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January 20, 2024

Ignoring the Warning Signs

Warning signs. I have been thinking about these a lot lately.

  • What are they?
  • Why do we ignore them? (And we do. We all do at least once after experiencing an abusive relationship).

I thought it may be helpful to go through the early warning signs of an abusive person. I do this as a whole session at the end of The Freedom Programme. Except the first one – Love Bombing. This is one I have personally observed many times and I think this happens first!

So let’s have a look at the sorts of things we can expect to see and then I will write about why I think we ignore them! How about that? Of course, the examples given are by no means exhaustive. These won’t apply to everyone. But if you have been in an abusive relationship you WILL have encountered at least a couple of these!


The Love Bomber

Can not do enough for you,  Buys you presents, flowers, chocolates.  He will hang on your every word but beware, he is doing this so that he can throw those words back in your face later!  You may have said in passing, how you really want to decorate the hallway and the kids bedrooms, and suddenly, as if by magic, he is doing it!  You may have said you are fed up with the garden looking such a mess.  Again, before you know it, he is outside, jet spraying the decking!  He will want to go everywhere with you.  He absolutely adores your Mum and makes every effort to be the perfect boyfriend in front of her.

Early Bully

He may go quiet for a while if you disagree with something he says or does.  He may use the body language of The Bully.  Watch out for tapping fingers, folded arms and swinging feet!  He may tell you very early on in the relationship that he would never hit a woman.  Ask yourself – why would he need to tell you this at all?

Early Jailer

A lot of the warning signs for the Jailor may be seen as being romantic or loving.  You may feel that he is just so in love with you, he can’t bear to be apart from you. For example, you may say you are going to see a friend and he may insist that he drops you off and picks you up.  Or even come with you. He may genuinely be trying to be helpful and caring.  BUT he may be making sure you are going where you say you are and that there is not a man there!  He will say he doesn’t want you to work because “you don’t have to.  I will provide for you”.  He may want to see you every day and come round at times when you are not expecting him. He may slowly, or quite quickly, move his things into our home. Before we know it, he is living with us!!

Early Headworker

The Headworker is coercively controlling.  So subtle that it is difficult to see it until it is too late!  He may put you down in front of other people but will always use humour to do it.  He may make insulting comments about your appearance under the guise of a compliment.  For example – “You would look so much prettier if you lost a little weight”!  He may make sexist, racist or homophobic jokes.

Early Persuader

He could make you feel sorry for him.  He will try to persuade you to do something he knows you don’t like and don’t want to do.  He could buy food that he knows you don’t like and try to persuade you to eat it.  He may say he would kill himself rather than not be in a relationship with you!

Early Liar

He may tell you his previous partner was a bitch and will now not let him see his children.  *Warning – if someone tells you they have children but they aren’t allowed to see them, there is usually a very good reason why!!*  He will use minimisation and use the only word.  For example he may say something hurtful to you then say “It was only a joke!” or “I did hit her once but it was only a slap and it was her fault because she was drunk!”

Early Bad father

As mentioned above, the Bad father may not have contact with his own children.  He may be overly attentive and friendly with your children, buying them presents and treats.  He may, very quickly, make himself indispensable.  He may provide you with financial support and practical help.  This is very hard to resist if you have been struggling to manage time and/or finances on your own.  But equally as quickly, he may start dispensing discipline.  He may tell your children off or take things from them if they are naughty.

Early Kind of the Castle

He may start leaving his clothes and other belonging at your house.  He will begin to choose your clothes but in very subtle ways.  For example, he may say “You look lovely in that dress but don’t you think it would even more lovely if it was a little bit longer?”  He may offer to do household chores for you but do them so badly that we don’t actually want him to do them, so we do them ourselves. Or do them so well that we wonder what we would do without him!

Early Sexual Controller

He will want to have sex very early on in the relationship and get upset or sulk if we say No.  When you do have sex with him, he may only have regard in satisfying himself and not care about how you feel.  He won’t communicate with you whilst having sex.  He refuses to wear a condom.



These warning signs will not be obvious or happen all at once.  They will come in clusters.  They will not exhibit one sign, but several at a time.  We may not be sure if they are warning signs.  We may feel uncomfortable and choose to ignore our uneasiness.  However, women who have done the Freedom Programme have said that after doing the programme, they take these uneasy feelings very seriously.

And I don’t doubt that. But we still ignore them sometimes. Why? I had a very near miss a long time ago, and many years after my abusive relationship. I met this guy and if I am honest, I started to see the warning signs pretty much straight away. Most of the above! But for a long time, I made excuses for him to everyone. More dangerously, I made excuses for him to myself! I was working front line as an IDVA for god’s sake!! I’m not proud of that. I felt like a hypocrite.

I think I ignored the signs because I was so desperate to feel loved. I was lonely and unsure of myself, not long being out of my second marriage which had broken down (he wasn’t abusive, we had just grown away from each other). But that still hurt and I was still wondering if I was attractive, if there was something wrong with me? (2 marriages down!).

I could see his behaviour was escalating and so I ended the relationship which led to him giving me some serious harassment. So much so that I had to get a harassment order out on him. This put a stop to it all as I knew it would because he was essentially a coward, just the same as most abusive men. But I had a lucky eacape I think.

I do think that we are too hard on women who find themselves in more than one abusive relationship. Social Services ask ‘why does she keep choosing abusive men’? This used to enrage me when I was co-located with children’s services. She doesn’t CHOOSE abusive men. She doesn’t go to a pub and see someone across the bar and think ‘oh, I will go and talk to him because I reckon he will be abusive to me!’ I find the assumption that women choose violent and abusive men so insulting. If anything, they choose us! Perhaps they see that we are vulnerable. Maybe they sense it. I really don’t know the answer. I wish I did.

If you thought I would end this blog by giving the reason why women ignore warning signs, you will now be disappointed because I don’t know. I guess I thought if I kept on writing about it I may suddenly have an epiphany and be able to tell you all. All I know, is we do, for whatever reasons. Let’s just go easy on each other if we experience our friends or loved ones ignoring the warning signs.

Sometimes, when I write, I go off at a tangent. It helps clear my mind in some strange way.

You, my lovely lot of subscribers, have just witnessed the rantings of a Domestic Abuse Specialist!!

Until next time……….

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  • I first met Sharon back in 2000 when I went into a refuge she worked in after fleeing a violent relationship. I had two babies and virtually just a bag of clothes and a few toys with us. She helped me with appointments with the police, solicitors and..

    A survivor of domestic abuse.
  • I was fortunate enough to meet and work with Sharon when she was the Advocacy Manager at Woman’s Trust and I was working for Westminster City Council. During this time Sharon developed and managed the Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy Service..

    Ainslie O’Connor – Principal Advisor for the Department of the Premier and Cabinet – Adelaide, Australia.
  • Thank you so much for all the support you have given me. You really have been amazing, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to cope with Child Protection without you. The amount of strength you have given me is totally priceless, even with..

    A survivor of domestic abuse.
  • I knew Sharon as a work colleague over ten years ago. At the time, she was supporting vulnerable people, some of them were homeless due to domestic abuse and substance misuse. For me, assisting such people was what anyone in her role would be expect..

    Ted Chanza, Head of Market Operations, Airtel Malawi Ltd, Lilongwe, Malawi, Africa.
  • I have known Sharon for 6 years and have had the pleasure of working alongside her when I chaired the Westminster MARAC. Sharon is a committed, empathetic supporter of women who are or have experienced domestic abuse. She regularly goes the extra m..

    Former Chair of The Westminster MARAC.
  • I was fortunate to have had Sharon as my support worker after 17 years of domestic violence and 4 children that had witnessed and gone through it with me. I was finally strong enough to stand up and protect myself and my children. Without Sharon’s ..

    A survivor of domestic violence.
  • Without the support and constant reassurance of Sharon, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am forever grateful to her. She is extremely dedicated and knowledgeable, having her on my side when dealing with someone as persistent..

    Anonymous survivor of Domestic Abuse.
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