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Fifteen warning signs of a potential abuser

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Dear Abby: When my daughter was 20, she met a guy who one minute showered her with roses and the next would beat her up. She stayed with him thinking she could change him, and became pregnant. On her 21st birthday, she tried to get away from him. He chased her up the road and went to punch her in the stomach. When she turned to avoid the blow, it landed, hitting the baby in the head and killed the child.

Abby, once a beater, always a beater. I hope all women in abusive relationships will see this letter. My daughter is fine now, married and expecting. I pray for the women and girls out there who are going through what she once had to. – Pennsylvania Mom

Dear Pennsylvania Mom: I'm glad you wrote, because your letter reminds me that it has been some time since I printed the warning signs of an abuser.

Here they are:

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 rolesS: 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."

Readers, if you feel you are at risk, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or www.thehotline.org.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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