Abuse of any kind, whether verbal, emotional, or physical, is incredibly upsetting and painful for the person who has been victimized.
What Is Reactive Abuse?
A person being abused can sometimes lash out at their attacker during an act of violent assault. In response to the assault, they could yell, cry, insult the attacker, or even try to protect themselves physically. As a form of retaliation, an aggressor may accuse the victim of being the one who is abusing them to hurt them further.
This type of abusive behavior is reactive abuse, which is sometimes colloquially known as “gaslighting.” A victim of sexual assault who responds with reactive abuse puts themselves in a precarious position because it gives their perpetrators a reason to hold anything against them.
However, reactive abuse can occur not only in situations involving physical violence but also in situations involving verbal abuse and psychological abuse.
Emotional & Verbal Abuse
Have you ever been treated emotionally or verbally abusively to the point where you felt like you couldn’t take it anymore? This is an example of someone attempting to manipulate and control you, hoping that you will react with anger, blaming name-calling, and other behaviors that you would probably like to avoid.
This repeating pattern is known as the cycle of reactive abuse. The moment you give it up, the abusers have you exactly where they want you: in a position where they have the advantage. Everything you do or say will be used against you, and a tale will be fabricated to make it seem as though the abuser was the one you wronged.
It is essential to recognize this cycle because it can continue indefinitely if you do not recognize it and break it. To do so, you must first acknowledge your complicity in the situation and train yourself to respond rather than react to the abusive behaviors of others. It won’t be easy, but it can be done!
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Abusers rely on this “reaction abuse” as their “evidence” that the victim is unstable and mentally ill, and they do so because it is their “proof.” The abuser will forever hold the victims’ responses against them as a form of punishment.
Many years may pass before the abuser may say, “You had this reaction and acted completely irrational back in (insert whatever year this was) so let’s review. You are the one who is insane! You need support.” Abusers will often use this reaction as a pretext to go to the police or even file protection orders to get back at their victims.
To affect a circumstance in an unethical manner is to manipulate it. When an abuser says that they are the ones on the receiving end of abuse, they are attempting to manipulate you into believing that it is your responsibility that the violence is occurring.
Your perpetrators are using conditioning and manipulation to get you to admit that you are at fault. The longer this pattern of shifting blame continues, the longer you will continue to believe that you are too responsible for the abusive outbursts and reactionary outbursts that the abuser is dealing with.
You are going to start thinking that you are the one who is aggressive and unstable.
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Gaslighting and blame-shifting are two forms of projection that work together to divert your attention away from the true nature of the situation and lead you to believe that you are to blame. It might look something like this:
- They allege that you always accuse them of doing things; therefore, they conclude that you must be the one doing it yourself.
- They state that you are constantly being critical of them or nagging them somehow.
- The most important one is that if you hadn’t done or said what you did, they would have never behaved in that manner.
You will have feelings of craziness, insecurity, and unlovedness due to all of these things. If you have been in this type of relationship for a significant amount of time, you will need to disengage from the other person and give yourself time to heal. Reactive abuse might cause you to wonder whether or not you are sane.