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How Does an Abuser Choose Their Victims?

Elaine has been a psychologist for eleven years helping the victims of serious and violent crimes.


Why Me?

So many people who escape domestic violence question what it is about them that made their abuser choose them. They blame themselves for having qualities that someone like that looked for. As if it was their fault.

They call themselves weak, stupid, and other horrid names that aren’t true. They want to know why the abuser chose them so they can eliminate all of the appropriate characteristics from their personality.

But the reality is, they chose you because of your good characteristics. Ones that you should never eliminate; just be more selective with.


Abusers love a good sob story, any excuse to play the victim. It’s a form of emotional manipulation that you will quickly come to recognize after being in an abusive relationship. They might tell you stories of the horrendous childhood they had. And how it affects them today. You’re a nice person, so you want to do everything you can to help them. But more importantly, you’re willing to look the other way when they act out once in a while. You tell yourself, “they’ve been through a lot.” You’ve been through a lot; I don’t know one person who hasn’t been through a lot. But would you ever act that way?

P.S. That sob story might be true, but it might not be.


Abusers love hope; it’s what keeps you tethered to them. Those little glimmers of hope, the flowers after the violence. The love note on your pillow after they called you unspeakable names for no reason.

Those little moments are enough to keep us hoping that there is a decent person in there, somewhere. They may be buried deep, but imagine if you were the one to save them.

There is no good person in there. You think because the person you met was kind, sweet, and thoughtful that they’ll come back and stay. That person was an act, a representative that they needed to lure you into the point of no return. That person was a lie; this person is the truth.



You put everyone else first; it’s just who you are. And that suits a narcissist down to the ground. You want to put other people first, and they want to be put first. But they will take this to extremes; you will never come first anymore. It is quite literally all about them. Selflessness is fine up to a point, but you deserve to come first too. Your needs should be considered as much as anyone else’s; you’re worthy of that.

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You’re patiently waiting until the good person comes back. And you’re willing to put up with whatever you have to until they do. But they’re not coming back, not to stay. The good person might resurface when you start to think about leaving them. They might come back after a particularly abusive spell. But it’s temporary, fleeting, and meaningless.

You’re Smart

Some abusers will seek out unassuming, more submissive victims. Others will seek out more confident, outgoing people. They see it as a challenge to “break” someone like this. It’s a very sinister case of “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Nobody is too intelligent to be the victim of abuse. It’s not as simple as a case of smart vs. stupid. Abusers have subtle, insidious, sophisticated ways to break down someone’s confidence. They keep at it until this person no longer sees themselves as attractive, intelligent, or successful.

You See the Best in People

Okay, so she calls you horrible names in front of people to try to make herself look good. She’s only joking; she’s just trying to make other people laugh. You don’t mind that he controls what you eat; he’s looking after your health. Seeing the best in people isn’t usually a bad thing. But when it extends this far, it’s time to reel it in.

Public humiliation and food control are types of abuse, they’re not joking, and they’re not doing it for your own good.


You’re Strong, You Always Were

None of these things are bad qualities. In fact, they’re admirable qualities that most people aspire to have. But your abuser has taken advantage of them, turning them against you. You don’t need to remove these aspects of your personality. You just need to be careful who you show them to from now on. And limit them, be patient to a point, be selfless to a point, trust to a point.

People often say that their abusers made them strong. I disagree with this for two reasons. The first is that I will NEVER give an abuser credit for anything. The second is that they were already strong to survive the things they went through. They walked through hell and came out swinging. That is pure strength that you should give yourself credit for.

Please Get Help

If you are experiencing any kind of domestic abuse, please seek help as soon as you can. There are people out there who want to help you, it’s why they are there. Reach out to them.

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