– Episode Twelve –

Domestic Violence Part 2

About The Empowerment Podcast

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In this podcast, created as a platform to teach you everything she knows about self-defense, join host Silvia Smart in this safe space. With over three decades on the frontlines, she’ll give you skills and knowledge for your self-defense toolkit so you can live your most fearless and empowered life. Research proves that empowerment self-defense programs work. Participants are less fearful, more aware of their boundaries, and are able to speak up sooner when faced with manipulative or threatening situations. Furthermore, for those who have experienced trauma in the past, evidence shows that empowerment self-defense training can interrupt the cycle of violence and decrease the likelihood of a future assault.

Audio Transcription


This podcast is brought to you by the empowerment project.

Research proves that empowerment self-defense training makes you safer period. I want you to have a great self-defense toolkit so you can create strong boundaries, speak with confidence, and take up all the space that you deserve in the world.

We’ll hear stories from survivors and find out what worked for them and why. We’ll interview leaders in the field and talk about tips, concepts, and really easy things that you can do to make yourself safer and interrupt the cycle of violence.

I’ve taught self-defense classes for over 30 years and I promise to teach you everything I know!

Ultimately, I’m going to want you to get some in-person training, but a great empowerment self-defense class is more than just the physical skills. The list of things I want to teach you is endless, so let’s get to it.

My name is Silvia Smart, and welcome to the empowerment project.

I’m so glad you’re here! Welcome.

Hey hello! Welcome back!

In part two of this series on domestic violence, we’re going to talk through specific warning signs or signals, red flags, and talk about getting to safety. And then once you’re safe, how can you stay that way. And then we’re gonna also just for balance, talk about healthy relationships and what those look like just to provide a little balance. By now, you know, my philosophy, which is that the more you know, the more we know, the more we are able to pull our heads out of the sand and look reality in the face, the safer we are. And that spirit, we’re going to dig around a little bit into some of the warning signs of an abusive person and look at some indications of unhealthy, potentially dangerous relationships. And again, as a balance to that, we’re also going to talk through just a few guideposts that point the way to a healthy relationship.

First of all, what are some of the common signs of an abusive person? We’ve talked about the continuum of sexual assault violence, and we’ve also looked at it through the lens of domestic violence. If you’ve been with me from the beginning, you know by now that we can identify patterns of behaviors that are associated with abusers. And if you haven’t been with me from the beginning, please go back and listen to episode number two about the continuum of sexual assault and violence, and then also the most recent episode about domestic violence. Anyway, let’s take a look.

Remember, the more we know, the safer we are, because then we can make choices based on what’s actually happening, not what we wish, or would hope was true, or want to pretend is happening, but what is real. And that’s how we create safety for ourselves.

Sometimes this can be kind of tough. As we go through the common behaviors of abusers, it can occasionally happen, that our eyes are open to something kind of glinting out of the corner of our mind that we may not have really been conscious of or been able to see before but have inklings of that happened to me, and that has happened to many of us. So find your safe people. Call a hotline if you need to share what you’re feeling. Talk about what you’re finding. Think about what it is that you’re seeing. And as your understanding grows, be sure to just take it at your pace. Talk it through with people who love you who feel safe, whom you trust.


Here’s a story. A long time ago, I fell in love things were great at first and then slowly, like very, very slowly, they got weirder and weirder. Until one day I woke up and I wondered, “why am I crying every single day? Why do I feel so miserable? Why do I feel like no matter what I do I’m a horrible person? Where did my optimism and happiness go?” Hmm. As I’ve looked back, there are specific things that I remember about this relationship.

He was reading through my journals. He played it off as if he had insight into me or could like, read my mind. But I had a funny feeling that he was doing this, that he was reading the things that I was writing in private. And I got suspicious. And I got kind of paranoid, and I ran little tests, like putting a rubber band around my journal in like this exact place, which I would know if it had been moved, or putting a small piece of tape on top of something which would peel away if somebody moved it, or like a little paperclip and just the right spot, which I knew what it was.

And, sure enough, I was right. And I hated it. I hated that he was reading my journals, that what I thought was private was not. But even more than that, I couldn’t stand the paranoia and trying to figure out ways to test him or trick him into telling me that I was right. I was determined to catch him in a lie, and I couldn’t do it. No matter what I did, he would find ways to deny it and make it seem like I was the one that was crazy.

He accused me of being attracted to other people, which I was not. And he wondered out loud, pretty regularly why I would think that anyone would ever be interested in me. He isolated me from my family, he hated my family. And he drove a wedge between me and them by creating drama, and lies, and he bad-mouthed them whenever he could.

He invited his friends to come over and things always went missing, like jewelry, or money. What few nice things I owned, actually. And when I confronted him about it, he covered for them. And again, he played it off like I was crazy.

He tried to control where I went and who I hung out with. It didn’t always work out for him. But he did everything he could to drive wedges between me and my friends. He always wanted to know where I was going, who I was with when I’d be back what I was doing. And he perseverated on what he perceived as my weaknesses till I cried. By the end that was happening nearly every day.

He was a rule breaker. He felt like the rules didn’t apply to him, they applied to you or everybody else, but not to him. He stole things. And he taught me how to steal and how to lie. And those are two things that go against my values. But I did them to please him. He had a god complex. And what I mean by that is, he never thought that he was wrong. He never apologized. Not once. He never felt the need to say he was sorry or to take ownership of any type of behavior. Even if I managed to catch him in a lie. He’d tell me, I was crazy. And he turned it back on me.

We had loud fights. I never raised my voice so much and so often and I hated the way I felt. I was controlled, coerced and manipulated, to be a good submissive partner, and to give in to whatever he wanted, whether it was where to go to eat dinner, what movie to see, when and how to be intimate, or important stuff like where to live, what to study, and how to live my life.

It never came to blows. And to be honest, I actually wasn’t scared that it would but I was scared I wasn’t good enough and that no one else could possibly ever love me. I think that’s why I stayed as long as I did.

Of course, I’m going to tell you what happened. But first, let’s take a look at some of these behaviors that I experienced but add even more to the list.

Behaviors Associated with an Abusive Person

We know we’re looking at someone who is controlling, someone who likes to have power, and someone who likes to have that control. And we know we’re looking at a person who is manipulative, who uses coercion and threats. And we’ll also talk through some things to think about if you find yourself in a relationship with someone who’s showing some of these behaviors, things that you want to contemplate and talk with safe people about, let’s dive in.

But first, I don’t know about you, I need a deep breath. So I’m going to take one.

Here are some behaviors to look for:


Your partner keeps track of everything you do, they monitor where you are, and who you’re with at all times. or most of the time, they prevent or discourage you from seeing family, friends, or even from going to work or going to school, or doing things that you love to do. And God forbid, you don’t reply right away to their texts, emails, calls. They demand that you tell them your passwords, whether to social media accounts, or bank accounts, or any other passwords that they might feel they should have ownership over.


They’re jealous. An abusive partner might act jealous, they might not. But they might. Like, for example, constantly accusing you of cheating.

Money & Medications

They might try to control how you spend your money, they might attempt to direct your use of medications like when, where, and how. Or if you get to use the medications that you take, they can try to control the way you use or don’t use birth control.

Autonomy and Decisions

And they might try to take away your power by taking away your decision making autonomy. For example, “this is what I want you to wear today. This is where we’re going to eat, I’m going to order for you.”


People who are abusive can be demeaning. They can put you down by insulting the way that you look or dress or how smart you are. They might demean the things that you love to do. Like you love to go horseback riding, and they tell you that it’s stupid. “Only stupid people do that”, or whatever, you get my point. They even might humiliate you, not just in private, but also in front of other people.


And we talked about this too, they might attempt to destroy your property or things that you care about.


There’s anger. Often, an abusive partner might get angry a lot. Or they might have a really quick and unpredictable temper. You find yourself walking around on eggshells, and sometimes they blame you for their violent outbursts. They blame you. This might lead to them hurting you physically or threatening to hurt you themselves, or members of your family like children, pets.

Physical Violence

And then there’s the physicality. They might hurt you physically, they might, you know, the things that we’ve talked about hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, choking, punching, slapping, kicking, biting, tripping, they might use or threatened to use a weapon against you.

Sexual Assault

They might be sexually abusive, including rape. They might insist or assume that if you have consented to a sex act in the past, for a sexual thing, that that automatically means that you have to participate in the same stuff anytime they want. They might believe that your consent for one activity automatically counts as consent for increased levels of sex or intimacy. For example, an abuser might assume that if you kiss them, that means sex every time.

Other Threats

And then there are threats an abusive partner might threaten to, of course, hurt you, but also turn you into authorities for illegal activity that they might be able to hold over you. Especially if you say you are going to report the abuse or if you resist. So they have this power play that they hold over you for their own protection.

So deep breath

Stereotypes Versus Reality

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Or do you have a friend who is in a relationship who shares some of these things with you that some of these things might be happening? Abusers are often men, but by all means not always. Abusers can also be women. abusers can be any gender, any race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, socio-economic background, they can have any level of education, they can wear business suits, scrubs, coaching uniforms, priest collars, jeans, shorts, you name it, they can be related to or they can be your boss, your partner, or anyone who’s in a position of power over you. And I’ve said this before, we have these stereotypes in our minds about who’s a rapist, who’s a perpetrator, who’s an abuser. And they’re very, very narrow stereotypes.

And what we know about abusers and perpetrators is, they can look any way they can be anything, they run the gamut, they cross all boundaries. So there’s no one prototype for an abuser for an abusive person for a perpetrator. So this is where that reality comes in. And it’s really important to be honest with ourselves about who we’re interacting with, especially in our most intimate relationships.

Those of us who have experienced this behavior, or who are experiencing it right now, also can be anyone from any background, any number of things can combine to make us vulnerable to abusive relationships. We don’t look any one way. And again, there are stereotypes about what a person who lives in this type of relationship or who is abused, there are stereotypes about what they are we look like, or act like or what types of jobs we have, or how we dress. And to be clear, we don’t look any one way. We are everybody. We are all of us. And again, it’s this combination of different pieces of our background, and our genetics and our understanding and our belief systems and our behaviors that lead us into these vulnerable and abusive relationships.


No Victim Blaming

But remember, there is no victim-blaming here, not ever, period. What we’re doing is learning. We’re growing in awareness. We’re increasing our consciousness, and also our compassion. As we keep going, as we keep talking. If any of this stuff feels like it’s hitting close to home, you are not alone. I recommend that you start finding a safe time, a safe place where you can talk to people who you trust. And if you don’t have that, or if you do, but you also feel like you need a hotline. Here’s the number for the National Sexual Assault hotline. Call 1-800-656-4673. Also, I want to tell you about another hotline I haven’t mentioned yet. It’s called strong hearts native helpline, and its domestic dating and sexual violence helpline for American Indians and Alaskan natives, and they offer culturally appropriate support and advocacy. So let me give you that number. That is 1-844-764-8483.

Okay, take a deep breath. Let’s keep moving forward. I want us to work our way through some more of the warning signs of an abusive person. Some of these we’ve looked at already, but sometimes these things bear repeating or saying in a slightly different way because sometimes when I hear something one way, I don’t actually hear it. But if I hear it a different way, then somehow it, I can hear it better, or it lands a little differently. So in this spirit of being thorough, we’re gonna go through the warning signs of an abusive person in a slightly different way.

Quick Intensity

Okay, we already talked about jealousy. We talked about controlling behavior. But I want to mention too, that oftentimes, an abusive person will jump into a new relationship with a very quick level of involvement, like a very intense level of involvement, like, Oh, my gosh, you’re the one. I’ve never known anyone else like you. There’s no one like you in the whole world. It’s, it’s you and me, you’re my soulmate. And this happens very quickly. That is a red flag.

Unrealistic Expectations

Oftentimes, an abusive person has unrealistic expectations, not just of themselves, but also of you. And also other people, expectations that you see, when you’re honest with yourself, that really are not realistic.


We’ve talked a little bit about isolation. But this is definitely a key abusive behavior, saying things like, well, we only need each other. You and me, it’s you and me against the world. And going through the different relationships that you have with family and friends and isolating you from them, driving a wedge between you and them.


An abusive person might blame other people for their problems. In fact, they might do that a lot. Like not taking responsibility for themselves and for their own actions, but blaming you blaming your neighbor, blaming their family, not taking accountability. And this goes one step further, they will blame others like you, or their family, or their boss for their own feelings. You are making me angry. They are infuriating me.


An abusive person might be hypersensitive. And the way I think about this is that they might take things very personally. Things that are not personal. Like the garbage truck goes by, and they’re like, oh, they’re always doing that to me. Right. So there’s this sense that it’s, it’s part of that blaming, but it’s taking things really personally and being hypersensitive to anything that causes them to feel irritated.

Deep breath.

More red flags:


Cruelty to you. cruelty to animals, Cruelty to Children, cruelty to other human beings, cruelty to anything that is alive. cruelty is a red flag.


An abusive person might call force in sex, playful, they’re just playing, but to you, it does not feel playful.

Verbal Abuse

There’s verbal abuse. And we’ve talked about that. demeaning belittling name calling jokes at your expense, humiliating you in front of others verbal abuse.

Black and White Thinking

Sometimes not always, but sometimes abusive, people will have very rigid black and white thinking about a lot of things. But what I want to mention in particular is gender roles. They might have very rigid, stereotypical thinking about what you should do, and what they should do, and what everyone else should do. And that black and white thinking can carry over to other things, not just gender roles or sex roles.


An abusive person might sometimes feel like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and you don’t know what you’re coming home to They could be the kind person who brings you flowers. Or they could be the person who comes home from work furious throwing things. And sometimes you don’t know what to expect.

Past Battering

Here’s a super big red flag – past battering. If the person that you’re with has done violence to another person in the past, there’s a pretty good chance that you can expect to see that behavior again. And we do not want that behavior to be coming in your direction. That is a huge red flag.


Threats of violence are serious. The abusive person, we’ll talk about this in a minute, well, we’ll just bring it in now can minimize these threats. “I didn’t really mean it. I didn’t mean anything by that. Oh, you’re blowing it out of proportion. Wow, you’re so dramatic all the time. I didn’t mean that.” Right. But threats of violence are very serious. That is a red flag.


We’ve talked about breaking things. We’ve talked about hitting things. We’ve talked about punching a hole in the wall. That is violence. That is not trustworthy behavior. That is a huge red flag.


Oftentimes, an abusive person will act like a victim or a martyr, “no one understands me, you don’t understand me. You don’t understand what I’m going through. No one gets how hard this is for me. I’ve had a bad day, Why doesn’t anyone seem like they care.” And that type of victim mentality, that type of martyrdom can be associated with an abusive person

Above the Rules/Above the Law

being above the rules, feeling as though or stating that the rules don’t apply to them. That can be a red flag that can be a sign of someone who’s abusive. Like I mentioned in the relationship that I had, that doing illegal things was not okay for anyone else, but it was okay for him.


Warning Signs of an abusive person could include things like lying, and vagueness. Like you are trying to get at something, you are asking questions, you’re trying to figure something out, you’re trying to have an adult conversation and there is vagueness coming back at you, right, we sometimes call it gaslighting, they’re lying. You’re trying to figure out how to catch them in that lie like I did. Like that’s a red flag that you need to that you feel like you need to do that.


They might feel like they own you, they have ownership over you over your property, over your money over your home, over your children over your body over your reproductive rights over your beliefs and thoughts. If you are feeling like you don’t have much autonomy or independence, or much of a life outside of this relationship. That’s a red flag.


There’s this constant shifting, constant changing of the rules redefining of the rules so that what had to be xx way yesterday. Today, it’s different. And tomorrow, it’s different. So again, you don’t know because you’re constantly kept off balance wondering, but wait, what are the rules now? What if What did I do something wrong? Wait, I thought it was okay. If I did that. That constant questioning of yourself that constant feeling like you’re misunderstanding what the rules are and if you just follow them, maybe it would be okay. That is a warning sign.


narcissism is a word that we hear an awful lot these days, But there is a sense that an abusive person can have this unrealistic. I mentioned it before this God complex like they are all that, that there’s this like self-glorification. They are stronger, smarter, more incredible. The best at The most important, there’s this blowing up of an unrealistic sense of themselves, and their awareness of themselves is off. That’s a warning sign.

Making Fools of Other People

A warning sign of an abusive person is someone who makes fools of others who humiliates with glee. Who thinks it’s funny that your child pooped on himself. They think it’s funny that you tripped and fell and hurt yourself.

Hyper Critical

They are hypercritical. finding fault with everything you do, or almost everything you do, or almost everything that’s happening around you. They’re negative berating, you berating, others talking about people behind their backs.


This is not a complete list, but it’s, it’s fairly complete. These are warning signs for sure. This is a person who is not nice, a person who is unkind, a person who is mean, if not a person who is abusive. These are indicators and red flags.

 Okay, everybody, that is enough for right now. I recorded a very long session, and we’re gonna break it into two. So this is where we’re going to leave today’s episode, and just want to thank you for staying with me. I know some of this stuff is hard to talk about hard to listen to hard to think about. I appreciate that you made it this far with me. So thank you so much.

Wrap Up

And it’s affirmation time. This is how I end every self-defense class. It’s kind of cheesy, but it’s very cool. And this is how it works. We’re going to do like a little call and response. If you can say this out loud. If you can repeat after me, do it because it’s important, I think, for you to hear your own voice. But if you can’t, like if you’re on a crowded subway or someplace where It’s embarrassing, don’t worry, you can also just say it inside your head. Okay, so I’m going to say something and you’re going to repeat it after me. I’m going to give you space to do that. And at the end, we’re going to say “YES”! Here we go.

Repeat after me.

I am worth protecting.

I love myself.

I belong.

I deserve to take up space on planet Earth.

I am a strong and powerful person.


And hey, as a wrap up, will you do me a favor? Will you do all the things that you do when there’s a podcast like, will you tell your friends, will you subscribe? Will you come back each week? Communicate with me? Review this podcast? Will you please do all the things to help get more bandwidth, help more people find out about this podcast? That would be super awesome!

Take a deep breath. You are amazing. Thank you for being with me. See you next time.