Physical violence is just one form of domestic abuse. If you have a partner who verbally humiliates you, demands all your attention, blames you for everything that goes wrong or threatens to harm you or your children, you’re also being abused.
“Emotional abuse can be subtle at first and may consist of name-calling, ignoring your feelings or cursing at you,” says Sue Maisch, M.S.W., of Child and Family Counseling in Glenwood Springs, Colo. “However, over time it usually escalates to repeated put-downs, ordering you to account for every minute of your time, false accusations and demanding you stop spending time with your family and friends. It becomes an emotional environment created by your abuser to control you and destroy your self-worth and independence.”
In a recent survey, 29 percent of American women reported being abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. Psychological abuse was more commonly reported than either physical or sexual abuse, accounting for almost half the violence against the women.
“Like all forms of domestic violence, women of all races, religions and economic classes are victimized by this sort of abuser,” says Ms. Maisch. “And in many instances, verbal attacks eventually lead to physical and sexual violence.”
Because there are no physical scars or broken bones, emotional abuse can be more difficult to recognize. Here are signs that indicate abuse:
Steps to take
Recognizing that you are being emotionally abused and controlled is the first step toward healing.
For help, call your local shelter or battered women’s hotline—look in the phone book under Social and Human Services. Or, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or visit http://www.ndvh.org.
If you’ve been threatened with harm or death, or are being stalked, call 911 or the police.
“Abuse is never justified and no one deserves it,” says Ms. Maisch. “Just like all abuse, the emotional kind hurts and can cause a great deal of damage. Responding to it quickly by identifying it for what it is and getting help can enable you to live free of fear, intimidation and self-doubt.”
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