In this blog, I focus on emotional abuse. Many people have questions about emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is one form of domestic violence. According to the CDC, the statistics for domestic violence indicate the one in four women in the United States will experience abuse in their lifetime. Females most commonly experience domestic violence between ages 18-24 (38.6%). Women often find that emotional abuse is difficult to name or talk about. They often wonder if it is serious because you cannot see it, like physical signs such as bruises or broken bones.
Emotionally abused women state that one of the biggest problems is that others seldom understand or take it seriously. The following questions will help you identify if you are being emotionally abused, and provide some ideas on what you can do about it. It is good to take inventory of your relationship by considering the following questions:
What is your relationship like?
Do you think that something is wrong with your relationship, but you don’t know how to describe it?
Do you feel that your partner controls your life?
Do you believe that your partner does not value your thoughts or feelings?
Will your partner do anything to win an argument, such as put you down or threaten you?
Does your partner get angry and jealous if you talk to someone else? Are you accused of having affairs?
Do you feel that you cannot do anything right in your partner’s eyes?
Do you get mixed messages, such as the reason you are abused is because he loves you?
Are you told that no one else would want you, or that you are lucky your partner takes care of you?
Do you have to account for every moment of your time?
When you try to talk to your partner about problems, are you called names such as “bitch” or “nag”?
Are you prevented from going to work or school?
If you wish to spend money, does your partner make you account for every penny, or say you don’t deserve anything?
Does he use the children against your in arguments?
Does your partner blame you for everything that goes wrong?
How are you affected?
Are you unable or afraid to make decisions for yourself?
Do you do anything you can to please your partner or not upset him?
Do you make excuses for your partner’s behavior?
Are you forgetful, confused or unable to concentrate?
Have you noticed changes in your eating, sleeping, alcohol or drug use?
Have you lost interest or energy to do the things you used to?
Do you feel sick, anxious, tired or depressed a lot of the time?
Have you lost contact with you friends, family or neighbors?
Have you lost self-confidence and feel afraid that you could not make it alone?
What can you do about it?
Realize that emotional abuse is a serious problem and you can get help.
Recognize that emotional abuse is as bad or worse than physical abuse.
Take your own safety and the safety of your children seriously.
Know that emotional abuse can lead to physical violence or death.
Know that you are not to blame for your partner’s abusive behavior.
Find people to talk to that can support you. Consider going for counseling.
Do not give up if community professionals are not helpful. Keep looking for someone that will listen to you and take emotional abuse seriously.
Recognize that you have the right to make your own decisions, in your own time, and that dealing with any form of abuse may take time.
Trust yourself and your own experiences. Believe in your own strengths. Remember that you are your own best source of knowledge and strength, and that you already have the tools you need to survive.
Where can you turn?
Women’s help lines. Find the number in your area.
Shelters do accept women who are emotionally abused and have not been physically abused. The help line can refer you to the nearest one.
If you have been threatened with harm or death, or are being stalked by your partner or ex-partner, you can call the police (dial 911).
If you are considering leaving, especially if you have children, see an attorney.
Abused women are at the greatest risk of being harmed or killed when they leave. Ensure that you have a safety plan in place.
Note: These questions about emotional abuse are adapted from Dr. Chen’s Dialogue Article about How Abuse Happens.