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Blackadder: (kicks a cat across the room)

Baldrick: Oh sir, poor little Mildred the cat, what's she ever done to you?

Blackadder: It is the way of the world Baldrick, the abused always kick downwards: I'm annoyed, and so I kick the cat, the cat (mouse squeaks) pounces on the mouse, and finally the mouse...

Baldrick: (jumps in pain)

Blackadder: ...bites you on the behind.

Baldrick: And what do I do?

Blackadder: Nothing, you are last in God's great chain Baldrick. Unless of course there's an earwig around here that you'd like to victimize.
Blackadder the Third

The ways of dealing with an abusive situation in fiction vary, to say the least, depending on the author's opinions, the type of abuse portrayed, and even the genders of abuser and victim. Sometimes, it may be played for laughs, shown as not being a big deal, or portrayed as part of a loving relationship, despite the fact that the perpetrator's actions are clearly abusive, at least to the (aware) viewers. Other times, great care will be taken to detail the living hell the protagonist's life has been made by the Abusive Parent, Sadist Teacher, Domestic Abuser, or The Bully. Their assailant might even be painted as a Complete Monster.

But sometimes, you'll find out that the character who is notable for behaving abusively toward one or more others has a Dark and Troubled Past themselves. Maybe they were abused at one point in their life, or are presently in an abusive situation. Or else, instead of or in addition to having been the target of an abuser, they saw something as a child they were not meant to see, were bullied and/or raped, Did Not Get the Girl, have a Dead Little Sister, or did something that they'll never get past and may even be trying desperately to make up for. The Troubled Abuser is different from other abusers in that he or she has had (or currently has) a hard life themself in addition to making one of these for at least one other person. It may be a result of an Inferiority Superiority Complex or else a form of Being Tortured Makes You Evil.

Compare this phenomenon to Kick the Dog, except that the designated kicker was a Kicked Dog themself, making it Dog Kicks Littler Dog. If a writer really wants to play this up, he or she can have a whole chain of Dogs kicking down the line in this fashion. If a whole chain of these is used, you can reasonably expect it to be used for An Aesop about how abuse only begets abuse.

Compare the Troubled Sympathetic Bigot, whose bigotry is seldom portrayed as sympathetic due to the ugly reputation bigotry has gained over the years, but is nevertheless a sympathetic person. The Troubled Abuser, given that (s)he is, well, troubled, automatically gains some measure of Woobie status due to his or her status as troubled being out in the open, but unlike bigotry, abuse is less likely to be portrayed in an unsympathetic light. Sometimes, the Troubled Abuser may also be a Troubled Sympathetic Bigot.

May overlap with Jerkass Woobie due to the common traits of having had a hard life and treating other people in a substandard way. After all, they of all people should know how bad being abused feels. However, abuse is sometimes portrayed in a positive light, so this is not always the case.

Comparable to, and sometimes overlapping with, Freudian Excuse, in which a villain cites a childhood of poor quality as having a role in his or her evil deeds or is revealed to have had a bad childhood in order to gain Woobie status. However, unlike a villain with a Freudian Excuse, the Troubled Abuser isn't just guilty of any morally questionable act, they are guilty of committing one or more of these acts against someone with whom they have or end up developing an interpersonal relationship. Additionally, the Troubled Abuser can be troubled in ways other than childhood experiences. Sometimes, the Troubled Abuser has a Freudian Excuse, in which case these two tropes overlap, but Freudian Excuse and Troubled Abuser are not exactly the same thing. For example, a serial killer who targets random women he doesn't know and is later revealed to have witnessed his mother attack his father with a knife on a regular basis would go under Freudian Excuse, but would not be a Troubled Abuser because he is committing crimes, but not against people he has a relationship with, or even interacts with on a regular basis. A female character who is the single mother of a child that she verbally abuses on a regular basis, if she even gives the kid any attention at all, but is revealed to be doing so because the kid is a Child by Rape and reminds her of her rapist is a Troubled Abuser without a doubt, but wouldn't fit under Freudian Excuse because the hard part of her life, as far as we know, did not happen in her childhood.

As tempting as it is to add large-scale criminals, such as practitioners of genocide, serial killers, etc. who happen to count as Troubled by virtue of having a Dark and Troubled Past or Freudian Excuse just because you think they are monstrous for their deeds, exercise great caution before you do. Simply doing evil deeds on a large scale does not make one an Abuser, which is the other part of the requirement to be listed here. However, that does not mean that large-scale criminals can't be abusers. Before listing any large-scale criminal, consult our handy Useful Notes page on the topic of abuse, read it thoroughly, and think carefully about whether or not any of the character or person's actions count as abuse. If they don't, then don't add them. If you've done your thinking and one or more of said criminal's actions seem to count as abusive to you, go ahead and add them, but give details on what they do that is abusive in the description.


Anime & Manga

  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni has both Rosa Ushiromiya and her father Kinzo.
    • Rosa was abused by Kinzo, tormented by her brothers and sister (which Rudolf aknowledges as some point), and is a single mother where the father of her daughter Maria left her without marrying her and while she was pregnant. All in all, her life's a train wreck. Is it any wonder that she winds up taking so much of it out on Maria, as much as poor Maria doesn't deserve it?
    • Kinzo was manipulated as the heir to the Ushiromiya family, sent off to World War Two, wishes to take his own life meets his love, Beatrice Castiglioni, only to have her and later her daughter both die. He winds up half-insane, is abusive to most of his children (especially to Eva, by denying her the right to be the heir purely for her gender despite being more talented in business than her eldest brother Krauss) and has a child with his illegitimate daughter, Beatrice Ushiromiya. through implied rape.
  • Akito Sohma from Fruits Basket fits this trope. She was set up as a male heir to the Sohma's, and her extremely cruel mother made her life a living hell. No wonder that she goes insane and controls everyone around her with an iron fist.
  • In Zero no Tsukaima, Tiny Tyrannical Tsundere Louise mistreats Saito, often causing him more injury than the main antagonists. Aside of Saito being a Lovable Sex Maniac, it's suggested Louise has had a long history of being bullied by the other students due to her inability to perform spells properly, and used to be on the recieving end of her not - so - tiny Tsundere sister Eleonore's annoyance. (In fact, Eleonore is one of the few persons who scares the shit outta Louise.) Still not an excuse for how far she goes in her abuse of Saitou.
  • Tsukasa from Hana Yori Dango. Didn't see his father in years, his mother Kaede was an Evil Matriarch who fucked up with his and his sister Tsubaki's lives ever since birth, his well-intentioned but troubled older sister disciplined him harshly... and he grew into a MASSIVE bully with huge entitlement problems who pretty much ran Eitoku Academy through fear and could be very less-than-pleasant to his close friends and his Tsundere love interest.
  • If there's a Conflicted type of Bastard Boyfriend in any Shoujo or Josei manga, they'll almost surely be this: terribly abusive to their girlfriends/boyfriends and with either a Dark and Troubled Past (with either Abusive Parents, heavy parental neglection, etc) or an extremely dark and trouble present. It certainly explains why they're like that, but it doesn NOT justify the shit they pull on their "other halves". Some examples are:
  • Kouichi Saionji from Revolutionary Girl Utena, in spades. He's a wannabe Bastard Boyfriend who treats Anthy Himemiya like absolute shit, scoffs at Wakaba Shinohara's love letter and is pretty much the Butt Monkey of the Student Council -- and also a dude with intense self-loathing and issues towards his best friend Touga Kiryuu, who exploits it like whoa for his own purposes.
    • Touga himself fits this profile. He was mistreated and raped by his and Nanami's adoptive father as a child several times (implied by Word of God during the series, confirmed in The Movie), leading to him trampling cruelly on the feelings of his younger sister Nanami and best friend Saionji while sleeping with dozens of girls and then throwing them away without a second thought.
    • And as it turns out, Akio Ohtori can be seen as such (and maybe the biggest example among the cast) when one recalls his past as a once truly heroic prince and Knight in Shining Armor (Prince Dios) who got throughly burned out] after saving all the people in trouble that he could reach for (especially the girls), then being abandoned by the same people he protected when he collapsed and couldn't do it anymore, and witnessing the only person who always stood with him (Anthy) be stabbed to protect him.
  • Mr. Legend's gradual power loss in Tiger and Bunny forced him into and unwanted early retirement and left him feeling useless and terrible. Said feelings of worthlessness led to him self-medicating with alcohol. Alcoholism led to arguments with his wife. Arguments while drunk lead to physical violence... And to his own death at the hands of his barely teenaged son, who'd become Yuri Petrov aka Lunatic.
  • Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso reveals that Kouhei's abusive mother, Saki, was this - when she was diagnosed with her fatal illness, she initially wanted him to be a famous pianist so he'd be self-reliant by the time she was gone, but as time passed she grew desperate and started demanding more from him, then went the Education Mama and Abusive Parent way...

Comic Books

  • The eponymous V of V for Vendetta by Alan Moore definitely counts. If kidnapping your protegee and intentionally putting her through the cruel ordeal of the life of a concentration camp inmate that you went through yourself doesn't count as abuse, then what does? However, V is portrayed as a Type III Anti-Villain and/or Type V Anti-Hero who has good intentions, but repeatedly does things that are obviously immoral, and what he puts Evey through is given this same portrayal. His actions compared to those of the oppressive Norsefire government are meant to be morally ambiguous and the only reason that we are meant to sympathize with V is because, no matter how bad his actions are, even when it comes to what he did to Evey, we first see him saving Evey from being raped and murdered by the government's secret police.


  • One of the Saw film series's serial killers, Hoffman, became one of Jigsaw's apprentices by way of Jigsaw catching him killing his Dead Little Sister's murderous boyfriend and trying to make it look like another Jigsaw killing. He becomes a rival to Amanda, another apprentice of Jigsaw's, to the point where he threatens to tell Jigsaw of her role in Cecil's robbery of Jill's drug rehab clinic, in which he accidentally caused her to miscarry Jigsaw's unborn son if she doesn't commit the murder that he tells her to, which is seriously magnificent bastardy, given what Jigsaw did to Cecil.
  • The Wachowskis' film version of V for Vendetta has V put Evey through an ordeal much like the one he suffered in a concentration camp, just as in the original comics. However, the Wachowskis gave V a more sympathetic portrayal than Alan Moore did and had Evey fall in love with V even after all that he put her through. Even though what she went through is meant to be horrifying to the audience as well as her, her falling in love with V still seems uncomfortably like Stockholm Syndrome.
  • The Queen from Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs forces Snow White to work and dress as a servant in her own residence and even tries to have her murdered. A prequel novel called "Fairest Of All" was published, in which the Queen, named Grimhilde, is revealed to have been made insecure about her appearance by her emotionally abusive father, who her sisters turned into her magic mirror.
  • In the film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs, the serial killer is Buffalo Bill, who infamously kidnaps overweight women, keeps them in a pit, starves them, and periodically comes to visit them to give them lotion to put on their skin and taunt them. After a week of this, he kills them and cuts away a piece of their skin to make into a flesh-suit. It turns out that, as Hannibal Lecter put it, "Our Billy wasn't born a criminal, Clarice. He was made one through years of systematic abuse." Ironically, Gumb's history of having been abused is not shown in the movie as it is in the book.


  • J. K. Rowling seems to be a big fan of this trope, given how many characters in the Harry Potter series are these.
    • Severus Snape is notable for his being a Sadist Teacher who favors Slytherins over those from other Houses and dishing out cruelty, insults, and strictness to the latter. However, starting from Prisoner of Azkaban, the reader discovers that he is one of these. He was a mewmber of a racist clique in Hogwarts while also being bullied throughout his school years by the Marauders, hinted to have had an abusive father and neglectful mother, and lost any chance of being with his Only Friend, Lily Evans, when he called her a Fantastic Slur to her very face after she tried to help him against his bullies. Then he she married one of said former bullies -- one who, unlike Snape, had learned his lessons and stopped being a Jerkass. Finally, she ended up dying for their child, despite his attempts to make a deal with Voldemort to save solely her life (which got him harshly chewed off by Dumbledore due to his selfishness). He then spends the next sixteen years trying to make up for what he's done and playing a vital role as Dumbledore's double agent... while also paralelly bullying Harry's friend Neville to the point of traumatising him, psychologically abusing Harry himself due to his heritage that he is in no way responsible for, verbally abusing Harry's close friend Hermione when she's crying over having been publicly humiliated by Draco, etc.
    • Sirius Black subjects his house-elf, Kreacher, to a barrage of verbal and physical abuse because he is a reminder of his rotten childhood caused by his status as The Unfavorite in the eyes of his parents, who unsubtly liked his brother Regulus better than him. Even after he left his Abusive Parents, he couldn't catch a break. His best friends have been betrayed by someone they thought was their friend, resulting in their death and orphaning their son and Sirius's godson. To top it all off, he was blamed for every crime that said false friend committed and sent to Azkaban, where he was subjected to enough Mind Rape to make him Younger Than They Look.
    • Voldemort's mother, Merope Gaunt, was subjected to a barrage of verbal and physical abuse by both her brother and her father, some of it for the reason that she was a Stalker with a Crush on Tom Riddle Sr., a Muggle. Then when both of them were locked away in Azkaban, she slipped Tom Riddle, Sr. a Love Potion, using the induced infatuation to get him to marry her and do the nasty with her enough times to conceive Tom Riddle, Jr., who later comes to be known as Voldemort.
    • Tom "Voldemort" Riddle himself also counts. As well as being a mass murderer and torturer, he has a charisma that attracts him multiple followers. Despite the devotion that his followers have for him, he doesn't return it at all. He uses this devotion, along with insults, the Cruciatus Curse, threats to harm their family members, and blackmail to get them to do what he wants. He was abandoned by his father before he was born and had his mother die on him just after he was born, leaving him to be raised in an orphanage and unloved. J. K. Rowling says herself that he would have turned out much differently if he had been raised by at least one of his parents.
    • Harry's Aunt Petunia is notorious for being one of Harry Potter's Abusive Muggle Foster Parents, but then we find out that she was jealous of her sister Lily's turning out to be a witch. She not only begged to be able to go to Hogwarts, but she felt overshadowed by her sister in the eyes of their parents. (Which wasn't exactly Lily's fault, though, and does NOT justify her horrible treatment of Harry.)
  • So many works by Stephen King feature at least one of these
    • In IT, Beverly's abusive husband is revealed in the narration to have had a physically abusive father.
    • The novel Rage focuses on a school shooting in which Charlie Decker, the Villain Protagonist, kills multiple people and holds several students hostage. The narration reveals that Charlie Decker has suffered multiple incidents of physical abuse at the hands of his father, including one where Charlie Decker was hit so hard with a belt that it required a trip to the emergency room, where Charlie gave a Cut Himself Shaving excuse to explain his injuries.
    • In another Stephen King novel, Carrie, the eponymous character is regularly subjected to loads of abuse by her widowed Christian fundamentalist mother, Margaret White. We later find out that Carrie is a Child by Rape. At one point, Carrie's parents were so hard-line fundamentalist that they were remaining celibate and then Mr. White changed his mind and forced himself on Margaret in a combination of It's Not Rape If You Enjoyed It and Marital Rape License. She is so ashamed of having "sinned" and so unwilling to think of her experience as rape that she refuses to believe that she's pregnant when she is, calling it "a cancer of the womanly parts."
      • Chris Hargensen also counts, being one of Carrie's many bullies, one of the key players in the infamous "pig's blood" prank that ends up being Carrie's Despair Event Horizon, and a victim of Domestic Abuse by her boyfriend, Billy.
    • Jack Torrance, who suffered horrific physical abuse at the hands of his father and watched him brutalize his mother and siblings, abuses and attempts to murder his wife Wendy and their son Sanny in The Shining.
  • In the novel Starfish, one of the characters is a pedophile named Gerry. At some points the narration follows his point-of-view, and it's revealed that he himself was molested as a child.
  • Edward Cullen in Twilight was orphaned by the Spanish flu as a teenager, almost died of it too before Carlisle adopted him and made him a vampire (and only because his mother Elizabeth pretty much killed herself to take him to Carlisle), and is trying to make up for a period of time in which he killed humans and drank their blood. Also, from how his family describes his behavior just before he met Bella, he seems to have met the criteria for clinical depression. Despite being Bella's love interest, that hasn't stopped the multitude of pieces published on the Internet on why he is a domestic abuser. ie, he once sabotaged Bella's truck when she was about to go out to see her friend Jacob - controlling where a partner can or can't go or who they can or can't have contact with, as well as damaging their personal property, is abusive behavior and is noted as such in resources on dealing with abuse.
  • Erik, the eponymous phantom of Phantom of the Opera, kidnaps Christine and threatens to blow up the operahouse, where the man she loves is, if she doesn't agree to marry him. He is revealed to have been reviled for his deformity even when he was a child to the point where his mother neither kissed him or permitted him to give her any.
  • In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Warren, one of the Scary Black Man attendants who are downright abusive toward the patients of the mental hospital they work in, is said to have seen his mother being raped by a white man as a child.
  • AM's sole female victim, Ellen, is subjected to abuse by the four men who AM has also been torturing nonstop for 109 years.
  • The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris provides us with Jame Gumb, who was abandoned by his alcoholic mother and then lived with multiple sets of abusive foster parents. He then grew up to become a serial killer who would kidnap overweight women and starve them for a week, during which he'd torture and taunt them, before killing and skinning them.
  • The End of Alice by A.M. Homes features a pedophile who was sexually abused by his mother as a child. Both the sexual abuse he inflicted on a young girl before killing her as well as that he received are described in graphic detail that certainly qualifies as High Octane Nightmare Fuel.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's When the Bough Breaks, the rich and successful father horrifically sexually abuses his preteen daughter. When he's brought to the elven version of justice, it's shown that his father physically and psychologically abused him as a child.
  • Lori Settles in Lurlene McDaniel's Prey sexually abuses teenage boys because her father molested her when she was young and her mother didn't do anything to stop him. Unfortunately, this is treated as little more than a footnote and is never touched on again after it's brought up.

Live Action TV

  • From Veronica Mars we have Aaron Echolls, who abuses his son. We learn later that his father was also an abusive alcoholic.
    • The abused child in question, Logan Echolls torments Veronica, provides the drugs that are used in her rape, and arranges such deranged activities as "bum fights." Despite being one of her biggest tormenters, he eventually became Veronica's boyfriend. He became woobified, as large portions of the audience chose to excuse his actions on the basis of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father.
  • Lionel Luthor on Smallville is an Archnemesis Dad who abuses his son Lex financially and emotionally in an attempt at making him stronger. He is absolutly ruthless in his desire to make Lex into a worthy heir for his corporate empire, and easily deserves the title of "Worst Father Ever." In Season 3, however, we learn that Lionel's own parents were a pair of alcoholic washouts who beat him regularly and went out of their way to sabotage his success; if Lionel can be trusted, they actually wanted him to end up just like them. He eventually killed them, then fabricated a new past for the family, claiming descent from Scottish nobility. Not only does this explain Lionel's drive for success, it also helps to demonstrate why he seems to be unaware that he is abusing Lex: in Lionel's mind, abuse is physical; he sees himself as an involved parent and nothing worse.
  • In most incarnations of Blackadder, the title character heavily abuses Baldrick, often in frustration at his mistreatment at the hands of his own higher power (often a monarch). His lampshading of this "Dog Kicks Littler Dog" scenario in the third installment is the page quote.
  • The eponymous character of House was abused by his father when he was a child and grows up to be a Jerkass who goes to illegal lengths to coerce or force people into unwanted medical procedures that are sometimes painful, and when his girlfriend Cuddy leaves him, he vandalizes her house in a fit of rage via Car Fu.
  • Sam Puckett is a notable Domestic Abuser of her boyfriend Freddie on ICarly. One episode reveals that her father walked out on her whole family.


  • Discussed in the Eric Bogle song "Daniel Smiling".

 "That brutalised children become adults who then brutalise"

  • As well as the Tool song "Prison Sex".

 I do unto others, what has been done to me. Do unto others, what has been done to you.

Video Games

  • Mystery Case Files: Escape From Ravenhearst -- Charles Dalimar claims to be this. (Well, technically, he never admits to the "Abuser" part, just the "Troubled".)
  • If you consider the relationship tree of the Metal Gear series, about half of them are abusive connections. Forgive the liberalness with which relationships are interpreted. Troubled Abuser always listed first. It helps that everyone has a Dark and Troubled Past.
    • Liquid Snake to Solid Snake: Abusive brother to brother.
    • Solid Snake to Liquid Snake: It may be entirely necessary, but it's still an abusive relationship.
    • Sniper Wolf to Otacon: Emotional abuse. Uses his affections to try and manipulate Snake, to a small degree.
    • The Colonel and Naomi Hunter to Solid Snake: Hard to interpret the relationship into friend or familial terms, but they're both using Snake for variously selfish ends.
    • And of course, Solid Snake to the Genome Soldiers: In the most fucked up way possible, abusive brother to brother.


Western Animation

  • Light example, Homer Simpson frequently physically abuses Bart, it is often revealed in flashbacks that his own father Abe was rather aloof and emotionally abusive to him as well. Abe was in some cases even seen strangling Homer in the same manner the latter does to Bart today.

 Homer: He said I was an accident, he didn't wanna have me.

Marge: You didn't want to have Bart.

Homer: Yeah but you're not supposed to tell the child.

Marge: You tell Bart all the time, you told him this morning.

Homer: *flustered* But when I do it it's cute!

  • Dr Robotnik of Sonic Sat AM who is incredibly abusive to his nephew Snively, was revealed in "The Void" to have initially been a surbordinate to wizard Naugus, who used his magic to torture and intimidate Robotnik. The fact Snively thought his treatment was Actually Pretty Funny probably only furthered Robotnik's spite towards him however. In the planned third season Naugus would have returned, actually reducing Robotnik to a cowering toady similar to Snively.
  • On Moral Orel, Clay Puppington abuses his son (both physically and psychologically) and was all but ignored by his father after inadvertently causing his mother's death.
  • In Hey Arnold, the eponymous character has a Stalker with a Crush named Helga who is also eager to hide the fact that she has a crush on Arnold... by subjecting him to relentless bullying and harassment that includes physical and verbal abuse. She also has neglectful parents who favor her older sister and barely pay attention to her, which causes said sister to be a Nervous Wreck and wish she was The Unfavorite.
  • In The Dreamstone, Elite Mooks Urpgor and Sgt Blob are often shown ordering about and abusing lower Urpneys, something that makes some sense given they are most often at the brunt of Zordrak's horrible temper.
  • The South Park episode "Cartman Sucks" has a subplot where Butters gets sent to a "straight camp" that very Anviliciously shows how ineffective, pointless, and wrong it is to attempt to Cure Your Gays. One example is one of the staff members, who cheerfully tells the campers that being gay and bisexual is abnormal and encourages them to "pray the gay away" from the inside of a Transparent Closet. To inspire them, he tells about how he was once gay, but not no longer because he turned straight by way of praying to God to make him straight, which he was obviously encouraged to do when he was younger by one or more homophobic authority figures.

Truth in Television

  • Yes, this happens. And while it explains a lot, in reality it's not an excuse. In real life, there is a big difference between being in a bad mood and victimizing someone. While everyone does lash and snap to a limited degree, failure to realize the error and feel remorse and apologize is symptomatic of something being seriously wrong, no matter how bad someone's day was, no matter how little one felt like putting up with their shit, no matter how much one just wanted to see someone else squirm. There's a difference between being unfriendly because one's already in a foul mood, and ruining someone's day systematically.
  • If statistics are right, 30% of all Abusive Parents were mistreated by theirs.
  • Joseph Frizl described his relationship with his mother as physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive. As an adult, he kept his mother imprisoned in the attic for 20 years before her death and infamously took his 18 year old daughter Elisabeth and imprisoned her in the cellar, meanwhile raping her enough times that she gave birth to seven children, three of whom never saw the light of day until one of them had a seizure requiring medical attention, enabling their release, at which time Elisabeth was 42 years old.
  • Chris Brown, who infamously physically abused his girlfriend Rhianna, spoke about having watched his mother being beaten by his stepfather from the ages of 7 to 13.
  • Richard A. Cohen is an "ex-gay" "therapist" who works to "cure" others of being gay by telling them that it's wrong to be gay and to try as hard as they can to be straight, even if that means going against themselves, which is an emotionally and psychologically abusive thing to do. He had an abusive home life that he states caused his homosexuality, which he says he has since healed from.
  • Josef Stalin had an abusive father and later abused his son, even going so far to mock him when he failed to kill himself.
  • Adolf Hitler also had an abusive father whom he deeply hated.
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