating ways for she has been taught that nothing she does will make a difference. She does not believe that she can do anything right and this is reinforced by her abuser. She believes that she has little or no power and control over either her own life or external events that can negatively impact her.
An abused woman can sometimes take a decisive position without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences as a result of her actions. Because she is often not allowed to make her own decisions, there are times when she makes rapid, unwise decisions because she isn’t practiced at using her own volition. At times she becomes confused, selfloathing and feels victimized by others.
She finds it difficult to have fun especially if she had an unhealthy childhood. Consider the fear a person would feel if they had to daily give a reason or answer for their whereabouts, decisions, and behaviors. Constant criticism and disappointed hopes for a happy relationship often drains the joy from abused persons.
She sets high standards that are usually unattainable and gets angry with herself because she is unable to reach those standards. She covers up her poor opinions of herself by being controlling, manipulative, bitter and angry.
Some women who have been abused tend to display behaviors that present health risks, including substance abuse, alcoholism, suicidal attempts, cutting on themselves, eating disorders, and sexual promiscuity. The more severe the abuse she has experienced, the greater her tendency to abuse herself. She feels guilty when she nurtures herself, or acts in her own best interests. She gives in to others' needs and opinions instead of taking care of herself. This is quite a list of qualities, isn’t it? It is important to state that not every individual who is abused starts out this way. It has been said that as water drips on a stone and finally breaks it, so abuse makes emotional inroads over time that eventually influences how a victim thinks, acts, and feels..