Abuse by Proxy – How to Identify and Deal with this form of Psychological Abuse

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.

Abuse by proxy 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.

abuse by proxy

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.

The following are some of the abuse by proxy tactics used by a narcissist to manipulate others to do their dirty work for them –


Triangulation is a tactic employed by narcissists in order to gain control over their targets by causing conflict between them.

It works by playing one person off against another, using intentional manipulation and false information to achieve the desired outcome.

For example, a narcissist may try to persuade one target that the other has betrayed them, or tell one that the other is lying about something.

These tactics are often designed to create doubt, confusion or tension between two or more people, separating them from each other and allowing the narcissist to gain total control of the relationship dynamic.

abuse by proxy

Using Others as Messengers

Narcissists may ask someone else to deliver a message which is hurtful or undermining, rather than delivering it directly themselves.

This tactic provides distance between themselves and any drama that may arise from the contents of the message itself.

Not only does this practice allow the narcissist to inflict psychological manipulation on those around them without physically needing to be present, it also allows them to remain in a position of power by distancing themselves from any wrongdoing or accountability.

Character Assassination

Narcissists often orchestrate smear campaigns aimed at destroying the reputation of their target. This serves to damage their credibility and reputation amongst family, friends, and community.

Character assassination can cause long-term psychological trauma in victims. The fear of having any mistake or private information used against them can leave victims feeling helpless and powerless.

This can manifest in different ways, from a deep sense of shame and anxiety to an inability to trust people close to them. Victims may also experience depression, guilt, anger and even low self-esteem as a result of experiencing character assassination from a narcissist.

abuse by proxy

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.

flying monkey

Leveraging Social Media

Abuse by proxy has become even more effective in the era of social media, as narcissists and their minions now have more access to peoples’ lives than ever before.

Through online platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, a narcissist and his flying monkeys can spread false rumours about their target and slander them publicly with little effort or repercussion.

They may also engage in cyberbullying or even encourage other people to harass their target online.

What’s more, narcissists and their army of flying monkeys are able to use fake identities online to increase pressure on their target.

With the ability to create multiple accounts and remain anonymous, they can harass their victim for an extended period of time without fear of repercussions.

social media

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 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.

abuse by proxy

Signs of abuse by proxy

There are several signs that a person is a victim of abuse by proxy. The most obvious one is that the people around them suddenly appear to dislike them.

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. They could also 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.


Victims of abuse by proxy can come to believe that they are the cause of their own suffering, which can lead to feelings of shame, helplessness and confusion.

This creates a sense of powerlessness in the victim and prevents them from seeking help or support, as they may feel guilty about their situation. This guilt can become overwhelming and make it difficult for the victim to cope with the abuse.

Furthermore, these feelings of guilt are often reinforced by societal stereotypes and stigmas associated with experiences of abuse.



Abusive proxies can create an environment of fear and intimidation, causing victims to become socially isolated from friends and family. They use overt or covert control tactics such as harassment, threats, verbal insults or physical violence.

The victim may feel disempowered and alone in their situation, with no one to turn to for help or understanding. This lack of support can add to the already-present feelings of guilt and shame associated with abuse by proxy.

Emotional Turmoil

Abuse by proxy can lead to serious emotional turmoil in the victim, as they often struggle with heightened anxiety, depression and a sense of helplessness.

They get caught in an endless cycle of despair, continuously subjected to their abuser’s manipulative techniques.

Furthermore, such abuse can damage the victim’s self-esteem and confidence, leading to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.

It can even affect how they view themselves and the world around them, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with their situation.

abuse by proxy


Sometimes abusive proxies use fear and intimidation to control the victim’s behaviour and choices. This can come in the form of verbal threats, physical violence, or other threatening acts that are intended to make the victim feel powerless and compliant.

Such tactics are often used as a way to keep the victim from speaking out about the abuse, or making any changes that do not align with their abuser’s wishes.

In addition, intimidation may be employed to prevent the victim from seeking help or support outside of their abuser’s influence.

impact of abuse by proxy

Trauma Bonding

Victims of abuse by proxy can become emotionally attached to their abuser. They feel a sense of dependence or obligation to them, even after the abuse has ended.

This is known as trauma bonding and occurs when an abuser manipulates their victim using fear, guilt or shame.

This results in an unhealthy attachment that can last for years after the abuse has stopped, leading to feelings of confusion and difficulty trusting others or forming new relationships.

The victim’s feelings of loyalty towards their abuser can keep them trapped in a dangerous cycle of manipulation and control.


Perception Distortion

Abusers often use perception distortion as a way to manipulate the victim’s view of events and situations.

This can lead to the victim beginning to trust their abuser more than themselves and becoming unable to accurately assess situations or make decisions on their own terms.

Through manipulating stories, lies and half-truths, abusers are able to distort the victim’s perception of reality, creating confusion and doubt that makes it difficult for them to think critically about their situation or take action against the abuse.

Over time, this can erode away at a person’s sense of identity and self-worth, leaving them feeling powerless and hopeless.

Loss of Autonomy

Abusers often take control away from victims through manipulation, control tactics and lack of free choice, resulting in a loss of autonomy.

The abuser controls the victim’s schedule, finances and access to resources, and dictates who they meet or what they do.

By stripping them of their power and ability to make decisions, abusers have complete control over the situation and can exert their will without resistance.

Victims may start to feel like they are a puppet in the abuser’s hands, unable to escape or make changes that benefit them. This can have long-term effects on an individual’s sense of self-determination and agency.


Fear of Rejection

Victims of abuse by proxy often become afraid to reach out for help due to fear that no one will believe them. This fear of rejection can keep victims trapped in their situation, unable to ask for help and support.

This fear becomes a weapon. The abuser tells their victim that they are worthless, and that nobody cares about them.

This threat can be especially powerful when the abuser has isolated the victim from family and friends. Thus it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for them to seek outside help.

The lack of trust in others can make it hard for victims to take steps toward freedom, leaving them feeling stuck and alone with no way out.

Low Self-Esteem

The self-esteem of targets of abuse by proxy is seriously damaged when their abusers consistently devalue them.

This can be especially damaging if the abuser is someone close to them, like a family member or partner.

The victim often internalizes this behaviour. They come to believe that their worth and value is determined by the actions of those around them.

As they continue to be treated poorly and have their sense of self invalidated, they may start to feel worthless and powerless.

This feeling of worthlessness can prevent them from speaking up for themselves or reaching out for help. Thus they end up trapped in an unhealthy situation with no escape.

impact of abuse by proxy

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Experiencing abuse by proxy may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts and avoidance behaviours.

Flashbacks can cause victims to relive the traumatic event in vivid detail. The individual re-experiences the trauma as if it is happening all over again.

Nightmares can make it difficult for victims to get restful sleep, as they are constantly plagued by unsettling dreams.

Intrusive thoughts can also be difficult to manage, as victims may be constantly reminded of their traumatic experiences.

Lastly, avoidance behaviours can cause someone to steer clear of people and situations that remind them of the trauma they have experienced.

All these symptoms can take a toll on a victim’s mental health and make it difficult to move forward after an abusive situation.


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 calls his mother and shares her ‘concern’ that Alex might drink heavily and do something stupid. When Alex gets home, his mother is furious with him.

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. Suddenly everyone in the office seems to hate Alex, and he has no idea why. .

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.

Additionally, reach out to mental health professionals such as therapists or counselors for guidance and assistance. Keeping a record of the abusive behavior can be helpful in understanding patterns and providing evidence in legal proceedings if necessary.

With the right support system, it is possible to put an end to abuse by proxy and reclaim your life.

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcissism

Frequently Asked Questions About Abuse By Proxy

What is abuse by proxy?

Abuse by proxy, also known as proxy abuse or indirect abuse, refers to a situation where an abuser manipulates or coerces others to harass, stalk, or abuse their victim on their behalf.

Why would an abuser resort to proxy abuse?

Abusers may resort to this tactic to maintain control and inflict harm while distancing themselves from the abuse. This makes it harder for them to be held legally accountable. It also allows them to further isolate the victim by turning other people against them.

Who can be used in abuse by proxy?

Anyone can be manipulated into becoming a proxy for the abuser. This can include mutual friends, family members, new partners, colleagues, or even legal and social services.

How can I recognize if I’m being subjected to abuse by proxy?

Recognizing abuse by proxy can be challenging as the abuser isn’t directly involved. Signs can include people you know suddenly acting hostile towards you, receiving harassment from unknown sources, or feeling like you’re being watched or followed.

What can I do if I am a victim of abuse by proxy?

If you suspect you are a victim of abuse by proxy, it’s important to seek help immediately. Reach out to local law enforcement, a legal professional, or a trusted support network. Documenting instances of abuse can also be helpful in building a case against your abuser.

Can abuse by proxy occur online?

Yes, abuse by proxy can and does occur online. Social media platforms and other digital communication tools can be manipulated by abusers to harass or intimidate victims indirectly.

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