By Jenn Rockefeller
Manipulation in all its forms is used in everyday life. From lawyers persuading a jury to see their point of view, to kids on a debate team trying to manipulate the audience into siding with them, and to children manipulating their parents into buying them a certain toy.
Manipulation becomes toxic and insidious when it is used as a malicious form of control. In fact, it is a powerful tool in the world of domestic violence and is at the core of an abuser’s game.
So how do abusers use manipulation as a tool of domestic violence? What is it about manipulation that draws abusers to this particular tool?
It all boils down to power and control. Manipulation drives the power and control game forward. The abusers will rely heavily on manipulation to gain the upper hand.
Manipulation is used primarily to coerce a domestic violence victim into doing or saying something that their abuser wants them to do. Many times, it may be something the victim doesn’t even want to do. The abusers will use fear, obligation, and guilt (or FOG, a term coined by Susan Forward) to obtain that all important power and control over their victim.
Signs you are being manipulated:
- Acquiescing to something you don’t want to do just so you can “keep the peace.”
- Being told that you are responsible for the abuse. (This is where the “guilt” part comes into play.)
- Being blamed for your partner’s feelings (angry, sad, depressed, etc)
- Feeling like your imperfections and flaws are being exploited. Abusers dislike when you are more confident (and therefore, more powerful) than them, so they hone in on your weaknesses and pick you apart.
- Being told you have to do something because it is your responsibility. (This is where the “obligation” part comes into play.)
- Being told you have to do something because if you don’t, there will be consequences. (This is where the “fear” part comes into play.)
- Having your emotions get toyed with. Abusers will zero in on whatever emotion you are displaying and feed off of it. They will know exactly what emotional buttons to push to get you to do what they want.
- Being bombarded with having to make a decision right then and there. Abusers will smooth talk their way into getting you to agree with them. They’ll talk so fast that they won’t give you any time to really ponder their words.
- Being given the silent treatment, so that you go running to them to apologize.
- Being made to feel guilty for voicing concerns or grievances. Manipulators are adept at twisting words around, and will end up making you feel sorry for ever bringing up your concerns. Eventually, you will not want to ever bring up concerns to that person in the future.
- Feeling like your personal space is being encroached upon. Manipulators will stand very close to you and use their physical stature to their advantage to create a sense of fear in you. It is to get you to back down and give in to their demands.
In the beginning, you may not be aware of or even see the above signs that you are being manipulated by an abuser. Why? Because at first, the abusers will appear charming, fun, and loving. This is because the manipulative behavior starts out so small. It’s because abusers have honed their craft of manipulation so well. They have learned ways to take advantage of those around them, so when they get to you, they will have perfected this art to the point of it going almost completely unnoticed. Their demands will grow bigger and bigger and if you say no to them, their tolerance for refusal will become lower and lower.
All of the above manipulation tactics are used to gain power and control over a victim. Abusers aim to dominate their partners. It gives them the much-desired boost of superiority that they require in order to function.
If you think you might be in an unhealthy or even abusive relationship, look for these red flags to see if your partner is a manipulator.