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    Abusers Use Passive-Aggressive Behaviour

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    Abusers Use Passive-Aggressive Behaviour


    Passive-aggressive behaviour is a hallmark of controlling and abusive relationships, but it’s easy to become confused about what we mean by passive-aggressive behaviour and what it looks like.

    Passive-aggressive is when someone is indirectly or covertly aggressive, rather than being open and transparent about it. They hide their aggression behind smiles, sarcasm or snarky behaviour. One example is when someone says they are “fine” whilst tapping their foot and looking sulky. We can see clearly that they are not fine and we’re left to second-guess what the problem is. All of us are capable of this behaviour at times, especially when we don’t feel brave enough to speak openly, but when it’s used deliberately as a tool to manipulate, then it becomes more harmful.

    Here are 7 signs of passive-aggressive behaviour:

    Backhanded compliments: Instead of validating someone’s efforts, they say things like, “Well done, you finally cut the grass, I’m amazed.” Or, when you’ve made an effort to look nice, they might say, “Your hair looks nice, it’s about time you had it cut.” They give to us with one hand, and take firmly away with the other.

    Insults disguised as humour: If someone keeps taking subtle swipes at us disguised as humour it can be hard to challenge because it looks as if we can’t take a joke, but it’s just a form of bullying. Sometimes these “jokes” are made publicly and can be humiliating or degrading, especially when made about our appearance or intelligence.

    Sarcasm: This is a very common form of passive-aggressive behaviour. An example can include comments like, “Yes, I’d LOVE to empty the dishwasher, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”

    The silent treatment: Giving us the cold shoulder and sulking because they didn’t get their way is designed to make us uneasy. It kills the energy in a home which now feels negative and dismal, an especially toxic atmosphere for children.

    Using social media: We’ve all cringed at posts on social media when they’re directed at a partner. They might say something like, “So, I’m alone AGAIN tonight” when their partner has gone out for the evening. It could be making reference to their partner watching sports or spending money, and my personal favourite is changing a profile status to single after every argument.

    Deliberate procrastination: They promise to do something, but it never gets done, or it takes a very long time. Examples might include promising to go somewhere with us but not being ready on time, or not returning home in time to go with us.

    Refusing to be part of decisions: Passive-aggressive people may refuse to say what they want to do, where they want to go, or what they want to eat. They will say they don’t mind and ask us to decide for them. Then, they express disapproval when we get it wrong.

    Passive-aggressive behaviour may not seem as harmful as other forms of control or abuse, but poor behaviour is always on a spectrum and tends to get worse over time. It’s hard living with someone who never says what they mean, especially when it’s used to put us down or throw us off balance.

    This type of behaviour creates confusion, sadness, and ultimately lowers self-esteem. It should be viewed as a warning that further manipulation is likely coming our way.


    Charlotte Woodward

    National Training Manager

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    Reading Time: 2 minutes
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    By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

    “Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

    Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

    The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

    The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

    I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

    In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

    NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

    NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

    Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

    Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”