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Abusers Who Play the Victim: Unmasking Manipulative Behavior in Domestic Relationships

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

In today’s world, the realm of domestic relationships has unveiled a disconcerting trend: the emergence of abusers who artfully wield the cloak of victimhood. This cunning tactic not only perpetuates harm but also obstructs the path to healing and justice for those who experience abuse.

This article delves into the psychology behind abusers who manipulate their roles, shedding light on their strategies and examining the profound repercussions they leave in their wake.

Understanding Manipulation and the Victim Role

Power Dynamics in Intimate Relationships

Intimate relationships are intricate webs of emotions and connections. Unfortunately, some individuals exploit these connections to wield control over their partners, resorting to manipulative tactics to achieve dominance.

In such dynamics, abusers often employ a calculated approach, preying on vulnerabilities and employing various forms of abuse to maintain power. This abuse extends beyond just physical harm; it encompasses psychological, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse.

Abusive partners recognize that by exercising control in different aspects of their victim’s life, they can effectively manipulate and keep them within their grasp.

Victim Mentality as a Tool

Abusers who play the victim adopt a strategic victim mentality.

By assuming the role of the aggrieved party, they artfully manipulate the perceptions of family members, friends, and even the outside world, obscuring their abusive behavior.

This manipulation tactic is especially potent in intimate partner relationships where the victim’s trust is deeply rooted. The abuser leverages this trust to cast doubt on the victim’s experiences, leaving them feeling isolated and questioning their own reality.

The portrayal of a wounded, vulnerable self becomes a powerful weapon, blurring the lines between perpetrator and victim.

abusers who play the victims

Unmasking the Tactics of Manipulation

Shifting the Blame Game

Abusive partners often shift blame onto their victims. This maneuver not only absolves them of responsibility but also bewilders the victim, causing them to question their own experiences and perceptions.

The abuser masterfully twists the narrative, presenting themselves as the wronged party who had no choice but to react the way they did.

By exploiting the victim’s confusion, they manipulate the situation to their advantage, further entangling them in the web of manipulation.

Exploiting the Victim Card

Abusers frequently exploit the victim card to manipulate those around them. They capitalize on empathy by portraying themselves as suffering, inciting sympathy, and deflecting attention from their abusive actions.

This manipulation is particularly effective when dealing with family members, friends, and social circles. The abuser skillfully crafts a narrative where they are the ones in need of support and understanding.

As a result, the true victim often finds themselves ignored, disbelieved, or even blamed for the abuse they endure.

Gaslighting: A Tool of Psychological Abuse

Gaslighting, a form of psychological abuse, is a staple in the toolkit of manipulative abusers. By distorting reality, they undermine the victim’s confidence, making them increasingly reliant on the abuser’s version of events.

This insidious tactic chips away at the victim’s sense of self, leaving them susceptible to the abuser’s control. The abuser’s manipulation of facts and events becomes a means to an end – a way to cement their control over the victim’s thoughts, emotions, and actions.

What Is A passive Abuser And How To Avoid One

The Impact on Real Victims

Emotional and Mental Toll

Victims of abusers who feign victimhood experience a profound emotional toll. Their self-esteem crumbles under the weight of manipulative tactics, often leading to lasting mental health issues.

The constant gaslighting and emotional manipulation leave victims questioning their own sanity.

They may develop anxiety, depression, and even dissociative disorders as they struggle to reconcile their experiences with the twisted version of reality presented by the abuser. Additionally, the victim’s self-esteem takes a severe blow, as they are constantly made to feel inferior and unworthy by the manipulative tactics of their partner.

Perpetuating a Cycle of Abuse

The manipulation tactics employed by these abusers perpetuate the cycle of abuse. Actual victims are often silenced or discredited, allowing the abuser to maintain control and power within the relationship. The victim’s efforts to seek help or escape the toxic dynamic may be met with further manipulation, leaving them trapped in a cycle that seems impossible to break.

The abuser’s control dynamics extend beyond the intimate partner relationship, often infiltrating the victim’s relationships with family and friends. This serves to isolate the victim further and prevent them from seeking the support they desperately need.

Breaking the Chains of Manipulation

Recognizing Warning Signs

Educating oneself and others about the warning signs of abuse is a crucial first step.

Recognizing red flags like controlling behaviors, physical harm, and financial control is essential to intervene early. 

Family members and friends play a pivotal role in identifying these signs and offering support. However, it’s important to approach the situation with care, as abusers often react aggressively when their control is threatened.

Encouraging the victim to seek professional help and offering resources such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline can provide a lifeline to safety.

Seeking Support from Safe Spaces

Support groups, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, offer a lifeline to those trapped in abusive relationships. These spaces provide the validation and guidance necessary to break free from manipulation.

Victims can find solace in the stories of others who have escaped similar situations, gaining the strength and clarity they need to take action. Support groups also help victims realize that they are not alone and that their experiences are not unique.

This validation can be a powerful catalyst for change, encouraging victims to step out of the shadows and reclaim their lives.


Unmasking abusers who masquerade as victims shine a light on the dark dynamics of abusive relationships.

By understanding their tactics, identifying warning signs, and fostering safe spaces, we can collectively work to dismantle the cycle of abuse. It’s time to break free from the clutches of manipulative abusers and create a world where victims are heard and validated.

The road to recovery is challenging, but with the right support and resources, survivors can reclaim their lives, heal from the trauma, and build a brighter future.


  1. What is reactive abuse, and how does it tie into victimhood manipulation? Reactive abuse occurs when a victim reacts strongly to abuse, which abusers then use to paint themselves as victims, further distorting reality. This cycle perpetuates the manipulation, making it difficult for the victim to break free.
  2. How can someone help a friend or family member in an abusive relationship? Approach them with deep concern, providing information about available support and professional help without forcing them to take immediate action. Understand that leaving an abusive relationship is a complex process that requires careful planning and emotional support.
  3. Why do some victims stay in abusive relationships despite the manipulation? Many factors contribute, including fear, financial control, low self-esteem, and the abuser’s strategic manipulation of emotions. Additionally, abusers often alternate between moments of kindness and manipulation, causing confusion and making it difficult for the victim to leave.
  4. Is it possible for an abuser to change and stop playing the victim? While change is possible, it requires sincere effort, self-awareness, professional intervention, and a willingness to address their behavior. Abusers need to recognize the harm they’ve caused and commit to a long and challenging process of change.
  5. Can manipulative abusers truly love their partners? Manipulative abusers often claim love, but their actions reveal a distorted, controlling form of affection that perpetuates the cycle of abuse. True love involves respect, empathy, and support, qualities that are absent in abusive relationships.

Getting Help

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse or manipulation, there are several valuable resources and organizations that offer support, guidance, and assistance. Here are some trustworthy resources and links that can provide help to victims:

  1. National Domestic Violence Hotline: The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides confidential support and resources 24/7. They offer assistance in English and Spanish and can help you create a safety plan, connect with local resources, and provide emotional support.
  2. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): RAINN is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States. They offer support for survivors of sexual assault and abuse, including a 24/7 confidential helpline.
  3. Love Is Respect: This organization focuses on teen dating violence and offers resources for young people who may be experiencing abusive relationships. They provide a 24/7 helpline for support and information.
  4. DomesticShelters.org: This website offers a comprehensive directory of domestic violence shelters and resources across the United States. It can help you find local shelters, support groups, and other services.
  5. National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV): NNEDV is a leading organization working to end domestic violence and provide support for survivors. Their website offers resources, policy advocacy information, and tools for finding help.
  6. PsychCentral: PsychCentral provides articles and resources on various mental health topics, including abuse, manipulation, and healing. Their resources can help victims understand their experiences and find ways to cope and heal.
  7. Your Local Crisis Center or Shelter: Many communities have local crisis centers or shelters that provide support, counseling, and safe housing for victims of abuse. Search online for crisis centers in your area or contact your local law enforcement for information.
  8. Therapists and Counselors: Seeking therapy or counseling from a licensed mental health professional can provide victims with a safe space to process their experiences and develop coping strategies. Websites like Psychology Today offer directories to help you find therapists in your area.
  9. Legal Aid Organizations: If you need legal assistance or information related to protective orders, divorce, or child custody, local legal aid organizations can offer guidance. Search online or contact your local legal aid office for information.
  10. Social Services: Government agencies and social services often provide assistance to victims of abuse, including housing support, financial assistance, and counseling. Contact your local social services office for information on available resources.

Remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call emergency services or the appropriate hotline for immediate assistance. These resources are here to provide guidance, support, and a path toward safety and healing.

Read More about Narcissist Abuse and Domestic Violence

Emergency Numbers

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest organization fighting sexual violence: (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)

988 Mental Health Emergency Hotline: Calling 988 will connect you to a crisis counselor regardless of where you are in the United States.

911 Emergency

The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E)

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Trauma & Child Abuse Resource Center

Domestic Violence Shelters & Resources

Futures Without Violence

National Center for Victims of Crime

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Prevent Child Abuse America

Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640. Both services are available between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgOr, just dial 988

Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: www.suicide.org

Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential and 24/7). In English and Spanish

Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228

American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222

National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255

LGBTQ Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678. Standard text messaging rates apply. Available 24/7/365. (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)

The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline connects LGBT older people and caretakers with friendly responders. 1-877-360-LGBT (5428)

The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender people for transgender people:
1-877-565-8860 (United States)
1-877-330-6366 (Canada)

Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net

International Suicide Prevention Directory: findahelpline.com

The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential and anonymous culturally appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Call 1-844-762-8483.

‘Find a Therapist’ Online Directories


UK & Republic of Ireland

  • Emergency: 112 or 999
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
  • YourLifeCounts.org: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/

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