Morning friends,

I don’t want you to miss out on the free teleseminar or livestreaming event I’m doing with Chris Moles this Thursday night, August 7 at 8:30 pm ET.  We will be tackling the question, “Can an Abuser Change – and How Does That Happen?” Chris is a Pastor and a Batterer Interventionist Specialist.  Sign up here.

I’m also starting two different groups in August and would love to have you participate.  Click on them for more details.  Building CORE Strength and Moving Beyond People Pleasing: Learn to Speak up and Set Boundaries.

 

Today’s Question: Is there a prototype of person who is more likely to accept abusive treatment in relationships? My guess is it is someone with damaged self-esteem. Thank you for sharing this wonderful information!

Answer:  Many women wonder if there is something about them that attracts abusers, especially when they have experienced multiple abusive relationships.  For a number of reasons, some women (and men) may be more vulnerable to predators.  One reason you mentioned is that they don’t value themselves or don’t think they deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, which is definitely an issue with damaged self-esteem.

But another reason a woman may be more vulnerable to being abused is that she is too naive and/or too nice. She has not been taught by her mother or father to “bare her teeth” when she is in relationship danger. Instead, she learns to ignore the warning signs, to pretend everything is fine, to make nice, to be accommodating to her own peril, and to go the extra mile.

While being accommodating and kind are fine qualities, a girl must also be taught how and when it’s time to speak up, set boundaries, say no, and walk away from a relationship that is disrespectful and dishonoring to her before it ever becomes abusive.

When a woman does not know how to protect herself against a predator, or she’s taught it’s ungodly or unfeminine, she is far more vulnerable to being manipulated, intimidated and abused.

Thirteen Traits that Make You a Target for Abusers

In my counseling and coaching work I’ve observed 13 traits people possess that make them more vulnerable to being abused. Having any one of these traits or all of them does not make the abuse you experience your fault, but in your naiveté and/or unhealthiness, you do become a magnet that attracts abusive people.

These traits are not in any specific order nor do you have to have all of them to make you more vulnerable. Just having one of them can make you an abuse magnet and put you in an unhealthy or dangerous place in your relationships.

1. When you are initially attracted to someone you don’t look for good character qualities (such as honesty, faithfulness, diligence, and responsibility) but easily get swept away by charm (such as a great smile, a lot of money, the way he kisses you, his flattering words).

2.  You frequently ignore your early gut instincts that something isn’t right. Instead you rationalize, minimize, or tell yourself you are imagining things or overreacting.

3.  You believe you don’t deserve a better relationship, therefore, you settle for what you can get and what he gives you, even if it’s hurtful and abusive.  You believe that having someone is better having than having no one.

4.  You fall for smooth words and fast-talk over looking at the hard facts and his past behaviors.

5.  You feel empty without a man (or woman) in your life.

6.  You have a hard time sticking up for yourself in assertive ways.  Sometimes you try but it’s usually in an aggressive over-the-top manner, which you later regret. In your guilt you revert back to your passive accommodating ways.

7.  You typically over-function and/or under-function in your relationships.  You feel all the responsibility to repair what is wrong and take all the blame.  You tend to not think for yourself or make your own decisions.  You allow yourself to be controlled.

8.  You perpetually avoid conflict and feel bad or guilty for saying no to people

9.  You cling to fantasy story lines and love myths such as if you love someone enough he/she will change, and God will make everything work out in the end.

10.  You have few or no boundaries or you allow others to violate your boundaries with no consequences

11.  You accept unacceptable behavior from others and blame yourself.

12.  You do things for the other person that is against your own values and better judgment (like co-sign a loan, let him sleep over when you barely know him, lie for him).

13.  You make excuses for abusive behavior or minimize and rationalize it. (He’s tired, he had an abusive father, he’s depressed, he’s had a hard day, he has poor self-esteem).

If you recognize yourself as having any of these thirteen traits and are tired of being an abuse magnet, NOW IS THE TIME to make some changes.

If you need help making those changes, check out my two upcoming classes:  Moving Beyond People Pleasing and Building CORE Strength.

30 Comments

  1. Megan on August 6, 2014 at 10:46 am

    This is good stuff, Leslie. Thank you. Posting it on Give Her Wings.

    • Leslie Vernick on August 6, 2014 at 11:03 am

      Thanks Megan, would you also post about tomorrow’s free tele seminar with Chris Moles? I’m sure your people might want to hear about that seminar and attend.

      • Megan on August 6, 2014 at 12:20 pm

        Yes! I will do so later this afternoon or tonight. 🙂

  2. Cindy on August 6, 2014 at 10:48 am

    In my case after I because a Christian I was put down for baring my teeth when I had been abused, I wasn’t nice enough, submissive enough or I wouldn’t have been abused. Very confusing as a new Christian.
    Our pastor after I had been vocal about being physically abused told my husband and I we deserve each other. Really, really? I wish I had access to your resources and A Cry for Justice back then I am pretty sure the path would have been different and I would have been equipped better to stand up for myself and my kids better.

    • Leslie Vernick on August 6, 2014 at 11:09 am

      Someday I’m going to teach a class on how to “Bear your teeth” just like a mamma wolf teaches her pups.

      • diane on August 6, 2014 at 12:33 pm

        Can u bump “someday” up to “ASAP”?

        • Leslie Vernick on August 6, 2014 at 12:34 pm

          My Moving Beyond People Pleasing Class will hit many of those buttons.

      • Ann on August 6, 2014 at 1:49 pm

        Yes! I need this desperately!

  3. Alene on August 6, 2014 at 11:21 am

    The picture of the woman, muffled, with a hand over her mouth touches home. It actually happened to me physically and was the pattern verbally.

    It is true, being too ‘nice’ is dangerous; it is also true that it is hard to learn new steps.

    I have slowly been speaking up more but that is challenging too because I often pay for it. I’ve been slowly learning to stand stronger and live out boundaries and some consequences though there are challenges to standing alone. My church is not a voice for action and my children are watching so that adds to the challenge.

    It feels like a lonely road but as I seek to listen to the Holy Spirit more and other voices, there is company, yet it is still me who must decide and act.

  4. Heidi on August 6, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Wish I had known this information 36 years ago! Anyone questioning am I too nice or am I seeing what I think I’m seeing–listen to that.

  5. Brenda on August 6, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    I am an abuse magnet!! There I said it. Actually, I usually say I am a jerk marnet. If there is a jerk in a 5 miles radius he will find me and within a 5 miles radius there are plenty of them. Fortunately, the places I go I am not approached by many men at this point unless it is in more of a grandfatherly way. I would probably turn tail and run if one did try to speak to me on a personal level. I have been guilty of several of the signs on this list in the past and do not wish to do a repeat performance.

  6. Ann on August 6, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    I heavily identify with all 13.

    One thing in particular clouded all my decisions: having unconfessed sexual sin. I felt like damaged goods and never realized *in my heart* the truth that God would cleanse me (I could go forward and “sin no more”); I didn’t have to settle. A clear conscience paves the way for good decisions.

  7. Ann on August 6, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    I heavily identify with all 13. 🙁

    One thing in particular clouded all my decisions: having unconfessed sexual sin. I felt like damaged goods and never realized *in my heart* the truth that God would cleanse me (I could go forward and “sin no more”); I didn’t have to settle. A clear conscience paves the way for good decisions.

  8. Michelle on August 6, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Yes, I am an abuse magnet. I, too, have been guilty of many of these signs over the years. I just signed up for the Moving Beyond People Pleasing class. It’s time for change…

  9. Linda@Creekside on August 6, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    What a list. Practical, clear, and to the point … and great illustrations just in case we don’t get it {which is often true when our self-esteem is damaged.}

    As always, super, Leslie. What an incredible aid …

  10. Jordan on August 7, 2014 at 12:51 am

    This strongly reminded me of victim blaming. Yes, these traits aren’t healthy to have, but people are not abused because of their traits or how they act or feel. They are abused because someone else has issues and abuses them. Stop victim blaming and start predator blaming.

    • Leslie Vernick on August 7, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      I think I was clear in my blog that this in NO way says the abuse is your fault. However when you can’t or don’t know how to say no to people, you do open yourself up more to be taken advantage of and/or abused.

    • Megan on August 7, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      Jordan — I think I probably would have felt this way when I FIRST left my abusive ex and family. Everything triggered me and made me feel like everyone was blaming me. It was not until I had been away for a few years that I realized that I had some traits that caused me to attract abusers — not because I am deficient — but because I had learned these “tactics” in order to survive. For instance, I STILL have the bad habit of acting like I am ignorant in order to “boost” the egos of people around me. It feels “safe” but always ends up making me feel bad because I am a smart person . . . . and I should not act that way. It was my egg-shell laden past . . . But, now, I totally “get” what Leslie is saying because I have distance from my abusers. I, too, need to learn to stand firm and stand up for myself and my family in appropriate ways. Leslie’s article is intended to teach former victims to protect themselves from those predators.

  11. Kris on August 7, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Thank you for the list. My sister and I (both are survivors of abusive marriages) were discussing how men could so easily pick out women that are ‘ripe’ for abuse. The list is perfect.
    I am learning to bare my teeth…..it is harder than one would think.:)
    My Sunday School class is reading the Safe People book by Cloud/Townsend. Great book to help identify some traits in people where my teeth need baring!!

  12. Lee on August 7, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Dear Leslie, thank you for a wonderfully insightful article. So much truth here. Before my mom passed away 15 years ago, she shared with me that me her biggest regret as a parent was not teaching her 3 children how to stand up to people that are not treating them well. And that’s it’s okay to say no. I think she realized that my brother and I were both in difficult marriages with abusive spouses. She felt responsible for not teaching us skills that might have prevented choices that brought much pain. I finally understood what she was telling me. I also missed the boat on this with my own 2 daughters. Thankfully one wisely chose a wonderful spouse. The other daughter passive and shy like me. I am really worried she is followings path, please pray for the right words for me to approach her. I’m going through divorce right now after 25+ years of emotional and verbal abuse. I couldn’t emotionally or physically take it anymore. Thank you Leslie, for your wisdom and hope

    • Leslie Vernick on August 7, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      I will pray for you to have the courage and the right words to talk with your daughter.

  13. Brenda on August 7, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Jordan,
    I don’t think that Leslie is victim blaming. She is trying to get us that have been in abusive relationships to see what it is about us that not only attracts those types of people, but how we can prevent it from having it happen to us again. Preventative maintenance is what I would call it. Not everyone will see any of this in themselves, but I do on several points. It is good to not only get away from abuse entirely, but to work on ourselves as well. If I had more confidence in myself at the time, perhaps I would have chosen much more wisely or stayed single all together.

  14. Shan on August 7, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    I definitely avoid conflict (#8) and make excuses for people I care about (#13). One other item I would add is that I am a high achiever and constantly compare myself to others and only feel good about myself if I think I am better than most people around me. I don’t know what to call that – maybe it’s a form of insecurity, but it is hard to call it that because most of the time I feel pretty secure, though it is unhealthy I know.

    My ex-husband was the same way and we attracted each other like magnets. It felt like it was just the 2 of us in the whole world and we were surrounded by idiots, so it felt pretty good. Then later he turned very abusive and I eventually left 8 years ago. I thought I had done some work on myself and definitely feel like I will never put up with abuse again. But then I met someone else recently who was like that and again we were attracted like magnets. We didn’t date, I avoided him on purpose. But I am kind of frustrated that I still have a lot of work to do.

    • Shan on August 7, 2014 at 4:02 pm

      At least I recognized it this time, I guess that is a step in the right direction.

  15. Terri on August 7, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    I enjoyed the tele-seminar Leslie…will you be posting it on your blog? Would love to listen to it again, and also direct other women to listen to it! Thanks for all you do! Praying for you and your ministry!

    • Leslie Vernick on August 12, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Yes it the link to listen to it will be on tomorrow’s blog. Thanks for your prayers.

  16. Lynn on August 9, 2014 at 11:06 am

    The abuse I endured was a result of drug addiction. That is usually my pattern. I end up with an addict! I live in a county with the one of the highest rates of drug overdose deaths. Drugs seem to affect every family around me including mine. I’m not sure how to break this cycle that I seem to fall into without knowing. I have begun to feel as if I am the problem. It’s devastating.

  17. Robert on August 9, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Is your teleseminar recorded and available to hear after the live event?

    • Leslie Vernick on August 12, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Yes, the link will be on tomorrow’s blog post.

  18. Dot on August 12, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    My daughter & I just went to a funeral of a very nice, cheerful, encouraging woman whose husband confessed to her murder. News said she had accused him of infidelity and “slapped him first”. She had spoken up. She must have tried to defend herself. But she was murdered.
    Our being naïve was to offer sympathy to that man the week before anyone knew he was the murderer. Some abusers are “good” at deceiving for a time, but the truth comes out.

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