Confusing empathy and victim profiling
A significant confusion in the minds of most abuse victims arises when a once beloved person, who was so attentive and loving, turns on them. This is generally the first step in the escalation of abuse which could take any dangerous turn later on. The shift confuses the hell out of an abused and everytime he/she thinks of breaking free, the memories of these ‘good’ times come to haunt them and they think that the abuse is just a temporary phase and the abuser will treat them better if only they did what the abuser wanted.
The initial show of empathy is what is known as victim profiling. Abusers need to hook the victim and for that they need to know the victim’s weaknesses very well. Just to give you an example, say you meet the abuser in a party, he (I use the male gender just for convenience, there are female abusers too) will probably be the first person to notice that you are uncomfortable there. Normally you would feel grateful that there is someone to chat with you at a party where you dont know too many people. So the talking begins. The abuser might be very charming, trying to draw you out. Mind you, he might even have the reputation of being someone who is very chivalrous towards women. So you think wow what a gentleman.
After the party, the abuser will be the first person to add you on to facebook or any other social networking site along with some ‘cute’ or witty message. You are flattered despite the niggling doubt that what makes him so friendly to you (yes, yes, every victim sees the red flags and dismisses it). This will be followed by days of being all pally with you, being there for you, helping you out when you are in a sticky situation, giving you ‘surprise’ visits and all of this will happen pretty fast. They would want to speak to you everyday, they would use words like you are valuable to them etc etc. During all this time the abuser is actually noting down little points in his head so that he can push your buttons effectively when the abuse starts. This is also a smokescreen so that when you question the abuse, you can be reminded of how good they have been to you. There are also these little nuggets they let you in on their life, some lost love, parental oppression and the like. In most cases, only those issues which they know the victim is also going through are let out. This is the phase where they railroad you into trusting your emotions in their care. Big mistake but one that many of us make.
Most victims are empaths or codependents who have been brought up with the idea of self sacrifice. So these acts of extreme chivalry actually look natural to them. They feel they have found a kindred soul. And this is exactly what the abuser wants them to think. But once the abuser knows that the victim has started trusting them, the game begins. It takes the victim forever to then differentiate what is the truth and what is just an act. This just escalates the abuse and makes the victim feel trapped.
The only remedy to this is to approach dating a little conservatively. Yes, love at first sight might exist, but its always better to trust someone after they have consistently proven themselves to be trustworthy. One or two acts of being ‘helpful’ in the beginning are no indication. The real test of abusers generally is when the first instance of disagreement comes forth, if they can view it as just a disagreement and not make it a relationship make/break deal, there might be hope. But if the person shows severe mood swings and a sense of being the only person right in the relationship, run with all your might.