EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE
Emotional abuse, also a form of psychological abuse, can be overt (obvious) or covert (concealed or disguised). Batterers us a wide variety of verbal, emotional and psychological assaults to gain and maintain control over their victims. It is important to know how to identify these behaviors and tactics so that you can take the necessary steps to avoid or leave an abusive relationship.
Verbal abuse includes name-calling, swearing, yelling, screaming, belittling, shaming, ridiculing, mocking, accusing, blaming and threatening.
Extreme jealousy – Abusers are often possessive and jealous, suspicious without good reason and may accuse you of having affairs. They may go through their victims’ phone logs, voice mail, text messages, email or postal mail. They may tell their partner how to dress or forbid makeup or fragrances. It is not uncommon for an abuser to be jealous of their partner and his/her dreams, goals or accomplishments. Having ambition is a threat to an abuser. It means they could lose control over the victim.
Grandiose sense of entitlement – Batterers often expect special treatment and little to no consequence for their abusive behavior, regardless of the damage, and may react negatively, even violently, to criticism, resistance or reprimand. This strong sense of entitlement can lead to harassment and stalking when victims seek to end these relationships.
Passive-aggressive behavior includes expressing aggression in calm, subtle or indirect ways – jokes disguised as insults, pretending to forget a special occasion in order to make you feel insignificant or unimportant, agreeing one moment and disagreeing the next; rejoicing in your failures or mistakes.
Empty promises and apologies – It is common for an abuser to apologize and try to make up by buying gifts or promising to get help. When they feel they are back in your good graces or the tension has passed, they will often go back to being abusive.
Minimization – The abuser may discount your feelings and make light of or downplay the abuse. It wasn’t as bad as you claim, you’re “too sensitive”, “exaggerating” or “blowing things out of proportion”; he/she is “not perfect”. You and your efforts/intentions/contributions to the relationship may rarely, if ever, be good enough.
Denial – Some abusers will claim there is no abuse. Some believe this is normal behavior. Others refuse to accept they have a problem or will act like it never happened.
Gaslighting – The abuser might claim that your account of a particular event is not accurate or completely false, causing you to question your judgment, memory or sanity, also known as crazy-making.
Punishment – Abusers may become angry over perceived slights or betrayals (such as expressing disapproval or enforcing boundaries) and retaliate by punishing their victims. They may take gifts back, take privileges away, cancel credit cards, shut off utilities, remove the victim from accounts or insurance, refuse them money or access to money, have affairs, kick the victim out of the home, cheat on the victim, spread lies about the victim to friends and family, file false reports or assault the victim, their loved ones or their pets.
Infidelity – An abuser may have affairs or make advances toward others, including your friends and family, and blame you for it or completely dismiss your feelings on the matter.
Humiliation / Degradation – Yelling at you in front of others; insulting you in front of others; forcing you to do, say or wear what you are not comfortable with; abandoning you or leaving you behind when you’re out; revealing secrets or personal information to others; ridiculing you for your past; ridiculing your family and friends; flirting with others or having affairs; posting unflattering/damaging/sexual photos or videos of you online, including revenge porn.
Blaming – The abuser may claim you caused the abuse and not accept any responsibility.
Distortion – Lying or exaggerating to gain leverage in an argument or to justify unacceptable behavior; blowing your actions out of proportion; deflecting from the issue(s) at hand; insisting you said things you didn’t; accusing you of offenses and behavior that never took place, making you out to be something/someone you are not, telling you what you “really” meant, telling you what you are “really” thinking or feeling.
Mirroring/echoing – The batterer may make your complaints, concerns or objections his/her own, thereby painting you as the abuser. This serves to silence you and dominate the situation. It also serves to discourage you from complaining or expressing disapproval in the future.
Emotional blackmail is a manipulative system of punishments or threats in order to effect a desired result and control the victim. Examples include includes guilt-trips, withholding affection or communication, ignoring, not acknowledging your feelings, threats to end the relationship, leave or kick you out, threats of suicide or other forms of punishment that keep you on edge. Familiar terms include the take-away, the silent treatment and the cold shoulder.
Unreasonable or unattainable expectations – Excessive, aggressive or unreasonable demands that set you up to fall short or fail, creating an excuse to abuse you.
Unpredictable behavior – Mood swings, emotional outbursts, rage or other behavior that leaves you feeling anxious or fearful, not sure what will happen from one moment to the next.
Isolation – The abuser limits, restricts or prohibits time with your family and friends. You are not allowed to work or go to school. The abuser may also contact your friends and family to reveal secrets or create lies to turn them against you. He/she may try to convince you that no one will help you, want you or love you if you leave.
Threats – Threats of harm toward you or your children, family members, friends or pets; threats of defamation, slander, libel, false charges or false reporting to the authorities. Threats to leave you, kick you out, leave you with nothing, take your children from you, take you to court or destroy your life. Driving recklessly, destroying property.
Intimidation – Menacing or threatening looks or gestures, throwing or destroying objects or property; reaching for an object or weapon; placing a weapon in your view; driving recklessly. Not leaving your home or your presence when asked.
Coercion – The use of threats or intimidation to get the victim to comply or to perform certain acts. Blackmail.
Corruption – Using or exploiting the victim for personal or financial gain, forcing or conditioning the victim to engage in otherwise unacceptable practices or behavior.
Neglect – denial of food or drink, shelter, clothing, bathing, hygiene, use of restroom, medical care.
Vexatious/Abusive Litigation – Using the courts to control, intimidate, coerce, harass, inconvenience, cause hardship or exact revenge, such as filing for full custody without cause, filing false complaints with the police department or child services, filing for a restraining order without cause, suing for damages that never took place. Some batterers have gone as far as violating protective orders with the goal of getting the victim into court, further tormenting the victim. Abusers have also acted as their own legal counsel, giving them direct access to the victim on the witness stand.
Harassment or Stalking / Cyberstalking – Following you, showing up uninvited at your home, place of employment, places you are known to frequent, frequent or harassing phone calls at home or at work, hang-up calls, defamation, slander, libel, hacking into your computer or email, posting false or derogatory information about you online, posting your personal information or photos online.
Emotional and psychological abuse are often a precursor to physical abuse. Effects include withdrawal, anxiety, substance abuse, depression and suicide. There are also physical consequences such as headaches, ulcers,
gastric disturbances, anxiety, weight gain, weight loss and poor nutrition.
Abuse is never acceptable, in any form. If you feel you are in an abusive relationship, contact a coalition in your state or any of these organizations that may apply to your situation:
The National Domestic Violence Helpline 800-799-SAFE (7233)
The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 866-331-9474
The National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE (4673)
ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453)