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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

For Further Reading:

The following are the most potent abusive tactics in the narcissist’s toolbox –

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