Sharing your life with the abuser: 7 types of abusers

There are many different types of abuse, so many in fact that I could probably fill an entire article with them, and you will be scrolling down the screen for an eternity. Abuse is a very detrimental element to our person and society. It spreads through every aspect and anyone can potentially be an abuser; a man, woman, a person of mixed gender, a politician, a lawyer, an ice cream man, any individual that you can think of that has the inclination to dominate through power and control.


Below I’m going to go through some of the more typical styles of abusers which I have come across within my practice and give you a little taster of the different types of abusers out there and the tactics they will utilise to get what they want.

The hooligan

This is a particular individual I think we can all associate with in life and is what I would call one of the lower levels of abuser; someone who is very typical, someone who will use their voice, shout and belittle. They do so by utilising their prowess, specifically their physical body and presence to dominate.

You can imagine this person working themselves up into a rage, huffing and puffing, taking deep, contemptuous breaths, maybe smashing a fist upon the desk. This is a rather primitive form of abuse, but why does it still happen? Because it is effective. What they have seen, the utilisation of fear and power they can exert over another person, could have been learned from their own past experiences, as they have seen how these tactics are used and how effective they can be. 

Signs of the hooligan:

  • uses physical presence to dominate
  • aggressive, shouting, glaring, sulking
  • asking repeated bombarding questions
  • can often appear very cool and calm around other individuals but not those there involved with

The prison warden

This individual is a little more sophisticated within their approach, and even though they will not use physical presence like the hooligan, what they will do is attempt to control you by restricting movements. The idea is to isolate you from everyone else, whilst appearing to be charming and flattering to the outside world. But on the inside world they can show contempt for you and utilise their abilities to dominate.

Signs of the prison warden:

  • restricts or stops you seeing family, work colleagues, or other important people in your life
  • controls money by taking away credit cards or debit cards or other financial assets
  • specifically tells you what to wear and how to wear it
  • keeps you in the house, potentially by removing keys and looking you in
  • shuts off external communication by removing phones, the Internet, etc.
  • seduces your family or friends

The emotional abuser

These individuals do not necessarily seek to confine or physically attack, but what they do is undermine confidence through psychological tactics. They will deliberately undermine, making the person feel stupid, useless and, at times, completely worthless. The objective is to completely rob an individual of the confidence to rebel or to fight back. By doing this complete control is instigated over the other person.

Signs of the emotional abuser:

  • may utilise humour to belittle i.e. “only you are so stupid to do that”
  • might use gaslighting techniques to think that you’re going mad
  • makes you feel unattractive
  • might reinforce the idea that it’s not abuse but it’s just a joke
  • high levels of passive-aggressive speech

The hostage taker

These individuals are particularly dangerous and despicable due to the high level of tactics they can employ, and especially because they will not necessarily just threaten the other person in the relationship but may expand those threats to other people in the family, for instance, if the person were to have children.

Signs of the hostage taker:

  • huge arsenal of threats at their disposal and no conscience or care as to their aftereffects
  • highly coercive behaviour
  • will either threaten to kill you, themselves or the children, e.g. say that they will kill themselves if you leave the relationship
  • may publish intimate details about you, such as intimate photographs online
  • may threaten to take you to court for custody
  • may report you to the benefits agency for making false claims
  • may threaten to find you wherever you hide to continue their reign of terror, and, of course, up the anti because you have left them
  • may take the opposite approach by saying things like: “what would I do without you?”, “you can’t leave me like this”

Hostage takers do not isolate their abuse to being alive, some utilise it in death. By taking their own life they can implant their memories on their victim's mind by completing suicide, entrapping them in guilt of letting them die, or perpetuating fear by leaving momentous, and on rare occasions, traps to trigger a future episode of fear just to leave the impression that they have not gone. i.e. rigging something to explode in the house not only causes physical damage, but awakens all the past trauma of living with that abuse. The perpetrator gains more satisfaction from knowing that their act of taking their own life will spread their legacy of fear. 

This need not necessarily be a life sentence for the victim, because with proper support of and specialist therapies that psychological tactic can be overcome.

The unnatural parent

This is one of the most common forms of abuser, they usually take the form of a parent, in a relationship, and they can be incredibly toxic. They deliberately utilise weaponry and prey on the minds of young children, often turning the children against one parent. They will often entrap people within a relationship by having a child, and not caring.

Signs of the unnatural parent:

  • wanting a child but never supporting or looking after the child
  • turning the children against you by demonising you, the examples and persistent dialogue
  • highlights used by parent, and says that directly to you and the child
  • if separated, might utilise access to harass you
  • may threaten to take the children from you by being the sole custodian

The sexual dominant

This is an individual who utilises sex as a method of control. All of the control will be centred around sexual interaction, including the utilisation of dominance to gain sexual gratification.

Signs of a sexual dominant:

  • may engage you in a sexual way when you have not decided
  • when declining sexual advances, they will not accept no for an answer and may proceed without consent
  • rejects your advances to engage intimately
  • controls the level of contraception, and type of contraception used

The Emperor

The emperor is a person who controls every single facet of a relationship and manages to combine different elements of others to get total control.

  • will minimise your functionality in the relationship to being a sex worker, a cook, a cleaner. That is your purpose and there is nothing else
  • sex will be provided on demand
  • all the finances will be controlled by the emperor
  • you will be treated no better than a slave or servant
  • their word is law and might utilise elements of any of the other types to maintain control

For the record, these are just a few aspects of general abusers, again, abusers can take many forms, many different sexes and approaches and even though we may be familiar with individuals who are male abusers, female abusers are also prominent within society. Their tactics, however, remain universal and easily identifiable, and if you are in a situation where you find yourself in discomfort because an individual is employing similar tactics, I would actively encourage you to seek external help, whether that is professional, a friend, or anyone else who can support where possible.

Abuse should not be tolerated by anybody. It is that simple. I also wish to illustrate the fact that there are many good people who are out there, who are the complete antithesis of what I’ve just written about. There are people who will engage with you and before you enter any relationship, even if that is on a short-term basis, to help you evaluate the situation for yourself and to see both good and bad within people.

Ask yourselves:

  • Can I see myself spending the rest of my life with this person?
  • Does this person respect me?
  • Could I talk to this person about the most intimate problems I face?
  • Is sex used for connection or is it just lust?
  • Is there a balance in this relationship?
  • Am I heard in this relationship?
  • Do I feel safe when this person is nearby?
  • Would I happily leave this person in charge of my children?
  • Is this person a good role model for other people?
  • Does my gut instinct tell me that this is right or wrong?
  • Is there a pattern between this person and other people that I have had relationships with?
  • I have always gone out with people who have treated me badly, and this person doesn't, how does that make me feel?

For those who can speak about their particular form of abuse and want to pursue a more therapeutic route to engage with their past experiences and also to help them move forward in a more proactive way, of course  seeking a professional therapist within this area would be a good idea. For those of us who are in immediate danger, 999 is always the first port of call. Never place yourself in jeopardy; if you see something, say something.

Further reading, and places to get support:

Gov.UK - domestic abuse: how to get help

Mind - guides to support and services 

Sexual abuse support

Emotional abuse - support and recovery

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Normanton, West Yorkshire, WF6 2DB
Written by Brian Turner, BA (Hons.) MNCS Snr Accred / Supervisor. (Prof. Dip PsyC)
Normanton, West Yorkshire, WF6 2DB

I am a psychotherapist that uses a diverse and wide spectrum of techniques to ensure that my clients feel empowered and confident, so they are able to achieve what they wish to achieve when presenting with a broad range of issues.

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