Reactive Abuse

Written by: Ankita Kathad – MA (Clinical Psychology)

Last updated date : January 02 , 2023

Relationships make life beautiful. We all need people who love us and care for us. Any relationship is strong when partners respect each other. Small fights are common in any relation. However, at times, some fights get violent. Violence in any relationship is painful. Victims of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse may experience great stress and trauma. In many cases a victim of abuse can react to the abuse. They can hit the attacker back. They may even yell back. In response, the abuser may accuse the victim of being the abuser in order to exact revenge. In this article we learn more about reactive abuse and narcissist who blame their partners for defending the abuse.

First let us learn more about what is reactive abuse? This is similar to gaslighting. In this case, an abuser often puts the entire blame on the victim. This is because the victim tries to defend themselves from the attack.  This abuse puts a victim of sexual assault in danger because it gives the abusers a reason to hold them accountable. This, however, can also happen when there has been physical, mental, or verbal abuse.

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Chapter 1:

Why Do Abusers Rely on Reactive Abuse?

‘You’re overreacting!’ is the phrase that the abusers most commonly use. Why is it that abusers use the tactic of blame shifting? Why do they play the blame game? They may even make the victim feel that nothing wrong has happened with them and that they blew the situation out of proportion. The reason why abusers do this is to prove the victim mentally unstable. They want to make the victim feel guilty. They can use the defensive attack by the victim as a manipulation tool to make the victim feel sorry.

To unfairly sway a situation is to manipulate it. When an abuser makes the claim that they are the ones being mistreated, they are tricking the victim into thinking the abuse is their fault. The abusers are brainwashing the victim to think that its their fault. The longer this blame-shifting persists, the longer the victim will think they are to blame for the abusive reactions and outbursts of the abuser. Even more, this deceit has the power to make the victim feel ashamed. The victim can feel low of themselves. They  behave in ways that go against their knowledge of their inherent goodness, kindness, competence, and love. Their self-esteem is injured.

Further, the abuser can use the reactive abuse to file police complaint against the victim. This strategy makes the victim of violence concentrate on their own reaction to the incident ratherthanthe actual incident. As a result, an oppressor may be able to abuse people without being held accountable.

Chapter 2:

Why Do Victims Display Reactive Abuse?

It’s okay to react during an abusive situation. It is a protective mechanism the body naturally uses when faced with danger. When someone hurts, the body naturally releases a range of stress hormones to increase its response time. This is known as the flight or fight response.

When a person’s safety is at risk, their body gets ready to escape or defend themselves. This may lead to many reactions. The victim can yell, kick or strike back. These behaviors are frequently automatic. In any case, abusers might make use of these reactions to blame the victim.

Chapter 3:

Reactive Abuse Narcissist

A personality disorder that is closely responsible for reactive abuse is narcissistic personality. In this, a person has an inflated sense of self-importance, a strong desire for attention, and a lack of empathy. They like to maintain a good impression of themselves in front of others. The reason they may shift the blame during an abuse is to keep their image clean.

This personality frequently struggle to initiate and keep good relationships. They usually try to assign blame to those around them and refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. A reactive abuse narcissist is more likely to engage in abusive behavior. A reactive abuse narcissist may not like to be blamed. When a victim responds maturely to a situation, they may attempt to twist the circumstance to their advantage.

Chapter 4:

How Does This Affect Victims?

How does this type of abuse affect the victims? What are the long term impacts ? How does it affect other relationships of the victim? Let us find out.

Firstly, since the victim is made to believe that its their fault by the reactive abuse narcissist, they will not get out of the relationship. This is because they keep thinking that the fault is theirs. They get caught in a cycle of abuse. Moreover, they keep feeling low of themselves.

There is also a concern about safety. In this type of abusive relationships, the victim endures violence and this empowers the abuser. There is always a risk that the abuser can go and complain to the police. The abuser may record acts of defensive actions by the victim and present it as violence.

The victims are at a risk of forming trauma bonds. This means that they can become emotionally attached to the abuser. This is because the victims feel that its their fault and therefore their responsibility to stay with the abuser. This is very dangerous as the abuser can think that they have total control over the victim.

People who endure reactiveabuse can also experience a lot of stress. They can get depression or PTSD.

Chapter 5:

Examples of Reactive Abuse

Wonder how this abuse looks like in real life? Here are some examples in which it shows up in a relation.

Gaslighting is a very common example. For example, in a relationship, one partner keeps verbally abusing the other partner. When the other partner reacts by talking back, the abuser may play the victim card. They may say, ‘you are just like others who blame me’.

Other ways in which reactive abuse can occur is when the abuser name calls a person for being defensive. They may call the victim as an abuser or a beater.

Chapter 6:


There are many ways to react to the abuse. Instead of giving a chance to the abuser to blame, these method empowers the victim. These are some ways by the the victim takes control. They take away the power of manipulation from
  1. No-contact: Even though there is a constant need to stay with the abuser, the best way to improve self esteem and one’s mental health is by no contact. In this method, the victim stays away from the abuser. They give silent treatment to the abuser. The victim does not engage in any kind of defense. This way, the abuser is sometimes forced to think about their actions.
  2. No reaction: Although, one may feel like wanting to react to the abuse, the best reaction is no reaction. By not responding to the abuse the abusive person tries to have with you, they feel powerless. The abuser feels less dominating and less in charge of their feelings and mood.
  3. Self-love: It is okay to pay more attention to your emotions. Try to learn self-soothing and set boundaries. It is important not to internalize anger. Practices such as mindfulness meditation or deep breathing can be helpful to calm down instead of reacting.
  4. Connect with your loved ones: It is important to share what is happening with near and dear ones. Friends and family who can be trusted can come to aid when there is a crisis. Moreover, it is important to keep some trusted people in loop about the violence.
  5. Talk to a therapist: Traumabonds can be confusing. It is difficult to come out of them easily. Talking to a therapist can help.

Chapter 7:

End Note

It is important to get help as soon signs of abuse are noticed. Any kind of abusive can break the spirits of the victim. It can lead to low self-esteem and self-doubts. Moreover it can lead to many problems related to mental health. Sometimes the trauma can manifest itself in the form of somatic disorders or chronic pain with no physical cause. Even when the victim escapes the abuse, the damaged self-esteem should be healed. At Epsychonline, we provide self-help courses that cover a variety of issues related to mental health. Courses such as Low self-esteem can help to repair the damaged self-esteem. There are many articles that explain abuse in depth. Do check them out.

"Structured and engaging course" Joan

69 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount