Emotional/Psychological Abuse


Emotional abuse (also called psychological abuse or mental abuse) can include humiliating the victim privately or publicly, controlling what the victim can and cannot do, withholding information from the victim, deliberately doing something to make the victim feel diminished or embarrassed, isolating the victim from friends and family, implicitly blackmailing the victim by harming others when the victim expresses independence or happiness, or denying the victim access to money or other basic resources and necessities.

Emotional/verbal abuse is defined as any behaviour that threatens, intimidates, undermines the victim’s self-worth or self-esteem, or controls the victim’s freedom.  This can include threatening the victim with injury or harm, telling the victim that they will be killed if they ever leave the relationship, and public humiliation. Constant criticism, name-calling, and making statements that damage the victim’s self-esteem are also common forms of emotional abuse. Often perpetrators will use children to engage in emotional abuse by teaching them to harshly criticize the victim as well.

Emotional abuse includes conflicting actions or statements which are designed to confuse and create insecurity in the victim. These behaviours also lead the victim to question themselves, causing them to believe that they are making up the abuse or that the abuse is their fault.

Emotional abuse includes forceful efforts to isolate the victim, keeping them from contacting friends or family. This is intended to eliminate those who might try to help the victim leave the relationship and to create a lack of resources for them to rely on if they were to leave. Isolation results in damaging the victim’s sense of internal strength, leaving them feeling helpless and unable to escape from the situation.

People who are being emotionally abused often feel as if they do not own themselves; rather, they may feel that their significant other has nearly total control over them. Women or men undergoing emotional abuse often suffer from depression, which puts them at increased risk for suicide, eating disorders, and drug and alcohol abuse

Psychological Abuse

(also known as mental abuse or emotional abuse) occurs when one person controls information available to another person so as to manipulate that person’s sense of reality; what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

For example, psychological abuse might occur when a paedophile tells a child victim that she caused the paedophile to abuse her because she is a ‘slut’ who ‘tempted’ the paedophile. Psychological abuse often contains strong emotionally manipulative content designed to force the victim to comply with the abuser’s wishes.

It may be emotional abuse in this sense when it is designed to cause emotional pain to victims or to “mess with their heads” in attempts to gain compliance and counter any resistance. Alternatively, psychological abuse may occur when one victim is forced to watch another be abused in some fashion (verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually). Like verbal abuse, psychological abuse is often not recognized as abuse early on and can result in serious sequela (psychological after effects) later on.

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