Evidence of abusive attitudes towards women became apparent last week, when Huffpost Lifestyle highlighted the existence of a sick online game in which users are invited to ‘Beat up Anita Sarkeesian’ (a young academic interested in the role of women in computer games).

While sexist trolling is a common and unpleasant feature of web life, the explicit nature of the game raised stark questions about whether such online behaviour had parallels in real life.

beat up anita sarkeesian game

Results Of 'Beat up Anita Sarkeesian' Game

According to psychologist Kerry Dawes and author of The Devil You Know: Looking Out for the Psycho In Your Life, certain male internet behaviour could throw up warning signs for women in new relationships.

“The internet is a very secretive place. I’ve worked with troubled men who have 20 or more email addresses. They operate a host of different personas from being young girls to 70-year-old men.

“If you’re in a relationship with someone who’s using the internet in a secretive way, and for hours at a time, that could be a sign of addiction and obsession.

“Abuse is a very secret affair. It tends to happen in the home, behind closed doors. So if someone has a secret hidden life on the web, there could be an overlap there.”

How long a person spends in cyberspace could also be an indication of how grounded they are, Daynes points out.

“If they’re spending time on the web that should be family time and time spent with you, that’s not healthy.”

Could you spot a potential abuser in a new relationship?

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  • Charming Man

    Don't assume just because someone is charming that they're perfect. Often abusive men can be incredibly charming.

  • Inconsistency

    Do you notice that he says one thing and then does another? This could be a sign of an unstable personality.

  • Overly Sensitive

    While it's lovely to have a man who's in touch with their feelings, if your man is overly sensitive and needy this could be a warning sign.

  • Guilt Trips

    Are you often made to feel guilty about your plans or that you have done something wrong?

  • Values

    Take notes of their value system. Do his moral beliefs and basic instincts chime with yours?

  • Attention

    Are you the 'only' object of his affections. It's healthy for people to have other friends and interests outside of the relationship

  • Intense Flattery

    Don't let his compliments divert your attention from excessive manipulation or emotional blackmail.

  • Early Declarations Of Love

    Early proclamations of love can be a sign of unhealthy intensity - and could be a way to emotionally blackmail you further down the line.

  • Waitresses

    Look out for how your date treats people around him, such as waitresses. This will demonstrate if he really respects other people - or is putting on an act.

  • Friends

    How does he get on with your friends? If he's keen to be involved in your friendship group, rather than preferring to keep you to himself, that's a really positive sign.

  • Macho Man

    He doesn't have to look like a thug to control you emotionally. Remember that being charming and sensitive, is a far easier route to emotional blackmail.

  • Aggressive Language

    Does his talk about others in an overly aggressive way - or even directly to their face?

  • Clothes

    Does he tell you what to wear? Perhaps suggesting the reason he doesn't want you to wear a short skirt is that it makes 'him' insecure.

  • Parents

    How do his parents get on? Sometimes (although not always!) we learn about being in a relationship from our parents.

  • Making Plans

    Do you end up changing your plans often. Perhaps 'nights out with the girls' end up with ... 'But I'm going to miss you so much?'

  • Behaviours

    If you start behaving out of character, is it because you don't feel comfortable about yourself any more?

  • Defensive

    Do you find talking about your relationship awkward and feel the need to defend your partner in conversation?

  • Ending It

    Have you tried 'and failed' to end it? Often when a woman tries to leave an abusive relationship the problems escalate and his reaction is disproportionate. "You can't do this to me" is a common refrain.

  • Empty promises

    Has he promised to be less demanding, spend more time with your friends, not be so jealous of your time - and then failed to change?

  • Hypocrite

    Do you constantly find yourself questioning his 'double standards'.

  • Lying

    Do lie to your friends about the details of your relationship - or choose not to tell them thing he does, because they might 'misintepret it'?

Daynes says: “Abusive men are masters at being incredibly charming. And it can be very difficult to establish whether he’s really lovely, or attempting to manipulate you.

“I had a client who was domestically violent and when he started relationships he’d memorise verses from greeting cards. Now of course we want dates to be attentive, but if someone’s trying too hard, it might not just be desperation, but something more dangerous."

The initial flood of love can also be addictive, says Daynes. The temptation for many women is to stay with a man, even after the hearts and flowers are gone and he becomes abusive, in the hope he'll revert back to ‘normal’.

“Women often blame themselves when their partner becomes abusive, because they think it’s the way they’ve conducted themselves in the relationship. But what they’re seeing from him at the beginning isn’t real."

Women also become addicted to the highs and lows of the relationship.

“An abusive relationship can be very potent. After a man is abusive, and possibly violent, there will be a short period of contrition, and back come the hearts and flowers. But then it starts again.

“It continues to go back and forth and because the first high of his love is so strong, it’s hard to leave," says Daynes.

For more information about domestic abuse, visit Refuge .