Any case of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse can be very traumatic to someone. Abuse can lead people to have physical, verbal, or emotional outbursts about how they felt during their traumatic event, and this is a normal thing to do. It is normal for someone that was abused to lash out at their abuser with insults and screams, and they may even physically defend themselves. These are all a part of the body’s defense mechanisms against danger.
In moments like these, stress hormones are released in the body to help someone react to danger. An outburst can be a part of someone’s fight-or-flight response, and since these reactions tend to happen automatically, they can be hard to control. They can be especially hard to control in the middle of an abusive event. Regardless of the situation, an abuser can use these automatic behaviors to gain more power and control over the person they are abusing. This is what reactive abuse is.
Reactive abuse is dangerous for someone experiencing the abuse. The reason for this is because the physical, verbal, or emotional responses of the person experiencing the abuse can be used against them by their abuser who can say they are being overdramatic or delusional. It is a form of manipulation that abusers use to justify their abusive ways, and it can sometimes come off as gaslighting.
How to Stop Reactive Abuse
Now that we’ve gone over what reactive abuse is, it’s important to know what someone can do to stop it. If you or a loved one is reacting to abuse with any of the previously mentioned outbursts, remember that doing so can let the abuser manipulate the situation in their favor. Instead of this happening, try some of these tips.
Recognize a red flag: If you know that someone will make you react in a certain way, consider leaving. If you can do it safely, it’s always a good option to remove yourself from the abusive person in your life.
Change your reaction: Not everyone can simply remove themselves from their abusive situation, but there are some ways in which you can regain some power. It can be hard but try forcing yourself to reconsider how you would usually respond to abuse. Staying calm and collected can make it harder for an abuser to manipulate you.
Know it’s not your fault: If you are unable to get out of an abusive situation and your outbursts are being used against you, saying that it’s not your fault out loud can prove to your abuser that you see through their manipulation. But if you are fearing for your safety because of your abuser, always seek help from family and friends. You can also use domestic abuse hotlines or call your local police department.