We have all heard the terms domestic violence and domestic abuse. But what exactly is it? Domestic Violence is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through physical and emotional abuse. It is an insidious problem that has gripped our society.
It can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, income, or other factors. Men, Women and children are all victims of domestic violence. A quick look at the national statistics will tell you that 1 in 3 women, 1 in 4 men and 1 in 15 children are victims of domestic abuse. Domestic violence exists in different ways like Physical abuse, Sexual abuse, Financial abuse, Emotional and Psychological abuse.
There are many organizations that are trying to help people especially women and children who are victims of such abuse. But the challenge these organizations face seems to be in identifying these victims? The question they ask: “How can we reach out to them?” In majority of cases, they are identified by family and friends and in some cases, through a phone call to emergency services or hospitalizations. While these methods may have proven beneficial in identifying victims of physical and sexual abuse, it remains a challenge to identify those who are suffering from emotional and psychological abuse.
Identifying Emotional Abuse
Unlike physical abuse which is visible, emotional abuse is elusive. It is considered more harmful than physical abuse, because it can demoralize what we think about ourselves. The wounds created by this kind of abuse is deep and often reopened. The abuser knows your deepest fears and uses it as their weapon. However, there are some telltale signs that can help identify this kind of abuse.
Topping this list – Humiliation, Degradation, Criticizing and Negating
- An abuser will be constantly putting you down in front of others and when asked they claim to be “just joking”! The key word here is “constantly” which means that it is a pattern.
- They use sarcasm as a way of “teasing” you and to degrade you or your feelings. This ensures that you end up feeling bad about yourself!
- Your opinions or suggestions are ridiculed and met with “pfft….yeah as if you know better!” kind of remarks.
Next on the list – Domination, Control, Lack of Respect
- You are made to feel like a child. They make you believe that you are helpless on your own. You always display “inappropriate behavior” and need to be reprimanded!
- You are told time and again that you cannot make “good” decisions and that it must be made for you. You need to get “permissions” for everything – even to spend your own money!
- There is absolutely no respect for your aspirations, your dreams and hopes for the future. Indeed they are met with condescending comments.
- Your accomplishments are always depreciated, and you are reminded that your achievements are always inferior to theirs!
Self-Victimization – They are the Victims!
- You are repetitively reminded that you are the reason for their unhappiness and how much they have to put up with “You”!
- They blame everyone else for their problems, but never accept their culpability.
- They vehemently deny their emotionally abusive behavior when confronted.
Emotional Distancing, Abandonment, Lack of Empathy
- Lack of empathy and lack of compassion is a key sign of emotional abuse. Sadly most people fail to notice this.
- Your most basic needs and requests are neglected as a form of punishment.
- They don’t notice or even care about your feelings!
This list is not exhaustive and barely explains the complexity of emotional abuse. The important thing is to be able to recognize the abuse and reach out for help. Unfortunately, victims of emotional abuse develop a sense of learned helplessness, a psychological condition in which the victim has been exposed to abuse for such a long time that they stop trying to escape! Many people stay in abusive relationships far longer than they would like because they keep remembering the good times and subdue the bad. This is tactic of learned helplessness.
In such cases, help will need to come from close family members and/or friends. There is no point in asking them why they didn’t try to leave, rather be patient with them and explain ways in which they can reach out for help!
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