Recognizing Emotional Abuse
Physical violence is not the only form of domestic abuse. Abuse is also when a partner
verbally humiliates you, demands all your attention, blames you for everything that
goes wrong, or threatens to harm you or your children.
Emotional abuse can be hard to identify at first and may consist of name-calling,
ignoring your feelings, or cursing at you. Over time, it usually increases to repeated
put-downs, ordering you to account for every minute of your time, accusing you of
doing things that you didn’t do, and demanding you stop spending time with your family
and friends. Your abuser creates an emotional environment to control you and destroy
your self-worth and independence.
You are not alone
In the U.S., over 12 million women and men are abused by an intimate partner each
year. Emotional abuse was more commonly reported than either physical or sexual abuse.
Emotional abuse accounts for almost half the violence against women. Like all forms
of domestic abuse, women of all races, religions, and economic classes are mistreated
by this sort of abuser. In many instances, verbal attacks can eventually lead to physical
and sexual violence.
How to recognize it
Because there are no physical scars or broken bones, emotional abuse can be more difficult
to recognize. Here are signs that point to abuse:
Your partner swears or yells at you.
Your partner repeatedly bullies, cross-examines, or degrades you.
Your partner uses name-calling, put-downs, and ridicule against you.
Your partner insults the people you care for, your family, and friends.
Your partner threatens to harm you or your family.
Your partner controls or limits your behavior by keeping you from using the
phone or seeing friends. You are not allowed to leave the room or the house.
Your access to money is limited or you are asked to account for every penny you
spend. Your partner follows you, and monitors or limits your phone conversations.
Your partner forces you to stay awake or repeatedly wakes you from sleep.
Your partner blames you for the way he treats you.
Your partner forces you to do degrading things like making you kneel, or making
you beg for money.
Your partner criticizes your thoughts, feelings, opinions, beliefs, and
Your partner treats you like a servant in matters of household chores and
Your partner is extremely jealous, constantly accusing you of flirting or
Your partner tells you that you are “sick” or “crazy.”
If you’re in a relationship that includes any of these behaviors, you are being abused.
Steps to take
Recognizing that you are being emotionally abused and controlled is the first step
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.
If you’ve been threatened with harm or death, or are being stalked, call 911 or the
Abuse is never acceptable and no one deserves it. Just like all abuse, the emotional
kind hurts and can cause a great deal of damage. Quickly identifying it for what it
is and getting help can allow you to live free of fear, bullying, and self-doubt.