What Is Reactive Abuse, And Why Do Victims (Like Me) Turn To It?

Last updated by Rosie Harlow

Reactive abuse is, without doubt, the best, or should I say the most devious example of changing a narrative, that exists. This catastrophic alteration of the truth involves the real victim lashing out against their abuser during a flurry of ill-treatment. Here, the victim will respond either physically or verbally to the abuse they are being submitted to and the puppet master, or the abuser, will then claim that they are in fact the victim. Abusive situations inevitably provoke reactive outbursts, yet devious assailants often view this defense mechanism as a get-out-of-jail-free card and then proceed to turn the tables on the abused person. Here's more on this method of manipulation and how it can be dealt with.

What Is Reactive Abuse, And Why Do Victims (Like Me) Turn To It?
Contents;

How does reactive abuse work?

Reactive abuse is closely linked to narcissistic abuse and therefore involves cruel manipulative tactics, which are used to provoke an explosive response from victims of it. Here, aggressors will poke the bear, so to speak, until they get a violent or aggressive response, which will legitimize their awful behavior and bullying tactics. Abusive relationships really push you to the edge and can completely transform your personality, pushing you to go into fight or flight mode.

What pushed me over the edge?

In my case, I was trapped in a toxic relationship for over a year, well, like most relationships, it didn't start out that way. In the beginning, it was all rainbows and flowers, to the point where I naively believed that I had found the man of my dreams, you know, someone who'd take care of me forever. Looking back, I'm actually ashamed to say that I even found his intensely protective side really attractive. (Yikes, how times have changed!) However, after a few months, red flags began to spring up, and I started to notice certain narcissistic traits in my now ex-partner, that really made me uncomfortable. As time flew by, the criticism became more and more intense, along with the blame shifting, not forgetting the wild accusations he used to confront me with.

Before we'd celebrated our 6-month anniversary, I was already walking on eggshells around him and afraid to say anything that I thought would upset him. That's right, the trauma bond was growing stronger by the day, with every vicious comment, and I could feel my mental health was declining as a result of his unfair behavior. Yet, despite his treatment of me, I couldn't find the strength to stand up for myself or make myself heard. Was it because I wanted to be oblivious to the fact that he was making me mentally ill, or was I just too afraid to put him in his place?

The day I completely flew off the handle

For my 30th birthday, I'd invited my friends and family members over to my place for a celebratory dinner, only for it to get to 5 pm and for me to receive a text from my sister, asking why my whole family had been uninvited. The text hit me like a ton of bricks, and without even replying to it, I instinctively knew what had happened. That's right, my ex had taken my phone and pretended to be me in order to call off the dinner I was so looking forward to. Now, I knew that he didn't particularly want to spend an evening with my family, but how could he do that to me?! His sneakiness really felt like a slap in the face, and really was the straw that broke the camel's back. I was officially sick of his controlling nature and needed him to know that I refused to be stuck under his thumb. I was prepared to take his nastiness and jealousy, but I wasn't going to allow him to manipulate my family.

My blood was boiling...

When he arrived home that night, I acted like nothing had happened and was even dressed in my fanciest clothes, plus I had decorated the apartment with balloons and streamers, in an attempt to give nothing away. The truth is, I wanted to test his reaction and determine whether he would dare to manipulate the situation. Well, low and behold, just like any self-respecting narcissist, he didn't disappoint me and tried to convince me that my family had canceled last minute, giving us the night to ourselves. Yes, the control freak had actually canceled my dinner plans so that we could order a pizza and watch a movie!

When I decided that I could no longer listen to his lies, the silent rage that had been bubbling beneath my skin rose to the surface and as soon as he started to yell at me, I screamed back at him from the bottom of my lungs. Beneath a mixture of blubbery tears and snot, I yelled at him as loud as I could and pushed him back when he tried to physically restrain me and shut me up. I was no longer going to be a victim anymore, but he'd provoked an ugly reaction from me, and one that I certainly wasn't familiar with. After all, I've always been known as the meek girl, who never really makes waves, incidentally, that's probably why he picked me in the first place.

>>> Read; Things to say to someone who is gaslighting you

Does reactive abuse make you an abuser?

In short, no, acting out after being subjected to ill-treatment for an extensive period doesn't make you an abuser because it is indeed a natural human reaction. After all, even the most patient of people get fed up at points and often respond in surprising ways. Now, in my case, after I'd stood up for myself, I instantly felt guilty for my actions, but in hindsight, that's probably because my ex was an expert in manipulating situations and making me feel bad. He knew just how sensitive I was, I pulled on my strings to make me feel terrible for what I had done, that's right, he even went as far as crying, albeit crocodile tears. Standing your ground against your aggressor doesn't make you an abuser, instead, it means that you realize how precarious your situation is, and is more a cry for help than anything else.

How to stop reactive abuse

The key to stopping reactive abuse or any kind of domestic violence is definitively walking away from the situation before it gets out of control. To do so, you need to consciously decide to put yourself first, because the longer you stay with your toxic partner, the more you will enable him and legitimize his vindictive ways. In healthy relationships, I'd usually suggest examining your communication methods whenever you reach a bump in the road, however, this isn't the case for toxic ones, because no amount of positive communication can solve the fundamental issues of a narcissistic personality disorder. Communication should only be used here to express your disapproval of the behavior and to confirm that you are walking away.

Editor's opinion - We need to be more open about abuse

When we are in a toxic relationship, we often feel very lonely and as if we are the only ones going through this hellish situation. Well, the truth is, many more people than we think are trapped in these relationships, which means we shouldn't feel ashamed, and should instead support each other in our quest for freedom. Sharing our experiences will only help future victims and inspire them to escape.

🤗 Understand yourself, accept yourself, be happy... Let’s do it here and now!

#BornToBeMe

Be sure to check out these articles too;

Article presented by Rosie Harlow

Writing has always been a form of therapy for me. For as long as I can remember, I have always used paper as a punching bag. Get to know me, I am Rosie Harlow.

Our most popular 'psychology' articles:

More insights into our personalities:

6 Reasons Why Narcissists Never Apologize

I’ll be the first to admit that my stubbornness means I’m not exactly the most willing person when it comes to uttering the words ‘I’m sorry’, but I always push through my pride; although unfortunately, the same can’t be said for narcissists... Indeed, people who suffer from this personality disorder will simply never hold their hands up and accept responsibility for their actions, despite how deeply they’ve hurt your feelings. You know the idiom getting blood from a stone, right? Well, when it comes to apologies from these toxic personalities, nothing is more appropriate, and here are 6 reasons why!

I Have Fits Of Anger

Anyone who’s never felt anger can close this article! We’ve all felt this virulent emotion at one time or another 😡. It’s neither bad nor good, but it has the right to exist. It’s healthy to feel angry when you’re betrayed or a victim of an injustice. However, when anger attacks are recurrent, it’s good to learn how to control them. When anger hurts others or ourselves, it becomes a problem.

Ergophobia: When The Fear Of Work Eats Away At You…

I know the real fear of work. I suffered from it for a long time, but I’m happy to say that today I’m cured. It’s an illness that can make others smile, as you can easily be seen as lazy. However, it’s not the case for people suffering from ergophobia, the fear of work. Where does this fear come from? How can it be treated? All will be explained.

I’m Scared Of Failure

“I won’t manage it”, “I can’t do it”… I often say this because I doubt my abilities tremendously. Being so negative allows me to calm my fear of failure a bit. By doing nothing, I don’t run the risk of failing. I prefer to do nothing and remain in a state of waiting, for fear of not succeeding. So I procrastinate, thinking about the fact that I didn’t take the plunge out of anxiety. How can I overcome this fear to really start doing things?

Why I Hate Conflict And What I Need To Do To Face It

As soon as I feel tension build up with someone close to me, I take flight. I don’t like conflict, even if I don’t agree with the other person, I run from it. As a result, I keep it all inside of me, which can generate a lot of annoyance. Rather than this eating away at us from the inside, we need to learn to overcome this fear of conflict to make our voice heard. Why do we run away from conflict? How can we overcome this fear? Here are some explanations.

What Are The Signs That You Are Unhappy?

I sometimes feel bad, I don’t have the energy anymore… When we encounter financial, family, or other difficulties, as well as serious events such as bereavement, we accumulate psychological wounds. We can be resilient and move on, but we can also be overwhelmed by a growing sense of unease. There’s no shame in feeling bad psychologically, it happens to us all. However, spotting the signs of unhappiness enables us to be alert and to take care of our mental health.

8 Reasons Why Millennials Feel So Lost

If you ever find yourself watching the news or reading traditional journalism outlets, you’ll no doubt have picked up on the bad rep that millennials get. That’s right, we millennials (those of us who were born between 1981 – 1996) are often criticized for being ‘woke’, overly sensitive, entitled, and lazy. Now, isn’t that a bunch of adjectives you’d instantly like to forget! As you can probably tell, I don’t agree with the evaluation regarding our age group and am here to explain why we feel so lost and disconnected.

Why Do We Like Being Scared?

Making up ghost stories, talking about horrible legends, wanting to talk about spirits… I think we all did it when we were children. Even as adults, if we like watching horror films or documentaries about serial killers, it’s because we love scaring ourselves! 😱 However, the question we may ask ourselves is why we like being scared? There are neuropsychological and sociological reasons behind this attraction. All will be explained!

How To Get Rid Of Your Horrid Complexes

Legs too fat, lips too small, scars or even shyness, whether it’s physical or psychological, complexes often have the bad taste of spoiling our lives and making us unhappy. But we won’t let them do that to us! We’re worth more than that, right?

Wengood's favorite tunes 🎵

How to detect a narcissist


"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." 

- Oscar Wilde