Why is is Difficult to Leave an Emotionally Abusive Relationship?
Emotional abuse is often hard for other people to see. Sometimes it is hard for the victim to see as well. There are no bruises. There are no broken bones. Other people in the victim’s life may believe that she is over-reacting to normal squabbling and relationship ups and downs.
One of the most damaging types of abuse, emotional abuse often looks to others like the victim is suffering from depression or Bi-Polar disorder; she is “crazy” and many times the abuser themselves take her to the doctor to “fix” her. She sometimes has a purse full of medication to help with depression, anxiety, to sleep, for fatigue during the day, and still has no relief from the symptoms.
As many as 90% of abusers who use physical abuse also use emotional abuse as an attempt to control their partner. Some of the tactics that an abusive partner uses are:
• Isolating their partner– often even the victim feels that it was her choice to not go out with friends or talk to family members. What she often does not see is that her choice was made because of the consequences of going out. An abuser will get mad, give the “silent treatment”, lay a guilt trip on her, say she doesn’t love him, etc. to where it is easier for her to just let go of all relationships other than with the abuser. When the day comes that the victim is ready to leave, she finds that there is no one left in her life to help her or support her.
• Criticizing – An abuser will find the things that the victim is most vulnerable or embarrassed about to criticize. He will criticize the victim’s religious beliefs, her looks, and her attitude. If she gets upset by his abuse, he will call her a baby (or worse), say she can’t take a joke, or she is overreacting.
• Extreme Jealousy – An abusive partner will accuse their victim of cheating and be jealous of everyone she talks to. If she is 5 minutes late he accuses her of being with her boyfriend. The abuser works himself into a rage which, in his mind, gives him the excuse to abuse.
• The abuser has the only feelings/opinion/job/property/etc. that matter – If the abuser is unhappy, no one in the house gets to be happy. It doesn’t matter what others opinions are, the abuser is always right. The abuser gets upset if the victim is not “respecting” him or his things but has no respect for the victim’s feelings or property. He often destroys her things, but will fly into a rage if his things are threatened in any way.
• Setting themselves up as the “good guy”– An abusive person sets up their alibi well ahead of the time they begin to abuse their partner. He may tell her family and friends that he is worried about her; that she is drinking/using drugs a lot, that she is acting crazy and that he thinks she must be cheating on him and that she is being abusive towards him. The abuser generally appears to be a perfect partner to others which often makes it difficult for the victim to leave because her family and friends have already been told by the abuser that it is all her fault.
• Controls all the money – An abuser will keep control of all the bank cards and finances, even if it is the victim’s paycheck. The abuser gets to purchase whatever he wants for himself but the victim has to ask for the money to buy personal items or household items and then account for every penny. The abuser will gamble away all the money and then get mad at the victim when the bills can’t get paid.
These are only a few of the many tactics and forms of emotional abuse that an abusive partner used against victims that we have worked with over the years. Many of the victim’s stories are the same, abusers use these same tactics over and over. If you or anyone else that you know is experiencing emotional, psychological, or any other type of abuse, please call the Safe House Alliance at 541-592-2515. Visit http://www.ncadv.org/files/PsychologicalAbuse.pdf for more information about emotional/psychological abuse.