Highlighting The Reality Of Emotional Abuse


When we hear about abuse, many of us think of physical abuse, which includes hitting, kicking, smacking or any other act to intentionally injure someone. However, it’s important to note that abuse is a pattern of controlling behavior that doesn’t always escalate to physical violence.

Domestic violence may be physical, sexual, financial, verbal or emotional in nature. While abuse often occurs as a pattern of controlling behavior, a single episode of abuse is cause for concern.

Let’s talk emotional abuse. Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, humiliation, isolation, intimidation and constant monitoring of a victim’s whereabouts. Verbal abuse falls under the category of emotional abuse as well, which can include name calling, yelling and put-downs.

This type of abuse may not cause physical damage, but it does cause emotional pain and scarring. It can also lead to physical violence if the relationship continues on the already unhealthy path. Learning to recognize emotional abuse is important. Below, we’ve listed behaviors that qualify as emotional abuse, that stem from the LoveIsRespect Power and Control Wheel:

  • Isolation – controlling what you do, who you see and speak to, what you read, and limiting outside involvement in the world.
  • Coercion – making and/or carrying out threats to hurt you, leave you and/or making you drop charges against your abuser.
  • Intimidation – making you afraid by using looks, actions or gestures, smashing things, destroying property and displaying weapons.
  • Gaslighting – this type of emotional abuse occurs when the abuser manipulates situations repeatedly to trick the victim into distrusting their own memory or perceptions. Gaslighting can make the victim unsure of anything because they question their instincts and reasoning.
  • Using social status – the abuser may treat you like a servant, make all the household and financial decisions and define your role at home.
  • Minimizing or denying blame – making light of abuse and not taking concerns seriously, saying abuse did not happen, shifting responsibility for abusive behaviors to you or someone/something else, or saying it’s your fault.

Starting in 2016, a popular trending topic on social media was #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou. This hashtag is used for people to share examples of abusive behaviors that are not physical. The hashtag has sparked a conversation among many young adults about what emotional abuse really looks like, and it is inspiring those experiencing abuse to seek help. For example, a tweet or post could say, “#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but “I’m sorry” becomes a reflex, rather than something you say because you mean it.” https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-05-11/hashtag-maybehedoesnthityou-raises-awareness-of-emotional-abuse-in-relationships

Recently, a new hashtag, #BehindThePost has been trending, which shows viewers that when people post their best moments, or their relationship “highlight real” on social media, that it’s not always true. And many times, there are unhealthy behaviors happening in real life, behind the post. Learn more about the #BehindThePost campaign here: https://vimeo.com/233358422

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To show your support, please share this article with family and friends to help them learn the many forms of relationship abuse.

If you know someone who is experiencing abuse, it is important that you encourage them to seek help. In an emergency, always call 911. The resources listed below are available for individuals experiencing domestic violence and/or dating abuse.

National Resources

Local Resources

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