When people think of domestic abuse, they often picture battered women who have been physically assaulted. But not all abusive relationships involve violence. Just because you’re not battered and bruised doesn’t mean you’re not being abused. Many men and women suffer from emotional abuse, which is no less destructive. Unfortunately, emotional abuse is often minimized or overlooked even by the person being abused.
Understanding Emotional Abuse
The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. If you’re the 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.
Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse. Additionally, abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want.
You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars. But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse sometimes even more so.
Economic or financial abuse: A subtle form of emotional abuse
Remember, an abuser’s goal is to control you, and he or she will frequently use money to do so. Economic or financial abuse includes:
Rigidly controlling your finances
Withholding money or credit cards
Making you account for every penny you spend
Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter)
Restricting you to an allowance
Preventing you from working or choosing your own career
Sabotaging your job (making you miss work, calling constantly)
Stealing from you or taking your money
Abusers use a variety of tactics to manipulate you and exert their power:
Dominance – Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as his or her possession.
Humiliation – An abuser will do everything he or she can to make you feel bad about yourself or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you’re worthless and that no one else will want you, you’re less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.
Isolation – In order to increase your dependence on him or her, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world. He or she may keep you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone.
Threats – Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members, or even pets. He or she may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against you, or report you to child services.
Intimidation – Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don’t obey, there will be violent consequences.
Denial and blame – Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abusive partner may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. He or she will commonly shift the responsibility on to you: Somehow, his or her violent and abusive behavior is your fault.
Abusers are able to control their behavior—they do it all the time
Abusers pick and choose whom to abuse. They don’t insult, threaten, or assault everyone in their life who gives them grief. Usually, they save their abuse for the people closest to them, the ones they claim to love.
Abusers carefully choose when and where to abuse. They control themselves until no one else is around to see their abusive behavior. They may act like everything is fine in public, but lash out instantly as soon as you’re alone.
Abusers are able to stop their abusive behavior when it benefits them. Most abusers are not out of control. In fact, they’re able to immediately stop their abusive behavior when it’s to their advantage to do so, for example, when the police show up or their boss calls.
Despite what many people believe, domestic violence and abuse is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over his or her behavior. In fact, abusive behavior and violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to control you. Know the sign! There are many organizations set up and waiting just for you! Give them a chance to help you because help is what you need right now.
Interesting Statistics on Domestic Abuse
Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.
Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.
Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.
Every day in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
Ninety-two percent of women surveyed listed reducing domestic violence and sexual assault as their top concern.
Domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the US alone—the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs.
Based on reports from 10 countries, between 55 percent and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted non-governmental organizations, shelters, or the police for help.
The costs of intimate partner violence in the US alone exceed $5.8 billion per year: $4.1 billion are for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion.
Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.
Know the signs!
Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet and/or computer usage might be monitored, please use a safer computer, call your local hotline, and/or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224
National Domestic Violence Link: