What Triggers Relationship Abuse?

By Samantha Alicea and Yasmine Manansala


Abuse is a choice and a learned behavior. Common attitudes of an abuser include sense of entitlement, power and control, belief of getting away with it, and learned experience that abuse gets them what they want. HHS social worker Mrs. J. Millard explained these facts during a recent press conference, adding that “about 1.5 million students experience physical abuse every year.”

An abuser is usually filled with insecurity and mistrust, she said. Abuse can happen at home or in a public area. Either way, it never makes a situation better.

Here are the warning signs, according to Mrs. J. Millard:

Sense of entitlement. The feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges). A sense of entitlement complex is linked with narcissism and borderline personality disorder. An abuser holds this feeling/belief that he/she deserves privileges due to his/her personality.

Power and control. Power and control in abusive relationships (or coercive control or controlling behavior) is the way that abusers exert physical, sexual, and other forms of abuse to gain and maintain control over a victim. This is where the victim is being taken advantage of because the abuser is bigger and stronger. As a result, the abuser is able to restrain someone who is smaller and weaker.

“In abusive behavior, one partner exerts and maintains power and control,” said by Ms. S. Millard, community educator from Bergen County Alternatives to Domestic Violence.

Belief in getting away with it. Abusers refuse to believe that what they do is wrong. They continue to physically and emotionally hurt their partner because the victims let them. Abuse in a relationship will continue if the partner being abused does not say something. But remember, help is all around and should be used in order to get out of domestic violence.

Learned experience that abuse gets them what they want. Usually, abuse in a relationship happens more than once. From a previous experience, abusers will learn that their power and control towards their partner can get them to listen to them. After abusing their partner, they see that their power allows them to obey them. This continues if the partner being abused does not say something. Help is all around and should be used in order to get out of domestic violence.

As cliche as it sounds, recognizing you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

While people do have the potential to change, they need the drive to do so. It’s easy for a person to say he or she will change but the key is to commit to all aspects of change which is a lot easier said than done.

Improving yourself shows strength and drive. Recognizing flaws and working towards improving yourself is one of the most admirable things a person can do.

If you think you may be the abuser in your relationship, here are some steps to consider taking:

  • Admitting to what you have done
  • Accepting responsibility for abusive actions/behavior.
  • Making amends
  • Recognizing that abuse is a choice
  • Identifying patterns of controlling behavior
  • Identifying the attitudes that drive abuse
  • Accepting that overcoming abusiveness is a long term choice
  • Not demanding credit for improvements/not being abusive
  • Do not allow improvements to excuse occasional acts of abuse
  • Developing supportive behaviors
  • Changing responses to  anger and grievances
  • Changing reactions in heated conflict
  • Not feeling sorry for yourself about the consequences of abuse or victim blaming

Seeking out support resources can also be a major help in the process of improving yourself and forming healthy relationships. Luckily, there are plenty of wonderful resources in Hackensack such as Alternatives to Domestic Violence, a  24-hour hotline (201-336-7575) where you can discuss any issues, be educated, and get counseling by professionals. Healing Space of YWCA is another 24-hour hotline (201-487-2227) located in Hackensack that provides crisis intervention and individual counseling.

6 thoughts on “What Triggers Relationship Abuse?”

  1. I like that this article is very informative. This also addresses a subject that is uncomfortable to speak about. Overall very well written.

  2. While reading this article about what triggers relationship abuse I learned many warning signs that may help anybody who is facing this problem. The article is very well written especially because it has many facts and support towards each issue and most importantly steps to take if you think you are the abuser. All in all, the article was not to lengthy and addressed the topic accordingly.

  3. I do believe it is important to be caution and know your warning signs in an abusive relationship. If so, a person is in an actual abusive relationship then its urgent to seek help before its goes beyond abusive.

  4. Reading this taught me, not only the signs of being in an abusive relationship but some of the reasons why someone may be doing the abuse. Taught me as well that people in relationships need to me open with each other and communicate, to avoid making issues deeper than they should be. Saw ways someone can improve themselves and ways you can help your partner if they end up having this problem.

  5. This article is very well organized and written. The article gives the reader information on relationship abuse and it provides helpful resources.

  6. I found this article to be very informative and helpful. Providing the warning signs was a great way of giving us readers the ability to identify an abuser and really get something out of reading it.

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