Log in

Dealing with Reactive Abuse - Spot, Stop, and Recover


Reactive abuse occurs when a perpetrator of abuse intentionally provokes their partner to react aggressively to their abusive actions. This represents a manipulative mechanism that perpetrators employ to shift the blame from themselves, positioning it upon the victim instead.

 For example, an abuser may continually belittle or harass their partner until they are provoked into an aggressive response. Following this, the initial aggressor will then direct attention toward their partner's reaction. They will claim that the hostile behavior is mutual and not solely because of them.

 This strategy serves as a kind of gaslighting strategy - questioning and twisting the victim's perception of what is happening.

How victims can spot reactive abuse

A consistent cycle of provocation from your partner, leading you to respond negatively, strongly suggests reactive abuse. Feeling persistently guilty and blamed for issues you have not caused is another indication. Notice if the perpetrator sidesteps addressing the core issue by reframing it onto your reaction, too.

Often in cases of reactive abuse, you will feel baffled after your confrontations. That is a classic gaslighting tactic used by reactive abusers. Incidentally, you may be surprised to learn that the term “gaslighting” actually originated in the 1960s.

 Lastly, observe if the perpetrator presses for undue forgiveness without acknowledging the hurt that they have inflicted on you. And always trust your instincts. Feeling chronically drained or treading on eggshells might indicate an unhealthy relationship dynamic. 

How loved ones can spot potential reactive abuse

If you have a family member or friend who you suspect is a victim of reactive abuse, look closely for signs before you speak to them about the issue. Observing a pattern of constant blame or criticism directed toward your loved one by the perpetrator, which leads to extreme emotional responses, is one telltale sign.

 If you notice your friend or family member is frequently confused or suddenly starts isolating themselves and communicating less, it could also be a sign of reactive abuse.

Stopping reactive abuse

As a victim, the first step to stop reactive abuse is to recognize what is happening. You should educate yourself on the patterns of reactive abuse behavior and understand that you are a victim. You can then begin your journey toward stopping it.

 You should talk in confidence to a loved one who you trust. Then, with someone to support you, you should seek professional help. Often, it is best to speak to a therapist or counselor. Therapists and counselors who specialize in domestic abuse can equip victims with strategies and resources to halt the cycle.

 But begin by talking to your doctor. They can help you find the best assistance for your individual needs. Connecting with a support network can also be highly therapeutic and empowering. 

Recovering from reactive abuse

Recovering from reactive abuse entails a layered process that requires time, patience, and self-compassion. It starts with the acceptance of experiencing abuse and understanding that the fault lies with the perpetrator, not with oneself.

 Speaking to a therapist who specializes in domestic abuse can provide invaluable insight and coping strategies to facilitate recovery. One vital part of healing is nurturing self-esteem, as reactive abusers are known to chip away at victims’ self-confidence.

 Connecting with others who have experienced similar situations can prove beneficial as well. Joining support groups helps survivors realize they are not alone. Shared understanding can aid in reducing feelings of isolation and promote healing.

 With professional help and the support of others in the same situation as you, you can stop reactive abuse, recover, and move on to a new chapter in your life. Remember, you are not alone. Help and support is readily available.

How can I tell if my significant other is an abuser? What is reactive abuse? What can I do to stop someone from hurting me? How can I get away from someone that abuses me? Tips for getting out of domestic abuse, Relationship Tips