When people hear the words domestic violence and abuse, the typical assumption is that someone is being physically harmed. While sadly in many cases this is true, there is another form of abuse which often goes unnoticed – emotional abuse.
This happens when the abuser uses psychological tactics to cause harm and upset, often breaking down the self-esteem of the victim. This leads the victim to believe they can’t leave the relationship, and they become trapped in a cycle of abuse.
This form of domestic violence often centres around control. The abuser will try to gain control within the relationship and may even isolate the victim from their friends and family. Forcing the victim to comply with their wishes, this form of abuse can lead victims to believe they ‘deserve’ what is happening to them. For this reason it can be hard for people to recognise that they’re in an abusive relationship.
So, how do you know if your relationship is becoming abusive? If you feel as though you’re walking on eggshells around your partner, keep an eye out for the following indicators:
- They humiliate you in front of others.
- They put you down and criticise you.
- They ignore or exclude you from certain things.
- They use sarcasm and speak to you in a derogatory tone.
- They are unreasonably jealous.
- They are overly controlling.
- They guilt you into doing what they want you to do.
- They try to stop you seeing your friends and family.
- They use money to control you.
- They call/text you constantly when they’re not with you.
- They threaten to hurt themselves if you leave.
In the beginning, these actions can be quite subtle, but are likely to become more prominent as time goes on. In between this sort of behaviour, abusers will often act very lovingly. They’ll tell you how much they love you, buy you gifts and be incredibly charming. They may also put on a pleasant demeanor when you are around other people.
This is all part of the cycle of violence. These small acts of kindness are often enough to make you think they truly love you and that you’ll be able to work it out. It’s important to remember that this behaviour is not acceptable – no matter how much they tell you they love you.
If you recognise these signs, you may benefit from counselling. This will give you the time and space to talk about how you feel to someone outside of the relationship and will help you build your confidence so you can leave the relationship. You can also get in touch with a domestic violence support organisation like Women’s Aid and Refuge. The important thing is to take action as soon as possible – support is available and there is no reason at all why you should go through this alone.