From Bully to Abuser?
Bullying is a Way for the Child to Express Feelings
Let's look at Billy (fictional character). Billy would pull girls' hair and push them as he walked down the halls. He would stop them at their school lockers and stare at them, making them feel uncomfortable. His behavior did not escalate from that. This may be that he is jut awkward around girls and needs to be taught that his behaviors are not appropriate, perhaps get some counseling to find out why he thinks it is appropriate.
Billy is in Control
Perhaps Billy's behavior escalates to pushing girls down instead of just giving them a push in the hall, or he has started beating kids up. Billy may be getting a “rush” out of this behavior. He may feel empowered by having that degree of control. Billy may feel that nothing that he cannot control anything in his life but his actions, he can. Each time Billy has control over a person like this, he gets more excited. After some time, without treatment (and sometimes with treatment) Billy's behaviors begin to get him in more trouble, but again, he feels empowered because no one can make him stop. He does what he wants, no matter what. He is in control. Billy is seen as a bully. He is still young, he is not an abuser by name because of his age. The teachers tell the parents to “get control” of their child. The parents may try, but if Billy is determined, they may not succeed. If the parents can get help, Billy may learn ways to feel in control of his life without harming others. Sometimes it takes an outside person to get the attention of a determined bully. He/she does not see what they are doing wrong, after all, if they did, they would not be doing it. The mentality of the child/young adult is that the parent is wrong, no matter how much they love their parent. They want control of their life. That is the guiding thought process. Billy believes he can make his own decisions by himself.
Billy as an Adult Physical Abuser
Despite the parents' effort or perhaps lack of effort, Billy does not change his behaviors. Now he is an adult, pushing his girlfriends around, beating up his friends. He may be seen as “temperamental” , “hot tempered” or he may maintain his temper until something triggers it, makes him mad. Billy may be very sweet and kind to his girlfriend until she says she does not like something she is doing, for example. Billy blows up and tries to control the situation by beating up his girlfriend. She may leave him and he is left to find another girlfriend.
This type if abuser is the Physical Abuser. This is the most common type of abuse, the easiest to spot when the abuser is not practiced at hiding what he does. If he becomes practiced and learns how to hit where it is hard to see, learns how to intimidate so that his victim does not turn him in, his behaviors may not get reported.
Billy as a Controller
Let's see what happens if Billy is a controlling bully. Throughout his younger years he manipulated people to get what he wanted. He turned on charm and used kindness to get by with odd behaviors. Perhaps Billy would say odd, but mean things to someone and then when the other person questioned him, he claimed he was “just kidding” or the other person “perceived incorrectly” , “misunderstood” or other words and phrases to make the person feel they were incorrect in their feelings toward the words and actions of Billy. As people back down from their feelings, Billy feels empowered and in control. He was able to get a desired reaction through emotional manipulation. Billy grows into adulthood and has mastered the art of emotional manipulation.
Now he can convince women that they are the light of his life, they are everything he every wanted. The women may have misgivings about him, may notice little red flags or just have a gut feeling that something is “off” with his behavior. Billy is not in the relationship for love, but for the feeling of control. He may confuse love with control. After all, he has used manipulation on his parents, his friends and family and was seen as such a sweet kind, yet maybe odd child. His eccentric ways were disregarded as his personality. He determines who he allows in his life by how well they are manipulated.
The Controller may distance the female in his life from her family and friends in order to maintain control. He may do things that cause her to lose her job and perhaps even her family physician, anyone whom she regularly sees. He may make quiet threats to her in private, so she cannot claim he is yelling at her. He is in control of his reactions, always planning ahead, prepared to react in such a manner that others will not doubt his words.
By being in control of his behaviors, he continues to manipulate others and maintains control of his wife or girlfriend. She cannot say he is abusive because he has not physically harmed her. He convinces her that no one will believe her. This thought is reinforced when she tries to tell friends that something is wrong and all they see is a loving husband/boyfriend. They see him doting on her, smiling and on his best behavior when they are around. This is part of his controlling behavior.
This type of abuser may also be a stalker, watching her every move, perhaps even using spy devices and GPS devices to keep a watch on her every move.
He may go as far as telling her what to wear, convincing her he has better style sense than she does, he may control what she eats, what she watches on television and if she goes places.
This type of abuser may do things such as setting “booby traps” to cause injury to her, so he can appear to the the loving man in her life. This makes him look good to outsiders. He manipulates them into thinking he is a very good person. This way, when someone does ask about her broken wrist or ankle, for example. She cannot say he did it because it was a fall down the stairs or she stepping in a hole in the yard that was not there an hour before. When she says “I think he did it” others will say”Oh, but he takes such good care of you, you must be mistaken”. Billy is in control. She may become submissive because she feels that there is no way out of this relationship and at this point, Billy has the ultimate high. He has achieved his goal and may become more abusive, always watching what he says or does so as to keep his appearance up.
Does this mean that every bully will grow up to be either a physical or controlling/emotional abuser? No, it does not, but these are some signs to watch for if you think you may be in an abusive relationship or if someone you know may be in an abusive relationship.
Never assume that her stories are fabricated, listen, become a detective. Find out what you can. If she asks help to get away, help her get away. She is unhappy for some reason. If she cannot see that she is being abused, ask her questions such as “who is he to tell you what to wear? Why do you give him permission to control you like that?” If she says because she loves him, ask her who he loves most, himself, or her. If he loved her, he would not control her. Once a woman becomes submissive, accepts that this is her life, it may be hard to convince her that she is being treated badly. Keep trying, you may just save her life.
© 2014 Cynthianne Neighbors