It's a mistake to try to reason with an abuser. They can always talk you into
feeling horrible. Normal talk will not get through to an abuser. Everything you
say is misunderstood and twisted by the abuser. Abusers need to have a reason to
get upset and angry with their victim, and so nothing you do will avert these
arguments. It has very little to do with you or what you do or don't do. The ABUSER is
an argument, waiting for an excuse to happen.
Abuse Comes in Many Forms
ARE YOU BEING EMOTIONALLY ABUSED?
To determine whether or not you are being emotionally abused, you will need to work
past any resistance you have to the idea, your continual doubting of yourself, and
your tendency to give the abuser the benefit of the doubt. Even those women who already
know they are being emotionally abused may go in and out of denial about just how
damaging the abuse really is.
Emotional abuse is like brainwashing in that it systematically wears away at the victim's self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in her perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of "guidance" or "teaching", the results are similar. Eventually, the recepient of the abuse loses all sense of self and all remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones. (In fact, a great proportion of the damage caused by phyical and sexual abuse is emotional.)
The following is a list of many of the types of emotional abuse that women suffer.
You will readily recognize many of the behaviors on the list as abusive, but it
may surprise you to discover some that you may not think of as abusive.
Spiritual Abuse in Leadership This takes you to watchman.org site
Abuse in Relationships
People who dominate others need to be in charge, and they often try to control
another person's every action. They have to have their own way, and they often
resort to threats to get it.
When you allow yourself to be dominated by someone else, you begin to lose respect
for yourself, and you become silently enraged. Someone else is in control of your
life, just as assuredly as if you were a slave doing what you were ordered to do.
You are no longer the master of your own destiny.
Tia's husband Jim had control of all aspects of their lives. He regulated all money
matters--how much money was spent, what is was spent on, and who had what to spend.
Since Tia did not work outside the home, she had to rely on Jim to provide her with
If I needed anything I would
have to ask Jim for the money. This was always a major ordeal, since I had to
my reasons for wanting it, and Jim would have to "think it over" before making his
decision. I always felt like a child, asking my father for permission.
Jim also had control over the couple's social life:
Jim was critical of all my girlfriends. He didn't want me to be around
them--he said they were all a bad example. Instead, he wanted us
to get together with his friends from work and their wives, but I had nothing in
common with these people. The men would all stay in one room and drink and play poker,
and the women would all sit in the living room with the kids, watching television.
It just wasn't my idea of a good time, but I tried to go along with it to make
He even complained when I went over to see my mother. He said that all I did over
there was sit around and criticize him. I felt guilty when he said that, because
it was partly true. But I needed someone to talk to. I'd felt so isolated since
I'd married him.
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VERBAL: put downs; criticisms; name-calling; mimicking; twisting reality
(i.e. making her feel like she is crazy or over-reacting, defining the truth,
defining her motivations); threats to hurt her/someone she loves/pets; threats
to take the children/or using them to get at her; sarcasm; teasing; swearing at her;
ridiculing in the presence of others; treating her like a child; muttering at her;
purposefully breaking promises; interrupting her.
This set of behavior involves berating, belittling, criticizing, name calling,
screaming, threatening, blaming, and using sarcasm and humiliation. This kind of
abuse is extremely damaging to the victim's self-esteem and self-image. Just as
assuredly as physical violence assaults the body, verbal abuse assaults the mind
and spirit, causing wounds that are extremely difficult to heal. Not only is this
kind of abuse demeaning, but it is frightening as well. When someone yells at us,
we become afraid that they may also resort to physical violence.
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Here, the abuser places unreasonable demands on you, and you are expected to put
aside everything to satisfy his needs. This abuser demonstrates a constant need for
your undivided attention, demands frequent sex, or requires you to spend all of your
free time with him. But no matter how much time or attention you give, it is never
enough; this person can never be pleased, because there is always something more you
could have done. You are subjected to constant criticism, and you are constantly
berated because you don't fulfill all of this person's needs.
Melissa's father was extremely emotionally abusive to her when she was a child,
and because of this she has very little to do with him. Whenever she does see him,
he is suspicious, accusatory, and selfish. For example, as a physician, he can well
afford to pay her way through college, but he refuses to help her out financially
in any way. Seemingly unaware of how much more difficult it is for young people to
make it on their own today, he insists that since he was able to work his way through
medical school, Melissa should be able to maintain an apartment, keep up a car, and
pay her own way through college. As if it wasn't bad enough for Melissa to feel
abandoned by her father financially, he remains very insensitive to how difficult it
is for her and makes her feel bad that she isn't able to manage the way he thinks she
During a recent dinner conversation he asked her, "So when are you going to start
to college?" even though he knows that she doesn't have the money to go. Melissa
answered, "Probably not for a long time. I hardly have enough money to get by on,
much less save for college." At this, her father became visibly impatient with her
and said, "Oh, I get so tired of your crying poor!" You make a good salary. You're
just waiting for me to finally break down and foot the bill. Well, let me tell you
something, sister, you can wait until hell freezes over, because I will never
pay your way through college! I had to work my way through college, and if you have
any merit, you can do the same. There are no free rides."
After an evening with her father, Melissa always ends up doubting herself. As hard
as she tries, she can't help but take in her father's words. She thinks to herself,
"Maybe he's right--maybe I am just waiting for him to pay my way. Maybe if I really
tried I could manage my money better and be able to afford college."
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Emotional blackmail is one of the most powerful ways of manipulation. An emotional
blackmailer either consciously or unconsciously coerces another person into doing
what he wants by playing on that person's fear, guilt, or compassion. Women, in
particular, are easily exploited because they tend to place others' wishes and
feelings ahead of their own. They can be made to feel guilty for thinking of their
own needs and feelings first.
You are being emotionally blackmailed when someone threatens to end a relationship
if you don't give him what he wants, or when someone rejects you or distances himself
from you until you give in to his demands. If others give you the "cold shoulder"
whenever they are displeased with you, threatens to fire you if you don't do what
they say, or use other fear tactics to get you under control, they are using the
tactics of emotional blackmail.
Every time Mandy told her best friend, Gloria, that she didn't want to do something,
Gloria became very distant and uncommunicative. This would immediately make Mandy
uncomfortable, and she would ask Gloria what was wrong. "Oh, nothing," Gloria would
answer, sighing. But Mandy knew that something was wrong, and she usually knew that
what was wrong was that she hadn't agreed to do what Gloria wanted her to do. She
resented Gloria's manipulation, but she couldn't stand the discomfort and pressure
of Gloria's silence. Nine times out of ten, she'd end up agreeing to do whatever
it was that Gloria wanted, just to break the silent treatment.
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In this type of abusive situation, the abuser has drastic mood swings or sudden
emotional outbursts for no apparent reason, or gives inconsistent responses. Whenever
someone in your life reacts very differently at different times to the same behavior
from you, tells you one thing one day and the opposite the next, or frequently changes
his mind (liking something you do one day, but hating it the next), you are being
abused with unpredictable responses.
The reason this behavior is damaging is that it causes you to feel constantly on edge.
You are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and you can never know what is
expected of you. You must remain hypervigilant, waiting for the abuser's next outburst or
change of mood.
An alcoholic or a drug abuser is likely to be extremely unpredictable, exhibiting
one personality when sober and a totally different one when intoxicated or high.
Living with someone who is like this is tremendously demanding and anxiety provoking,
causing the abused person to feel constantly frightened, unsettled, and off balance.
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When someone is unrelently critical of you, always finds faults, and can never
be pleased, it is the insidious nature and cumulative effects of the abuse that
do the damage. Over time, this type of abuse eats away at your self-confidence
and sense of self-worth, undermining any good feelings you have about yourself
and about your accomplishments or achievements. Eventually, you become convinced
that nothing you do is worthwhile, and you may feel like just giving up.
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Character assassination occurs when someone constantly blows your mistakes out of
proportion, gossips about your past failures and mistakes and tells lies about you;
humiliates, criticizes, or makes fun of you in front of others; and discounts your
achievements. In addition to the pain this behavior causes you personally, character
assassination can ruin your personal and professional reputation, causing you to lose
lovers, friends, and jobs.
Amy was in love. She was engaged to a man she described as, "the most wonderful
man in the world." He was sensitive, intelligent, and good-looking, and he love her
madly. She couldn't wait to tell her best friend, Candice, all about him.
Candice seemed to know all about Amy's fiance. Amy felt very fortunate to have
such a good friend, one who wanted her to be happy. Candice said she couldn't wait
to meet Brad, so Amy arranged for the three of them to get together for dinner the
They had a wonderful dinner, and everyone got along very well. But as soon as Amy
excused herself to go to the ladies room, Candice told Brad that there were some things
about Amy's past that she thought he should know---namely, that Amy had been very
promiscuous, that she had been addicted to cocaine, and that she had once had an
Fortunately, Amy had already told Brad about these things. He had reassured her that
he still loved her, and that the past was the past. When Brad told Amy later on that
night what Candice had done, Amy was horrified. She couldn't believe that Candice
would have tried to ruin her relationship especially since she knew Amy was so happy.
When Amy confronted Candice about the incident, Candice denied ever having said
any of those things, and instead she accused Brad of trying to make trouble between
the two friends. Fortunately, Amy knew better. She had always knows Candice was
somewhat jealous of her, but she never thought she would go to this extreme. As
far as Amy was concerned, this was, unfortunately, the end of the friendship.
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This term comes from the movie of the same name, in which one character uses a
variety of insidious techniques to make another character doubt her perceptions,
her memory, and her very sanity. An abuser who does this may continually deny that
certain events occurred or that he said something you both know was said, or by
insinuating that you are exaggerating or lying. In this way, the abuser may be
trying to gain control over you or to avoid responsibility for his own actions.
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This type of abuse is characterized by continual upleavels and discord. The
abuser may deliberately start arguments and be in constant conflict with others.
He is likely to be "addicted" to drama," since creating chaos creates excitement
in crisis-oriented people. Seemingly unable to enjoy harmony and peace, the "charotic"
person" bursts out with constant disruptions and negative moods.
Stella's boss, Abby, is always in a crisis. There is always a job that needs to get out
"immediately," she is always in conflict with one of her employees, and she is always
upset about money. Every week there is a staff meeting in which Abby spouts off about
all of the problems in the company, making all present fearful of losing their jobs.
The way she tells it, the company is always on the verge of bankruptcy or some other
crisis. Not surprisingly, most of her employees are nervous wrecks because of the tension
she creates in the office.
At first, a batterer will say that his or her jealousy is a sign of love. It is not. Jealousy is a sign of insecurity and possessiveness. As time goes by, he or she may accuse you of flirting, spending too much time with family, co-workers or friends, or spending too much time at school and studying. A batterer may monitor time spent away from him or her and sabotage other relationships, work or school activities. He or she may accuse their partner of having affairs, sexual infidelity, promiscuity, and may threaten that, "If I can't have you, no one can." A nonviolent partner encourages you to have a social life.
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Sexual abuse and exploitation includes all forms of sexual assault, sexual harassment or sexual exploitation.
Withholding sex or demanding sex. Name calling such as whore, slut, figid, etc. Uncomfortable sex,
forceful sex, demeaning or degrading sex, the use of objects.
Forcing someone to participate in unwanted, unsafe or degrading sexual activity, or using
ridicule or other tactics to try to denigrate, control or limit their sexuality or
reproductive choices is sexual abuse. Threats of bringing in multiple bed partners,displaying pornography that makes her uncomfortable
, offers to pay for sex acts, being treated as a sex object, pressuring her to have sex with other men
or women, criticising her sexual ability, accusation of affairs.
(*Note) Demanding sex by using other forms of abuse and/or control.
Example: If you have sex with me I will treat you nice and not ignore you and act like I hate you.
MYTH: You can't be sexually abused if you're married. REALITY: YES, You can. Spouses are not
immune from abusing, or from being abused. It is true that many states
have laws which deny that a woman can be raped by her husband; but quite frankly, such laws
are a load of crap. Violation is violation, even if it is allowed by law. If your spouse is
pressuring, coercing, threatening, or somehow forcing you to have sex (violently or not),
you are being raped. It doesn't matter if they've worked hard all day, it doesn't matter
if they think it's your duty as a wife (or husband), it doesn't matter if they're drunk
or haven't had sex for weeks -- nobody has the right to use your body if you don't want
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Refusing to work or to be responsible for financial affairs…Not allowing you to work, Not allowing you to know about family finances… Making you ask for money… Keeping you in poverty… Not allowing you to have your own checkbook… Not paying alimony or child support when able.
We are all guilty of committing many of the above acts ourselves from time to time
as well as experiencing them from other people who are not generally abusive. When
a relationship is not going well, there is usually a great deal of arguing and
bickering, and either or both parties may resort to name calling, criticizing, and
other behaviors that they normally would not be involved in. But there is a vast
difference between name calling or criticizing in the heat of an argument and doing
so on a day-to-day basis.
Similarly, constant complaining is not necessarily emotional abusive unless it is
destructive and the intent is to make the other person feel bad. For example, a husband
who complains that the house isn't clean isn't necessarily being emotionally abusive.
But if he constantly tells his wife that she is bad, lazy, inconsiderate, selfish,
and so on because she does not clean the house, then he is being abusive.
True emotional abuse is distinguished by the following:
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- It is constant, as opposed to occasional
- The intent is to devalue and denigrate rather than to simply state a complaint
- The intent is to dominate and control rather than to provide constructive criticism
- The person has an overall attitude of disrespect toward you, rather than just not
liking something specific that you are doing.
They will question your sanity, retaliate, not permit you to make any important
decisions, monitor your movements and tell you that you deserve any abuse you get!
WHO ARE THE EMOTIONAL ABUSERS?
| Are You Being Abused? | Cycle of Abuse
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