What is Abuse By Proxy?

Abuse by Proxy refers to an abuser emotionally abusing their victim using a third party.

The most frequent instances of it are violence against partners. According to CDC, more than 43 million women and 38 million men have faced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Psychological aggression is the verbal and physical acts employed by the abuser to dominate, intimidate, isolate, blame, humiliate and criticize their partner.

Abusers typically use people closer to their victims, such as family members, children, friends, neighbors, authorities, institutions, and even media to intimidate, harass, threaten and stalk them.

What Is Narcissistic Abuse By Proxy?

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) tend to exhibit similar characteristics to people who abuse their victims by proxy. Narcissists abuse their victims through a third party to avoid having their identities disclosed, and to keep an upper hand by avoiding blame.

Often the third parties do not realize that they are being used to abuse someone. These accomplices are also referred to as flying monkeys –  with the term originating from the show The Wizard of Oz in which the wizard uses a troupe of flying monkeys to carry out her evil deeds. The flying monkeys or the third party genuinely believe they are helping the victim instead of being used to isolate and intimidate the victim. The abuser uses this tactic to gain control over their victim.

The third party typically belongs to these three groups:

Victim’s Social Circle

The abuser attempts to sabotage the victim’s relationship with close family, friends, and colleagues by concocting a false yet convincing account of an occurrence that slanders their character. The abuser may also manipulate their victim’s children into turning against them, and in some cases, the abuser may threaten or assault their children.

Abuser’s Social Circle

Abusers may also have their own family members, friends, and neighbors as an aid to manipulate, threaten and abuse their victims. This generally happens in patriarchal societies.

The victim may also be held hostage in extreme cases and denied basic resources, such as monetary funds and transportation costs to keep in isolation. Children are also used as leverage in such relationships.

Ambient abuse and gaslighting are also widely experienced by victims from the abuser’s family, extended relatives, and acquaintances.

Ambient abuse and gaslighting are covert forms of psychological abuse in which an abuser tactically uses love and compassion as a weapon to ensure dominance and control over their victims. It is difficult to identify, and many victims are not even aware of their ordeal. The abuser encourages a reliance on them that leads to a power imbalance and the victim is led to believe that their abuser is only concerned with their well-being.

Authorities and Institutions

The abuser may also try to damage their victim’s careers by calling their employers, and approaching law enforcement with false allegations. The abusers also utilize therapists, marriage counselors, and mediators to pathologize their victims to cut off their emotional support, mainly children.

What Are The Attributes of The Abuser?

Some of the features that all abusers have in common regardless of what age and gender they belong to:

The abuser puts up a suave and charming persona meant to deceive the victim’s friends and family, making the abuser look more trustworthy while discrediting the victim’s account.

He puts the blame for their action onto others to avoid being held accountable.

A lot of time the abuser finds it difficult to manage their anger when they do not get to have their way.

He thinks that he controls their victim by threatening to hurt their family members, children, and even pets.

Unfortunately, he is exclusively interested in fulfilling their own needs due to their exaggerated sense of self.

Not only he is also manipulative and takes immense pleasure in using their victim’s vulnerability and the information they were once confided with against them.

What Are The Forms of Abuse By Proxy?

Social Isolation

An abuser may keep the victim away from their family and friends by making up and spreading false rumors about them. The abuser also ensures that the victim receives no support from family and friends who may be able to help.

False allegation

The abuser may also harass the victim by shifting the onus of their abusive behavior onto them.


An abuser also frequently manipulates their victim by making them doubt reality and their sanity by attempting to prove them wrong.

Child Abuse

This is the most common type of abuse by proxy. The children may be manipulated or abused physically, emotionally, and sexually.

How Are Children Abused By Proxy?

emotional abuse faced by children

Children are employed by the abuser to threaten and intimidate their victim–typically another parent or a grandparent. Children being naive and oblivious are manipulated the same way the victim is. After achieving their motive, the abuser usually ditches the children which causes them irreparable emotional damage.

The children are also abused by Munchausen by proxy. 

What is Munchausen by Proxy?

Munchausen Syndrome is a mental illness and a form of psychological abuse. It is now called Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another (FDIA). In this syndrome, the abusive parent or caregiver acts as if their child has a mental or physical illness when in reality, there is no illness. Though the dependent victim can be an older adult or disabled person, in most cases, it is a child. The abuser may have the child undergo unnecessary medical tests and procedures. The motive is to garner sympathy and attention.

How can you identify that your Child has been Abused?

How can you identify that your Child has been Abused?

Physical Signs

Your child may have injuries, bruises, cuts, scars, and burns on their body. The abusive parent may also be punishing them by withdrawing food from them, in such a case, your child may appear malnourished.

Emotional Signs

Your child might display excessive fear in the presence of their close relatives. Your child may also adopt a hostile demeanor in an effort to ask for help.

Signs of Sexual Abuse

Your child may develop an unhealthy eating pattern, and have trouble sleeping, walking, or sitting. Your child may also experience bed-wetting and pain in the genital area.

It is imperative to pay attention to your child’s emotional, mental, and physical health, in any case, but even more so when you know your partner is abusive. Otherwise, your child may develop long-lasting emotional damage that will continue into their adulthood.

Signs of Abuse By Proxy

Most people dealing with abuse by proxy are not aware of their plight. The following symptoms should help you find out whether you are in abuse or not:

First, You feel trapped

You have been in an isolation from your support system and feel entrapped and helpless within your relationship.

Second, You are always frightened

This is a sign that you are always fearful and dread some danger that makes no sense to others.

Third, You have no authority or control

Most of the time you feel like there is nothing you can do regarding the dynamic of your relationship. Your abuser reigns your relationship.

Inexplicable physical symptoms

You are enduring headaches, stomachaches, and back pain – not linked to any physical ailment.

You are being threatened

If you resist your abuser’s demands, your abuser threatens to harm your loved ones, especially your children.

You are being targeted with smear campaigns

You are falsely being accused of wrongdoings you did not commit and facing hostility from your family and friends – incited by your partner.

What Is The Effect of Abuse By Proxy?

Due to the abuser’s ability to psychologically manipulate the victim into that the abuse they underwent was their fault, abuse by proxy can inflict severe damage on a person’s emotional health and their relationship.

The victim doubts their sanity and feels overwhelming amounts of shame and guilt. The victim also often develops depression and anxiety and even become suicidal.

As the victim becomes isolated and suffers from poor self-esteem, their social life also suffers. The continuous abuse also leads to the victims eventually developing PTSD or CPTSD.

How To Stop Abuse By Proxy?

Abuse by proxy damages the victim’s self-esteem and gaslights them into thinking that the abuse they face is either in their mind or a result of their action, making it difficult to seek help. Some victims are also uncertain of what their future would look like if they do take some action. The others worry about losing their children in case they are not believed. Despite that, help is available.

Here are some measures you can take to put an end to abuse by proxy:

Contact the Domestic Violence Hotline

If you don’t know where to begin and cannot identify what type of abuse you are undergoing, start by contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline. It is an undisclosed service for victims and survivors of domestic abuse available. You can reach them at any time of the day. They provide you with resources like shelter, support groups, and advocates that can get you the help you need.

Record your Abuse

If you cannot figure out what is going on in your relationship, write down the occurrences that feel abusive to you. Communicate your emotions to your family and friends. Let them in on how you are feeling and how the abuse is affecting your life.

Distance Yourself from the Abuse

Spend less time with them. Avoid returning their calls or texts. Also, speak up when they mistreat you and walk away from them.

Keep a Family member or Friend Informed

Let a close friend or family member always be aware of the dynamic of your relationship so that your abuser cannot manipulate other people against you.

Get Help from a Clinically-trained Therapist or Counselor

It is important to seek professional help if you are experiencing an abuse through the involvement of a third party. Counselors and therapists can provide you with the resources that help you handle your situation. You can also receive guidance on how to take legal action to protect yourself and your children.

While abuse by proxy has become common in relationships, you must remember it is not normal to have your close family, friends, children, neighbors, or authorities and institutions turned against you. Your partner manipulating and gaslighting you into staying in an abusive relationship is also unacceptable.

It is vital to take action against your abuser. You deserve to be in a relationship that makes you feel safe and secure. You also deserve healthy support groups among your close family and friends.


What does Abuse by Proxy mean?

Abuse by proxy refers to an abuser targeting their victim with the aid of a third party. The third party may not be aware of their involvement in causing harm to the victim since they are led to believe that they are helping the victim or the abuser. The abuser utilizes this tactic to avoid being identified as the abuser, to gain control over their victim, and to cause them emotional distress by humiliating them, manipulating them, and making them look like the abuser in the relationship.

What are the 3 characteristics of abusers?

The abuser takes no responsibility for their actions and blames others for their faults.

The abuser cannot control their anger. Anything that is not as per their liking makes them lash out.

The abuser finds gratification in controlling everything. They employ intimidation tactics to force their victim into behaving the way they want and threaten the safety of their victim’s loved ones upon their failure to control them.

What are the four signs of emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse is the act of controlling, manipulating, demeaning, and isolating a person. According to Forbes Health, emotional abuse can culminate in the following four signs:


An abuser abuses their victim by targeting them with nonconstructive criticism, making fun of them, and calling them names, alone or in front of other people.

Emotional blackmail

An abuser threatens to keep something from the victim to get what they want.


An abuser may manipulate their victim into questioning their reality and sanity. It usually continues over a long period of time.

Invasion of property

The abuser may confiscate an item from the victim, such as money, phone, or pet.

What is Ambient Abuse?

It is a subtle form of psychological abuse that uses the approach of using love and compassion as a weapon to ensure domination and control over the victims. It is tough to pinpoint, and many victims do not even realize what they are going through. The abuser makes themselves look dependable, creating a power imbalance and making their victim believe that they truly care for their well-being.

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