Domestic Violence – Emotional Abuse
Not all abusive relationships involve violence. Emotional abuse is as damaging as physical abuse, though it is often harder to recognize, and therefore harder to recover from. Since emotional abuse is often minimized or overlooked even by the person being abused this invisible attack is often disregarded and ignored. Just because you’re not battered and bruised doesn’t mean you’re not being abused. Emotional violence is very real and can be verbal or nonverbal abuse and can be much more emotionally damaging than physical abuse which can leave scars of verbal and emotional abuse run deep.
Emotional abuse is used to control, degrade, humiliate and punish a spouse. The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. Emotional abuse is an attack on victims’ personality and well-being, and is often described as worse than physical violence. Abuse typically alternates with declarations of love and statements that they will change, providing a “hook” to keep the partner in the relationship; one of the many names that are used to describe this abuse is “mind-games”. The abuser assumes a tight and unhealthy control of all members of the family which may become increasingly isolated in the community.
As a victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship or that without your abusive partner you have nothing as well as dealing with on-going long term self-esteem issues and profound emotional implications. A spouse may have a feeling that something is wrong. They may feel stressed out; a sense of depression; anxiety but they can’t quite identify what is causing those feelings. With this abuse hard to distinguish many people aren’t able to recognize they are a victim.
Emotional abuse includes
- Constant criticism of the victim saying she is ugly, ignorant or worthless
- Criticism, verbal threats, social isolation, intimidation or exploitation to dominate another person
- Damaging their possessions
- Family life and mood being dictated by abuser (abuser-centric) continual questioning humiliation in public
- Playing on community and cultural fears
- Threatening a person or their loved ones
- Threats and actual violence to family pets
- Threats of violence to all members of family
- Threat that the abuser will commit suicide
- Threats to have the children removed
- Threats to kill or have deported
- Verbal attacks, such as yelling, screaming and name-calling
- Using the children as ammunition
Types of emotional abuse
- Makes cost of fighting appear more damaging to the self-esteem than surrender, defeat or surrender
- Reduces victim to “animal level” concerns
- Suggests pointlessness of defiance or fighting back
Enforcing Trivial Demands:
- Develops habits of obedience and submission of the victim
Induced Weakness and Fatigue:
- Weakens mental and physical ability to resist
- Deprives the victim of all social support necessary for the ability to fight back
- Develops an intense concern for self
- Trains victim(s) to depend on the abuser
Manipulates and Dominates Victim’s Perception:
- Eliminates any competing views that go against those that are controlled by the abuser
- Fixes the victim’s attention of any immediate dilemma or crisis and encourage self-examination
- Prevent all actions that are not consistent with total obedience towards the abuser
- Provides positive motivation for continued compliance
- Promotes anxiety and despair
Emotional abuse behaviour and tactics
- Accuse their spouse of being unfaithful if she talks to a member of the opposite sex
- Being the one to define men’s and women’s roles
- Cause the victim to question their every thought and behavior
- Constantly criticize the spouse’s weight, their looks, the way they dress
- Controlling all the financial decisions, refuse to listen to their partner’s opinion, withhold important financial information and make their spouse live on limited resources, making all the big decisions
- Discourage any independent activities such as work, taking classes or activities with friends
- Expect them to partake in sexual activities that they are uncomfortable with to prove their love.
- Force cooperation through subversive manipulation of the mind and feelings of the victim, who then becomes a psychological, as well as a physical, prisoner
- Humiliating her, calling her names
- If the spouse does not give into the control they are threatened, harassed, punished and intimidated by the abuser
- Insulting her in public or in private
- Isolating a spouse from friends and family
- Make all major decisions such as where to live, how to furnish the home and what type of automobile to drive
- Making her feel bad about herself, making her feel guilty
- Making her think she’s crazy, playing mind games
- Putting down her friends and family
- Throws in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want, treating her like a servant
- Uses the children to gain control by undermining the other parent’s authority or threatening to leave and take the children
- Withhold sex as punishment instead of communicating openly their displeasure
- Yelling at, name-calling, blaming, shaming and controlling behavior
Warning signs and indicators
Emotional abuse is crippling. It robs a person of their self-esteem, the ability to think rationally, confidence in themselves and their independence and autonomy. If you sense that you are being abused try to notice if you or an acquaintance has any of the following warning signs:
- Excessive dependence on him/her.
- Isolation from others, you rarely see friends and family.
- You constantly think about saying or doing the right thing so that your spouse does not become upset.
- You live in the moment, unable to plan ahead because you fear your spouse’s response to any plans or ideas you have. Any action you take is criticized unless it is one of compliance to his/her desires.
- You feel as if you don’t have the energy it would take to fight back against their controlling behavior. You doubt your ability to stand-up and speak your own mind and express your own opinions.
- You feel a sense of depression and anxiety most of the time.
- You feel as if anything you do or say will be meant with anger or dismissal. Your feelings and desires just don’t seem to matter to your spouse.