Emotional Abuse - A Silent Killer
The Power of the Perpetrator
Someone once asked me about domestic violence and what to do when someone, who you know is being abused, refuses any aid. She said “You can't help those who won't help themselves” and I agree. You see I used to be one of those people, but it was not because I enjoyed being unhappy or frightened. No woman chooses violence.
The reason I stayed was mainly because I was, you might say, "uneducated" on the whole issue, and basically I had been so brainwashed by my ex that I thought that his behavior was normal and that it was all my fault. I honestly thought that it would stop if only I tried harder to please him. Providing I didn't tell anybody (because I knew that set him off!) and did everything just right, we would be happy again...
Sounds crazy and stupid, I know... but there are some girls and women out there who don't actually know what "normal" (or functional) behavior really is. They think they know, they think that the way their dad treated their mum was normal, or their step-dad or maybe their mum treated them like that, or their dad or their grandparents etc...etc... Maybe they used to know what was normal, but slowly they have forgotten. You see that's the hard thing to understand about domestic violence: the power of the perpetrator over the victim. The bruises that you may or may not see and the bangs and crashes and yelling that you hear are really only the tip of the iceberg.
The emotional hold that the perpetrator has over their victim is invisible, both to them and everyone else, and it can be hard to wake up to it because it never happens straight away, they suck you in first and then slowly the mental manipulation creeps in and they change you. A lot of victims of domestic violence might never experience physical abuse, but they are not necessarily the lucky ones. Emotional abuse can be just as harmful and even fatal. Severe emotional, mental and/or psychological abuse has been compared to torture, and in some cases, it can induce suicide. Personally, I have experienced emotional, physical, mental, sexual, financial and verbal abuse as well as social isolation, and think that the emotional abuse is much worse than the physical violence. Blood and bruises are tangible things. They are there, you can see them. No-one can deny it. Other people can see them too, people who will support you and give you hope if you let them. I also think that emotional abuse is the core issue in any form of abuse. Most victims would never tolerate from a stranger the abuse that they endure from a family member or significant other. That is the power of the perpetrator.
Mental/emotional abuse is never obvious, and the injuries it inflicts can be invisible, both to the victims and to others, and can take much longer to heal than a few fractured bones. Indeed some bury so deep that they never do. Because it is so hard to recognize, emotional abuse is also very easy to deny. Words can be twisted and distorted to justify and excuse, and of course the things that are said to hurt and manipulate you are only said behind closed doors. It can be hard to remember exactly what was said when your world feels like it is caving in, and the abuser will jump on this uncertainty to highlight your insanity and to once again shift the focus away from his own appalling behavior, which makes one feel unsure about what really happened, compounding one’s confusion and distress, and deterring one from objecting or trying to reason the next time it happens. In the end all you know is that you will do anything you can not to p!ss them off (pardon my language).
I want to point out that it does not only happen to women, and is not only done by men. Some women abuse their husbands, and some partners in a gay or lesbian relationship may be abusive. It also does not only occur in poor couples, but all socio-economic backgrounds. Not all drug addicts or alcoholics perpetrate it or suffer from it. The perpetrator can be (and often is) someone who most people think is one of the nicest people they know. The meanest looking people are not always the culprits. The huge, hairy, scary looking biker over the road is a friend of mine and his wife is a very experienced, very aware nurse, and she confirms it all the time that he is the sweetest, most caring guy. His boys are confident, polite, caring, kind to others and verbally assertive, as is his wife. He is a fantastic father and husband.
On the other hand, the people I used to live next to are an executive couple - she is a real estate broker and he is a lawyer. She is very much a chatterbox when alone, and yet she has the demeanor of a frightened squirrel when he is around. He is sometimes quiet and moody, but usually confident, outgoing and not often intimidating. One reason I believe he is a perpetrator is because when I tried to talk to her about domestic violence, she became all frightened and said he would be home soon, and that he did not like talking about things like that. When I tried to give her an information brochure about it she became very upset and said he wasn't like that, but begged me not to leave it there in-case he found it, as it would make him very angry...
Domestic violence is reaching plague proportions in our community. It does not just involve physical violence, and people need to recognize this, especially the victims. In the end all we can really do is make people aware of it and try to educate them. Patience and persistence, as well as discretion pay off, but it still has to be their own realization that makes them decide to go (or stay). As a community, all we can do is support, educate, and inspire, but most importantly, we can model the right way to behave.
Signs of Domestic Violence
- Physical Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Social Abuse & Isolation
- Psychological & Mental abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Economic Abuse
- Intimidation, Coercion & Threats
- Minimizing, Denying & Blaming
- Using Children
- Unequal Rights &/ Privileges
- Spiritual Abuse
Every type of abuse that occurs in intimate relationships will involve elements of emotional abuse, but most abusers will start with the tactics listed below, and then as time goes by, they will progress to the more controlling and hurtful abuse, and more specific types of abuse such as those mentioned above. It is therefore important to be aware of these initial warning signs:
- Yelling & Swearing
- Insulting you, your friends/family
- Name Calling
- Criticism & Put-downs
- Emotional Blackmail
- Minimizing, Denying & Blaming
- Threatening to Leave or Commit Suicide
- Unequal Rights &/ Privileges
(For more detail about these behaviors, please click on the black wheel below. To view the types of behaviors and attitudes that constitute a healthy, non-violent relationship based on equality, please click on the blue wheel below)
Violence, Power & Control
Non-violence & Equality
An Insight into a Victim's Journey
Now I would like to share a poem that I wrote, to hopefully help victims to recognize their own situation, and also give others an insight into the sad journey of a victim of domestic violence.
A False Impression.
You offered me a new life
You offered me security
And love and respect
You showed me self worth and
You gave me the strength to take a chance
And so I came to you
You said it would be great
You said I would be safe
And loved and respected
You showed me this at first and
You gave me reason to believe
And so I stayed
You expressed your hopes and dreams
You expressed your passion with tenderness
And love and respect
But you also showed me disdain and
You gave me reason to doubt
And so I questioned
You claimed it was true
You claimed you had not lied
And that you did love and respect me
But you showed me slavery and
You gave me a cage
And so I struggled
You told me to stay
You told me to listen
And to love and respect you
But you showed me hate and loathing and
You gave me your anger to fear
And so I disobeyed
You begged me to reconsider
You begged me to forgive
And to love and respect you again
But you showed me that you could not change and
You gave me vicious threats.
And so I found the wisdom
To trust myself instead of you
Then I found the strength to disappear
And so I am free
Please join me on FaceBook
- STOP the Violence Against Women & Children
Organize to Resist! Together we can take on the Predators! Let's Break the Silence to End the Violence by working together to make our voices a Resounding SHOUT!!! Perpetrators BEWARE - you don't stand a chance!
All names in this article have been changed for legal purposes and to protect the privacy of the Author. Except where otherwise credited, or where text forms part of an external link, this article is under the following copyright:
Copyright © 2010 Mel Stewart, "safe-at-last", of Perth, Western Australia. All rights reserved.
All persons, places and objects shown in the images in this hub are are shown for illustrative purposes only. They bear no relation to any real person or event. All persons shown are paid models. Unless otherwise credited, all images are under the following copyright:
Copyright © 2010 Mel Stewart, "safe-at-last" and Licensors Nodtronics Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
Kimberly on May 16, 2011:
This article describes my marriage to a tee. I married a man 11 years older than me and he is e extremely controlling and jelous. He is forever accusing me of stuff that I haven't done. Had every one convinced that I am crazy to the point where he attacked me and when I retaliated he called the co
InosBane on February 11, 2011:
I left an emotionally abusive boyfriend and fled 3,000 miles to live with an aunt whose lies cost me my child...almost 18 years later I'm finally not the only one in the family who sees her for what she is.
Laura Arne from Minnetonka, MN on January 10, 2011:
Great hub on abuse. You must see my hub as well. We need to stick together. I am a survivor too.
Russ on December 26, 2010:
Just bugs me that in all these statements its always a HER or a SHE that is taking all the abuse.. Some of us MEN are abused daily as well ya know. Women can be just as hurtful to men as well and feel trapped in an abusive relationship
andrea collyer on December 07, 2010:
excellent discription of controlling abusing men!! and out there its full of them!!
LouLa Ball from Tennessee on November 06, 2010:
Thank you for writing this. I have just written one recently myself here on the hubpages. I also know what is like to live with this because I was also one of those woman. You don't even realize just how bad it was until you have finally gotten out of the relationship.
N.C.S. on November 02, 2010:
The abusive 25 year marriage scarred me so badly that 22 yrs. later I am still alone and cannot bring myself to trust and share my life with anyone. Thank God there is more help available now that in the 60's when I so desperately needed it. The FEAR factor was just too great. It is sad to know that you have lived your life without ever knowing love.....so sad.
days leaper from england on July 21, 2010:
The wheels. The scary black one shows me I am more ignorant than I thought. While my last & to be honest only partner worked, and I had no intention of stopping her. It wasn't really going anywhere, and looking back I'm not sure it would have, she was somewhat older than i and amased significant debts including mortgage from prior relationships etc. Basically I was out of my depth, but still grateful for the experience and insight into the scary world of relationships.
To my point. I never knew there was such a thing as "Economic Abuse", I tend to see things and just assume that's the way both parties want it. At first, I only saw "stopping her from getting/keeping a job" as bad. But it still raised within me thoughts and feelings that I've always considered it pointless to have children if your going to have to pay some-one else to look after them. It seems a false economy, and I've never had children but I've been one, and while I managed without my Dad -who spent all the money on drinking and gambling until he was thrown out when I was three, (I think immature and thoughtless rather than purposefully bad) anyway, I would hate the thought of being brought up by strangers, and things weren't great with mum, grandma and I believe me. Still... I suppose we always can see how it could always have been worse.
For instance everything was clean when i got home, even my room! Spoilt? You might say, but as a result i never got into a routine, the other day, counting illness as well the washing up took three hours, having left it until i had to do it! And sometimes when my health dips my poor old mum comes round -enthusiastically, i might add, putting things in the wrong place- and helps me out with it. And yes, she does get gifts of thanks etc. ..And I get "lazier". It's now sort of ingrained that I should be doing other things, I live alone, but time is too precious to have to do everything oneself. And so I have less time in my life. I always thought this was better split, and then the evenings and weekends might be spent as family.
Need more info. on this one..Sorry!
days leaper from england on July 21, 2010:
While reading. I feel there is so much to this that I will feel the urge to comment, if i may, during the reading instead of waiting to the end.
1. I am thinking of writing a blog, dedicated to this one that will list emotional holds (It sounds like wrestling or something, only as you say, the holds are unseen) So, this way others have a stepping stone to say "yse, this sort of thing does happen", though it may be taken by the unscrupilous for material gain, but the genuine will merely be seeking freedom. a. Have you noticed that when you try to relate something to a would be/hopefully potential helper or rescuer that the hesitant way it comes out is taken as uncertainty, or even making it up as you go along. Rather than having to deal with your own that the person you loved could do this to you. And bringing the pain back so that having to deal with it again is like going through it again especially in the persons presence. The one good thing is learning to question. Question. Why should I confront this person, they are extremely well prepared, they get off on it, they always have! They obviously have had much practice, some of it on me! Q2. So what is it about confrontation as to win for the sake of rescue that will do me any good? Question 3. When the would be rescuer believes the perpetrator, or says "you shouldn't have done that." perhaps not but why aren't they telling the other person this. Is it to get me angry, do they see the incident as a chance to be in their very own soap opera? Are they friends with or trying to seek approval from the perpetrator? (and lets face it most have this hold on people). And do they notice ever that the name calling and questioning your/my/our sanity is name calling and a perpetuation of the holding us down.
The bottom line is I (or you, or we) owe no-one an explanation! Assertively say, I don't want you in my life anymore, don't talk to me I don't want to know! Stick to this and eventually though probably with more attempts at triks first, they will get the message so long as you never go back!
I've worked myself up now, if you don't mind -will get back to you/r blog later. Thanks.
fighting for my kids rights on July 20, 2010:
Spot on,I couldn't have said it better,for a long long time I thought that I was the crazy one ,and of course no one would believe it of him ...so white collar...he now says it was my fault in fact he tells the courts that what he did,like grabbing my daughter and walking away from me with her and refusing to let her come to me while she was screaming was totally the opposite he was taking her away from harm's way..me..and yes he constantly threatened suicide
Mel Stewart (author) from Western Australia on May 16, 2010:
Thank you MR and yes it can be very frustrating. I have written an article on this very thing, titled "The fine art of institutional grooming". In the article I further clarify the concept and also discuss the ramifications of it with regards to family law. Society needs to be aware....
Marie Ryan from Andalusia, Spain on May 05, 2010:
This I think is one of the most disconcerting aspects of abuse-You said¨: "The perpetrator can be (and often is) someone who most people think is one of the nicest people they know."
How blindingly frustrating can this be?...You are encouraged to report the abuse but...if sometimes, you tell anybody about it (of whatever kind), often friends or other members of the family do not believe you, or think you are exaggerating.
The black and blue wheels are graphic and really put things into perspective...unfortunately, life is not always so simple, but you have made a great attempt to clarify what is often an insidious black mist.
Thanks for a very insightful, intuitive article.
Mel Stewart (author) from Western Australia on May 04, 2010:
Thank you RT I hope it helps people in situations of abuse, and provides others with an insight that will foster empathy....
RecoverToday from United States on May 03, 2010:
A perfect example of emotional abuse. Very well written with much information.