For years the term “domestic violence” only brought to mind frightening physical abuse. More recently, the phrase has begun to mean many different forms of abuse ranging from physical to psychological. Emotional abuse is a very real and terrifying part of relationships for many people no matter their gender. There are various types of emotional abuse that are commonly seen by mental health professionals who work with victims of domestic violence. Those who have never experienced this type of abuse may be shocked to hear that the effects of psychological and emotional violence are as serious, if not more severe, than those of physical violence.
The first type of commonly acknowledged emotional abuse is that of rejection. Rejection involves letting a person know that they are unwanted in a variety of different ways. By name-calling, yelling, swearing, demeaning, and verbally humiliating a person, the abuser is telling the victim that he or she is worthless and often the cause of problems that are truly out of the victim’s control. When this type of abuse is used against children, it can also include refusal to hold or nurture through growth and development.
Another type of emotional abuse that often causes severe trauma is terrorizing. Yelling, threatening, teasing, and over-the-top punishment for the sake of intimidation are all considered acts of domestic terrorism. Abusers threaten their victims with abandonment or harm and often berate them in front of other family members and friends. Abusers may also terrorize by forcing their victims to watch acts that are inhumane in nature. Terrorizing can also involve threatening to harm a beloved object, pet, or close acquaintance.
The act of ignoring is common in emotionally abusive situations. In adult victims this treatment brings with it feelings of severe isolation due to the emotional unavailability of the abuser. When adults abuse children by ignoring, they may deny necessary medical or dental care, intentionally fail to pay attention to or discuss a child’s interests, or behave as though the child is not a member of the family. Ignoring also may involve a general lack of attention to nurturing children in regard to their everyday needs such as food, drink, clean clothes, school work, and other important constants that are necessary for children. Abusers who ignore are physically present but meticulously fail to recognize that their victim exists.
Emotional abuse is a dangerous and insidious element. Though the psychological effects are the same, if not worse, than physical abuse, there are no physical marks that can provide those close to the victims with the knowledge that abuse is present in a relationship. Many victims, especially children, are silent about their experiences in an emotionally abusive setting because they either fear the consequences of “tattling” on their abuser, or they have been brainwashed to think that the terrible things said and done to them are deserved.
Another scary aspect of emotional violence is that it doesn’t have to be over-the-top to be considered abusive. Emotional abuse is classified as anything that is said or done to intentionally hurt another person’s feelings. It could be as simple as insulting how a person looks. In situations where the abuse is more grotesque, it can be as severe as “gaslighting” a person, which means making them feel as though they are crazy and unstable through lies and manipulation.
Shaming, undermining the confidence of another, or destroying a person’s ability to grow, trust, and have viable levels of self-esteem are all forms of emotional violence. Like physical abuse, this type of treatment destroys the victim’s ability to trust people in any capacity of a relationship until proper treatment is received. In many cases, the effects of emotional abuse burn deeper than those of physical violence, as the abuse is often more frequent. Emotional violence destroys the person who is being abused by deeply damaging them to the core of their spirit.
About the author
Jim Burns is a freelance writer who focuses on legal issues such as Medical Malpractice, Insurance Fraud, Securities Litigation, Financial Regulation, Family Law and other important topics.