When you were young, you were likely told “words don’t hurt” if you reported to an adult that someone insulted you. Many of us carried this mantra into our adult lives and thought it to be the truth, but, essentially, it is a false statement. Words are the chief weapon of the emotional abuser, and while no physical injury is sustained, the wounds are palpable and detrimental to the victim(s).
Emotional abuse, like any abuse, is not discriminatory; it can and does happen to/is carried out by every age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, creed, religion, etc.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
Fighting or arguments in any relationship are normal and even healthy in some cases. An argument can help us understand our partner better and how to compromise on certain matters. People have disagreements and fights all the time. Where mere fighting differs from emotional abuse is in the control aspect. An abuser will demonstrate certain behaviors to exercise power over you and your life.
It is never okay to do this to another person, let alone someone you profess to love or care about. In no way, shape, or form is abuse the victim’s fault, no matter how much the abuser tries to shift the blame to the victim.
Many organizations deal exclusively with educating the public and providing help/resources to victims of domestic violence in all its varied forms. Many have outlined the many signs (or “red flags”) to indicate you are in an emotionally abusive relationship; these are just a few:
- Jealousy of the abuser toward you over time spent with friends, family, or other people.
- Keeping you from visiting or spending quality time with friends/family.
- Threatening looks or actions.
- Threatening you with weapons.
- Controlling your decisions for work or school.
- Insulting, degrading, or humiliating you in private or public.
- Coercing or pressuring you to participate in sex acts you are not comfortable with.
- Coercing or pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol.
- Destroying your personal property as punishment.
- Having sole or majority control of household finances without consultation with you; also includes withholding money or taking your money.
Context, of course, matters in every case, and these are just guidelines. Speaking to a lawyer like the professionals at Stange Law Firm or a mental health professional is encouraged, so you can have an unbiased, outside perspective on the situation and get the help you need. If left untreated, the wounds of emotional abuse can have long-lasting repercussions.
Gaslighting Is Emotional Abuse
“Gaslighting” is a word that refers to the 1944 movie Gaslight with Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, and Joseph Cotten. The movie is about a young woman, Paula Alquist (Bergman), who moves into her aunt’s London home years after her aunt’s murder. Her new husband, Gregory Anton (Boyer), has a secret he wishes to protect, and to prevent her from discovering it, devises a series of strange supernatural-seeming events (such as the gaslights dimming without having been touched, which is from where the title comes). All these events make Paula question her own sanity.
Like the movie, gaslighting refers to an attempt by an abuser to diminish or make a victim doubt his/her emotions or the truth. To gaslight, an abuser might:
- Deny outright the event in question ever happened, and say it is all in the victim’s head.
- Recall an event that happened completely differently from the way it occurred.
- Call the victim “insane” or another pejorative for mental illness or ascertain that the victim is just weak or overly sensitive.
Effects of Emotional Abuse
While knowledge and education about emotional abuse was in its infancy, many doubters or cynics would say that emotional abuse did not exist or that, since there was no physical evidence such as a black eye or broken bone, the abuse could not have occurred. This is, mercifully, a discredited approach today.
The short-term effects of emotional abuse are more acute and felt almost immediately after the abuse event. These indicators or effects include feelings of confusion, becoming overly accommodating to avoid abuse, hyper-aggression, bouts of crying, powerlessness, feeling of being used or controlled, feeling unwanted/unloved, etc.
These are all horrible feelings to experience acutely and, when prolonged, could develop into long-term problems, which are harder to treat/heal. They include:
- Diminished self-worth
- Withdrawal from family, friends, society, or activities/hobbies you once enjoyed
- Inability to achieve as you normally did
- Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempt(s)
- Phantom pain or physical pain without a direct cause
- Trust issues/diminished ability to trust others
- Substance use disorder (drugs/alcohol)
- Stockholm Syndrome, a condition of empathizing or siding with an abuser to mitigate or stop the abuse
What to Do if You Believe You Have Experienced Emotional Abuse
As with physical abuse, the need to reach out to others for help is paramount in stopping the abuse from happening again. Many feel that they might be dismissed, scrutinized, or outright told they are lying if they do not have physical injuries to show. At Stange Law Firm, that most certainly is not the case.
If you are in immediate danger and require help, the best course of action is to dial 911 and have police or medical professionals help you find a place to stay, away from your abuser. If you are not in immediate danger, reach out to a professional attorney to help you take the next legal steps.
Compassionate Representation With Stange Law Firm
If you are the victim of domestic abuse, the professionals at Stange Law Firm are here to help you through the process of obtaining a restraining order, temporary relief, or financial support in a caring and empathetic atmosphere. We can also help you procure a divorce (if married to your abuser) and navigate complex child custody issues in the wake of abuse.
We are here for you to protect you and your interests, helping you free yourself from your abuser so you can heal and move on from your experience. Contact us so we can get started on protecting you today.