Reactive Abuse: They Call You Abusive for Reacting To Their Abuse

reactive abuse

Imagine this. Someone is getting abused by their partner, be it physically, emotionally, mentally or even, financially, and this goes on and on and on for a very long time. And then something snaps in the person who is getting abused, and they retaliate and stand up against their abuser. Shockingly, the moment they do this, the abuser claims that the victim is being abusive towards THEM, and not the other way around.

They have completely flipped the table and reversed the situation and so now, the victim becomes the abuser, and the abuser becomes the victim. And that my folks, is reactive abuse, in a nutshell.

Shocking, enraging and so unfair, isn’t it? Makes your blood boil, right? But unfortunately, this is what happens to so many people out there, who are still in the clutches of their abusers and are tormented by their abusive actions.

What Is Reactive Abuse?

Reactive abuse is a major part of the manipulation, and psychological abuse by the abuser, when they claim that their victim is being abusive towards them, whenever the latter tries to protect themselves and take a stand against them. For the abuser, this is the perfect plan to undermine and abuse their victims more.

When you are constantly abused by someone, there’s only so much you can endure and go through. In the past, you might have tried to tell them that how much they were hurting you, and how their toxic actions were gradually taking a toll on your mental health, but all they do is dismiss you off by calling you over-sensitive and weak.

Listening to this over and over again breaks you down more and after a point, and you find yourself scared and brainwashed to even acknowledge that what’s happening to you is horrible.

Related: What Is Reactive Abuse

You go through this day in and day out, and then finally, one day you snap and let go. You scream. You shout. You insult them back. You even give them a punch back, if they are being physically abusive towards you. You finally take a stand for yourself and hold them accountable for all their toxic mind games and vicious actions.

Now before you think that you have finally changed the power dynamics and have taken control of the situation, your abuser takes advantage of your reaction, and claim themselves to be the poor, hapless victim of your “abuse”. They use the situation and your emotions as “proof” that you are crazy and unstable, and that they were the victims of your abuse for all this time, not you. They hold all of this against you and go on to brainwash you more about how you are abusive towards them.

You are still reeling from everything that is happening, and before you can stop yourself, you find yourself trying to talk to them about what went wrong, and try to make things right. But the abuser knows exactly how to play you, and by this point, they are having a lot of fun emotionally tormenting you. They don’t care about making things right, nor do they care about the reasons behind your outburst.

Reactive abuse makes them hold the “proof” in front of you, and with the help of it, they keep on tormenting you, just because you found the courage to stand up to their abuse. They keep on saying things like “you don’t understand me at all!”, “you only care about your own feelings. What about my feelings?”, “I will have to walk on eggshells around you from now on”, “you are like a ticking time bomb”, and the best yet, “I didn’t scare you. YOU scared ME!”.

While they do all this, you start questioning yourself, whether they are indeed right, and you are wrong. Whether you are the problem, not them. Whether it’s you who has got it all wrong and you were just misunderstanding them and their intentions. You fail to realize that your abuser is really the ticking time bomb, not you. You are the one who has to walk on eggshells, not them. You are so deep in the throes of their reactive abuse, that you start to hold yourself responsible for all the things that are going wrong.

And just like that, your abuser has reversed the roles and has painted you as the “abuser”, and themselves as the “abused”.

Reactive Abuse: They Call You Abusive for Reacting To Their Abuse
Reactive Abuse: They Call You Abusive for Reacting To Their Abuse

42 thoughts on “Reactive Abuse: They Call You Abusive for Reacting To Their Abuse”

  1. Avatar of Foxyfoo

    One short thing, because I could write a huge story on this.

    My intake of foul language from him apart from criticism, making me look unstable and everything you can th I k what emotional abuse is about took a toll on me, until the pressure cooker boiled to a limit, where I wanted to leave and he told me ” to go and fucking sit down in one place and I physically assaulted him and he got me done with the law.

    I handled abuse since I was 7 years old, so now this article has put things in more perspective.

    All I need is some help and strength to remove my self from further consequences.

  2. Avatar of Pat

    I’m sitting here on the verge of tears to finally be able to put a face on what I’ve been dealing with.

    For years, my (ex) boyfriend has been micro-cheating, lying, gaslighting, all-out cheating, calling me a psycho-bitch, crazy, bimbo,scum…… during his smear campaigns conducted with other women. He’s gotten them to jump on his band wagon and take up his mantra as well. He’s dragged my name through the mud and convinced everyone that I’m a crazy, unbalanced loon and that I treat him like shit.

    For the record, I have treated him very well and taken the best care of him. He is physically challenged and I’ve always been there to support him and try to make his life a little more bearable. It was a delicate balance to help him with his daily struggles while taking care not to emasculate him in the process.

    Yes, I’ve lashed out at him and reacted to his abusive behavior. I’ve always felt guilty and responsible and also wondered if I truly was, in fact, the abuser…

    As of this writing, he is conducting yet another smear campaign against me. I received a text from one of his female “friends” that is threatening in nature. She is misguided enough to believe that she must protect him from ME. I could go on and on.

    Thank you for giving me clarify.

  3. Avatar of JabberwockyGirl

    Abusers DESERVE the reactions that victims give them in reaction to provocation. How dare this person say that it’s wrong of victims to react to abuse and that they should repent for it?

  4. Avatar of skysurfer

    As a man, I was in a 3 year relationship with a psychology professor and she has the traits of a High Functioning Sociopath. She gaslighted badly and did it well. During “disagreements” – she would always twist things around and paint it like it was my fault. In return, I would scream at the top of my lungs yelling “You can do no wrong! You never admit to anything. It’s all my fault!!!” – I never got any apologies. One time, during on gaslighting incident over my posting on FB to a female friend, she got terribly jealous over this. Told me we were laughing at her using ‘LOL’ etc.. Anyways, she went inside (it was dark outside) – I approached the kitchen and she had closed the glass sliding door. I slammed in to and almost went thru it. I opened the door and screamed at her why she did that and didn’t tell me. She then told me had I broken it I would’ve had to pay for it. So, yea I know all to well what reactive abuse is. Never again.

  5. Avatar of Chad Clark

    As a person currently dealing with this and having been charged with abuse. Is there a way to demonstrate in a court room that the so called “victim” is actually the abuser?

    1. Avatar of Ellen Heyer

      @Chad Clark

      I was able to successfully do so, however I had to hire an attorney, and it took time and $$. Later, in counseling, I learned it is not uncommon for the abuser to actually use the legal system against their target (victim – I’m trying not to be one any more 🙂 ). I had a very sadistic abuser who I would say actually engaged the “system” to terrorize me & attempt to destroy my life. He did not succeed completely, however; he has caused damage despite my ability to exonerate myself and the court admitting he was manipulating them to attack me (I’ll explain).

      In my case, the ex-narc (not married), in retrospect, had been on a mission to paint me as the “crazy” on, as described here. He filed a restrained order against me, (I was told they “hand them out like candy) – apparently all a person has to do is go to the office, plunk down some money, make up some stuff – “she calls all the time, bothering me, etc”, and they are good to go. I couldn’t believe someone could just do this, so when I first went to court for the hearing, I just went myself and told the truth..lol. Well, it was just his word against mine, and he is a good con man. I was living with him, so could not go get any of my things, or go to what was my home (obviously this would be traumatic for me). I didn’t care so much at this point about not seeing him or calling him, however, I was horrified b/c I had this legal document labeling me as a “harasser”. That bothered me the most, especially after how much I endured, and also knowing he would get endless narcissistic supply from telling everyone this story of how he “had to go to this extreme”.. blah blah.

      After a short time, he began calling me, first met me out (he wasn’t supposed to do this either, however I wasn’t supposed to respond either.. but I was stupid, and he was a manipulative malignant narcissist (you know the score, I’m sure). Things progress to us seeing each other and me staying over at his (my former place) again. I asked him about the order, saying aren’t you going to remove that? He said, yeah, he’d get to it, make excuses, blah blah. He had no intention of doing so..it was a weapon he had to use, which he did. When he was ready to be done with me for the time being, one day while I was there; he called the police. And I was in violation of the restraining order. To the police, it didn’t matter whether he invited me (he of course denied). I was arrested and paraded in handcuffs to the police car, in front of all the neighbors watching, and I swear he was smiling. Then, jail, another new and wonderful experience. I know maybe for some people this might not sound bad, but I never had any trouble with the law, am a professional, etc; so it was very traumatic.

      Anyway.. sorry, long story short. After that I was so angry.. he set me up. That is when I got the lawyer, and with my story (which he believed), corroborated by phone records, social media, etc. (he was choosing to have a relationship with me!), the order was overturned and I wasn’t charged with anything (violating a restraining order is a criminal charge – I mean not like a speeding ticket – it would have ruined me). Both the attorney and the judge were disgusting by his using the system and said they wished they could charge HIM with a crime, but unfortunately there wasn’t anything that fit.

      So, it was possible. I don’t know your circumstance, but try to drum up whatever kind of “evidence” you can, or start doing it now, to support your cause. Fight this! Do not allow these @$#rs to get away with this. I think some, not all I’m sure, in the legal system becoming more familiar with this form of abuse.. ‘legal abuse”. The Narc did not even show up for any of the court proceedings (he was given notice).

      Unfortunately, because in my state everything is available to the public, the fact that he applied for, and did received a restraining order for harassment is still on the record – for all to see. I am upset about this. If you click on the item, it will expand and say it was made null and void and that he has misused the system, however, when people are “checking” on you, I think they tend to just look at that, they don’t open it up and see the details. So, it will forever haunt me. I think I will never get a date, because everyone checks up on everyone nowadays, and even with the court’s decision, on paper I still look like I was some harasser. I’ve been asked about it when trying to rent an apt. I’m afraid to apply to do anything b/c I fear people seeing that and am embarrassed. So, yes, legally I was cleared, but it has affected my life, and he experienced no repercussions.

      It is frightening that these monsters can damage your life, for no reason other than their own pleasure, I guess.

      Maybe if you talk to some domestic violence programs, they can help you find an attorney who is familiar with this nonsense. I was lucky, I had a very good attorney and he really hated the guy by the end of it, lol. He was expensive, though.

      I probably could have just left it, however I wanted to clear my name. Good luck. My heart aches for you.

  6. Avatar of Rinkratt61

    I recently dated a woman for 6 months that claimed she was 8 years removed from a Narcissistic spouse, however she herself portrayed many symptoms of a cluster B personality disorder I have since read about. She continually said very strange things to me along the way. “I don’t want this to be the beginning of the end” I’m fucked up, I come from a long line of broken relationships” “I don’t want you to get tired of me” “I don’t want you to get sick of me” “I don’t want you to get hurt” well at the same time claimed she really liked me and “wanted this to work” She quite often gave me the silent treatment after a small disagreement, sometimes for days on end. She had a very short fuse and anger issues. When she would argue, she had a sharp tongue, her comments were full of hurtful cutting sarcasm. She also stood me up at least a dozen time last minute during our 6 months together. The last time she did this, I voiced my displeasure as to the continual lack of respect with the way she spoke to me and for my time. She broke the relationship off and immediately went into silent mode and would not answer any of the questions via email or text as to why?
    I was pissed ….. enough was enough I finally reacted! I had felt that she pushed me and pushed me until this final silent treatment resulted in me writing her a blatantly honest email (I’m not all that proud of but had to be said) about what I thought of her verbal and mental games and abuse.
    Her ego was pretty wounded as I could tell from the comments and projection of the exact behaviours she had always been displaying herself below in her response to me.

    * You are pouty, moody, childish and very very needy
    * You have ALOT of anger inside of you! Maybe from the divorce, idk….but you should probably deal with it before it eats you up.
    * You are channeling some of this anger at me
    * You have shown me zero respect in this past month.
    * It’s been all about you and your needs. But then I was starting to see a lot of that.
    * You know how to communicate, as you have shown me in the past, but somehow it started leaning into manipulation. I do NOT like to be manipulated by anyone!!!
    * To say you fucked me over is more like it
    * You think you walk on water-well let me tell you, you don’t!
    * You are SO serious all the time-you don’t know how to have fun!
    * Maybe you should get on some meds…
    * Part of me thinks you were trying to buy me.
    * I DO NOT TRUST YOU!
    * Well, all I can say to this is you are Fucking delusional!!
    * You just chose to try and change my life. YOUR CHOICE, not mine.
    * You might want to address your anger.
    * Nice to see your true colours come out before this went any further. I should have ended things at Thanksgiving.
    * You are just as slimy as the rest of the narcissists out there.
    * We will NEVER be friends-I don’t trust you at all.
    * I hope you are proud of yourself.
    * I still think ALOT of that unhappiness is still inside you-you need to deal with that
    * I hope you find your happiness someday instead of becoming a miserable, negative old man.

  7. Avatar of LiZa Kane

    I know this scenario well. What has always been puzzling to me is HIS reaction to my reaction…..the two times he LOUDLY pushed so hard he finally got me to shout back (I’m just not a shouter…one of the things he pretended to love about me) he actually instantly smiled. He stopped shouting and moving around, stood looking at me in the eye (rare for him) and smiled. Not just any smile. Both times he looked as if he’d just had an orgasm. Not kidding. ???

  8. Avatar of Gina Brown

    Thank you for this article. From what I’ve seen, MOST will stand by and watch the victim be abused, especially in job situations, for fear of loss of employment. MOST will not believe you and reduce the problem to YOUR character flaw (I.e. weak mindedness). ANYTHING rather than admit wrong behavior.

  9. Avatar of Tyson F Nuss

    This can also form part of the Karpman Drama Triangle dynamic, where the roles of Abuser, Victim, and Rescuer can all switch around at different stages of the drama cycle or depending on circumstances.

  10. Avatar of Jennifer Mendoza

    Yes, run. I was in a narcissistic relationship with a psychopath that had ADHD. Went through gaslighting, manipulation, blaming me for everything. No use in explaining yourself, they will never admit to wrongdoing and if they do it’s fake. Be strong.

  11. Avatar of Jakkqui Smolarek

    People may want to check out, and even join, the Narcissistic Support Group (on Facebook). That group offers much information, and more importantly, a lot of empathy, understanding and encouragement.

  12. Avatar of Tony Sacre

    Oh get a fuckin’ life…or a support group!…It’s always somebody else’s fault and we need emotional help or a crutch, get a therapist they need your money…

  13. Avatar of Merla Nava

    men and women are need a psychological help especially those persons with manipulative attitude – the narcissistic traits or psychopathic traits. #empath

  14. Avatar of Donna-Michelle Magann

    Get out. I know that is easy to say and so damn hard to do but trust me when I tell you that once you do you will look back and say why did I stay so long? Hugs and strength to you.

  15. Avatar of Cindy Hendrix

    I pay my therapist to tell me what’s in this article. Her reply was “wasn’t it to much energy to extend when I told them all off”. Yes, I’m shaking my head. It’s like going to a tea party talking to her.

  16. Avatar of Cindy Hendrix

    This is how I feel going up against by late husbands siblings. They abandon our son and I during and after my husbands death using years of BS against me and can’t understand why I finally exploded. I’m wondering why I even tried. Maybe, b/c recently it was my sons birthday they didn’t acknowledge either.

    1. Avatar of Valerie Drake

      I tend to agree..that to stop abuse…sometimes an abusive reaction is necessary…..i understand that totally and have been there…but on the other hand …of letting go…and just walking away…taking the higher road…that sort of stuff…i also believe in it….so I’m torn…i suppose… it mainly depends on the circumstances involved….your thoughts …

    2. Avatar of Rannie C. Agustin

      Abused persons or victims must not show any respect or fear to predators. The abusers must be confronted and if the situation warrants engagement, engage. Sick people, if tolerated, avoided or fear, are mostly reinforced and find satisfaction. They must be countered with abusive reaction at the first offense for them to contained in reversed and defensive situation. They will refrain from doing their stupidity. A lot of studies are concluded with same findings. They call it operant conditioning. Abusers with normal sensitivity are commonly respond to the reactions with withdrawal but extremely sick or psychotic samples are usually not responsive which require elimination or termination.

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