A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

How to Spot an Abuser Who Claims to be the Victim

(My thanks to Barbara Roberts for her help with this article)

I am sure that you have watched police SWAT teams in action at a hostage situation.  As the hostages emerge, a strange thing happens.  The police treat them as if they were the bad guys.  They have them kneel down, hands in the air, frisk them and handcuff them.  Why?  Because if the police have never actually seen the suspects, they want to be sure that the bad guys aren’t trying to escape in the disguise of one of the hostages.  And that is how we need to handle abuse situations, because it is very, very common for the abuser to claim to be the victim – and his disguise can be pretty ingenious.  Many hostages are thrown in “jail” while the bad guys go free when it comes to how our churches are dealing with abuse in their midst.

It really is not that difficult to recognize an abuser.  Their mentality of power, control, entitlement and justification always betrays itself in their speech and you can hear it if you know what to listen for.  To show you what I mean, let me use an example for a not-so-well-disguised abuser who wrote to me recently.  He claims to be the victim of his wife’s abuse.   I will just paraphrase him so as not to publicly identify him.  I suppose on a  blog like this I have to protect the guilty.  Oh well.  Here’s his opening line:

“Too bad you dont really know what you are talking about. You do not have much discernment and have bought into the lie that all or most domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women, nothing could be further from the truth. I can also tell you dont have any personal experience in this area, and I do. You, like many others have bought into the lies about DV and you say its mostly women who have come forward to you, therefore it must be only or mostly women that are abused.”

And then:

“She lies, deceives, manipulates and much of what you say of what happens spiritually is true, but I am the Christian and she unfortunately is not, I suggest her Catholic upbringing has may have something to do with that. Her family are liars and deceivers…she would come to you and say how I beat her, the kids, control the money and more…and you would believe it…like her family and few friends…but most neighbors, our children and their friends know the truth.”

So, when you are confronted with a man who claims to be the victim, here are some pretty reliable tests you can apply to see if you are talking to a real victim, or an abuser who is playing the victim (thus attempting to win you over as his ally) -

1. Abusers evidence a mentality of superiority and certainty.  Notice how this fellow goes right on the attack to exalt himself, his knowledge, his wisdom as oppose to our ignorance.  He knows.  We are fools.  In contrast, a real victim is most often confused, uncertain, and has a low self-image, putting themselves down.

2.  Abusers will evidence a demeaning attitude toward women in general and their victim in particular.    They insist that radical feminism has us all duped and that they are the victims of some widespread anti-man conspiracy.  Victims don’t see things this clearly and thus are not so dogmatic.  They will be more demeaning of themselves if anything.

3.  Abusers attack their victim with nasty, cruel allegations.  She’s a drunk, a whore,  a lazy *^%$ who only thinks of herself and lies to everyone about him.  Normally, you will not see this kind of thing in a real victim.  He may have come to the point of realizing the evils the abuser has done, but he won’t exaggerate and invent them like the abuser does.  We need to ask ourselves, “is what this guy is saying about his wife really believable?”  Often his accusations are bizarre and outlandish.

4.  Abuse victims, and perhaps especially genuine male victims of abuse, exhibit humility and shame.  They are far more reluctant to open up about what has happened to them.  They will not insist that they have lots of people who believe them!  Real abuse victims, you see, often lack allies.  It is the abuser who has them!

If any readers would like to help us identify more signs of an abuser-in-disguise, we would love to hear from you.


  1. You are so right on with your assessment of abusers. They look around for any willing ear willing to let them bash their spouse and by telling them what they feel is wrong with their wife. The saddest part about an abusive spouse is that they treat their wife as the enemy.

  2. Yes. The hesitancy of the true victim is a real pointer. It’s the classic iceberg illustration: most of the iceberg is below the surface and you only see the tip above the water. The true victim will drop a mere hint about the tip of the iceberg, a small allegation about the abuser’s conduct, or a small hint about her own feelings, to see how the listener reacts. If the listener reacts without judgement but with interest and concern, then the victim may reveal a little more of the iceberg. She may go into more detail about what the abuser has been doing. Or she may talk more about how she feels (her emotions or mental state) – eg. that she thinks she is at fault, that she feels she needs to try harder in the marriage, and she is finding the marriage difficult. She may not make any direct allegations about the abuser’s conduct if she is still in the fog and hasn’t woken up to the fact that she is being abused.

    Phoney victims jump in with all guns blazing when making their allegations. They are not hesitant.

    ( I use ‘she’ for the victim but I know a minority of victims are male. My current husband was seriously abused in a previous relationship.)

  3. There’s an excellent article over at Hidden Hurt from a man’s point of view. Reading through his story of domestic violence and abuse, I’m struck by how different his story sounds from my ex’s claims that I abused him all those years by looking at him cross-eyed.


    Excellent first hand account highlighting the difference.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes, Ida, thank you . I read that just the other day and as you say, the difference in the tone struck me very plainly. After hearing just a few of these genuine stories, it seems to me that the false “victim” is really pretty easy to spot. Every young woman who has met a “too good to be true” man who oozes charm, but tells her how rotten his previous wife/wives were, should run! The phony victims are full of themselves and full of hate.


  1. Recommended: A Man’s Point of View: Thomas’ Domestic Violence Story « Thoroughly Christian Divorce
  2. How easy IS it to spot an abuser, when he is both Jeckyll & Hyde? « A Cry For Justice

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,985 other followers

%d bloggers like this: