Abuse by proxy occurs when an abuser uses another person to abuse a victim on their behalf. The abuser can be doing this for a variety of reasons, such as to avoid detection, to humiliate the victim, or to make the victim believe that everyone hates them.
This type of abuse can be difficult to identify because it often happens in subtle ways. For example, an abuser may ask a friend or family member to contact the victim on their behalf, or they may ask them to post something negative about the victim online. The victim ends up disoriented and confused because they don’t understand why the people closest to them are suddenly behaving in such a hostile way.
This type of abuse is even more insidious when it happens within a family. In such cases the abusive partner will commonly try to use the children to abuse the other parent. They may make false accusations about infidelity, or tell the children that their other parent does not love them. Obviously in such a situation the abuser is not only hurting their direct victim, but also the children.
What is narcissistic abuse by proxy?
Narcissists are masters of the art of abuse by proxy. They will often use their friends, family, or even strangers to abuse their victims on their behalf. This allows them to avoid detection and maintain a position of power. It also allows them to inflict maximum damage by using the victim’s loved ones against them.
A typical example is when the narcissist manipulates the victim’s friends or family members to pressure the victim into doing things against their will. Narcissists favour this type of abuse because it isolates the victim and erodes their support system.
The victim no longer knows who to trust. Everybody seems to have turned against them. They feel confused, alone, and hopeless.
Unleashing the flying monkeys
Narcissists dedicate a lot of time and effort recruiting a troupe of flying monkeys that they can deploy whenever they need to. These are typically people who are willing to do the narcissist’s bidding without question.
The flying monkeys often do not know that they are being abusive. They may genuinely believe that they are helping the victim or the narcissist, or that they are doing something to protect them. However, in reality, the narcissist is using them as a weapon to control and manipulate the victim.
One common way that narcissists use their flying monkeys is by unleashing a smear campaign. The narcissist whispers gossip and lies in the ears of their minions, who then go on to spread the malicious rumours, sometimes causing irreparable damage to the victim’s reputation.
Manipulating institutions to abuse victims
Narcissists will often use abuse by proxy to provoke the victim into aggressive or even antisocial conduct. For example, the narcissist may have their friends or family members send death threats to the victim or their loved ones, vandalize their property, or even stalk them. The goal is to “frame” the victim into committing an act of reactive abuse that can then be used to blackmail them or to get the police or the courts involved.
In addition, narcissists often use abuse by proxy to manipulate professionals such as therapists or doctors. In extreme cases they are even capable of lying about the victim in order to convince the doctors to place them in a psychiatric ward.
The worst case of institutional abuse by proxy, however, is when the narcissistic abuser uses the children as a source of leverage. They may threaten to take the children away from the victim, or use them to harass or torment the victim. They can use third parties to lie about the victim’s parenting skills, or to claim that the victim is abusing the children, in an attempt to have them removed from their care.
Signs of abuse by proxy
There are a number of signs that someone is being abused by proxy. The most obvious one is that the person is being targeted by people they thought were their friends or family.
Other signs include:
- A sense of isolation from their support system. The victim often feels trapped in their relationship with the narcissist, with nobody to turn to.
- A constant bombardment of negative messages from multiple sources. The victim’s head is spinning because of the often conflicting, but invariably unpleasant, messages that they are receiving from different people.
- Getting hit by false accusations out of nowhere. Sometimes the narcissist will try to get the victim fired from work, or they will lie to police or other authorities in order to get the victim in trouble, charging them with offenses that they did not commit.
- Hearing about lies and half-truths being spread around. The victim becomes the target of a coordinated smear campaign, designed to humiliate or vilify them.
Impact of abuse by proxy
Abuse by proxy is a particularly insidious form of abuse that can have a devastating impact on victims. In some cases they end up succumbing to anxiety or depression. They may become paranoid and distrustful of everyone around them. In extreme cases, they may even attempt suicide.
The often ongoing nature of abuse by proxy can also lead to the victim developing PTSD or CPTSD. This can have a profound effect on every aspect of their life, making it extremely difficult to function on a day-to-day basis.
Examples of abuse by proxy
An example of abuse by proxy. Jane is furious with her boyfriend, Alex, for going out with his pals without her. She uses his mother against him by claiming that she is concerned about him getting drunk and going out with his friends. When Alex gets home, his mother is enraged with him; he does not know why.
Bob is furious because Arthur received a raise whereas he did not. He tells people that Arthur got the promotion as a result of his advances toward his employer. Their coworkers began talking about Arthur, and one person refused to sit near him in the cafeteria, calling him a lickarse. Arthur is perplexed by everyone’s sudden refusal to like him.
What to do if you think you are a victim of abuse by proxy
If you think you may be a victim of narcissistic abuse by proxy, it’s important to reach out for help. Talk to a friend or family member who can offer support and assistance.
You can also contact a local domestic violence hotline (in the US or in the UK) or therapy provider, as this type of abuse can be very difficult to deal with on your own. There are people who can help you through this difficult time.
For Further Reading:
You might also want to check out the following posts about the different abuse tactics in the Narcissist’s toolbox:
- Abuse by Proxy
- Ambient Abuse
- Coercive Control
- Divide and Conquer
- Flying Monkeys
- Future Faking
- Love Bombing
- Narcissist Discard
- Narcissist Hoovering
- Narcissistic Triangulation
- Narcissistic Abuse
- Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome
- Narcissistic Family Roles
- Narcissistic FOG
- Narcissistic Grooming
- Narcissistic Projection
- Narcissistic Rage
- Narcissistic Smear Campaign
- Narcissistic Word Salad
- Parental Alienation
- 7 Types of Narcissistic Abuse with Practical Examples
- The 10 Stages of Healing After Narcissistic Abuse
- 13 Warning Signs of Narcissistic Abuse: How to Deal with It and Get Help
- Flying Monkeys in the World of Narcissism: What They Are and How to Deal With Them
- Gaslighting Defined – How Can You Tell If Your Partner Is Gaslighting You?
- Why Narcissists String Along their Exes and Never Cut Them Loose
And finally, this is my story. I was the scapegoat daughter of a narcissistic father.
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