Nearly all abusive relationships include some emotional abuse. Although insults and threats might seem less serious than violence, in fact, the long-term impact can be devastating. Many survivors say that the emotional abuse was the hardest part of their relationship and left the longest-lasting scars. Broken confidence can be much harder to make sense of, or prove to others, than broken bones.
Emotional abuse chips away at your self-esteem until you feel that you are nothing without your abuser and you can’t live without them. It can make you feel worthless and that you are to blame for all the problems there may be in your family.
Emotional abuse can include:
- Insults – hearing that you are “useless” or “ugly”, “a bad parent” or that “no-one else would have you” can wear away your confidence until you start to believe it.
- Shouting – at you or at your children
- Blaming you – for everything that goes wrong in their life, your relationship and your family
- Threatening you – with violence, or suicide or exposure (telling private things or lies about you to other people or to the authorities)
- Threatening others to make you co-operate – your children, pets or family members
- Isolation – preventing you from seeing family or friends, not allowing you to work or go to college, not allowing you to learn English or other skills that would make you more independent
- Jealousy – accusing you of having affairs, punishing you for having previous partners
- Shaming or embarrassing you in front of others
- Rigid gender roles – insisting you should manage the children and housework perfectly without any help, or that you should be out earning more money and not spending time with the children
- Punishing you – when they feel you have done something wrong, sulking
- Denial – saying you cause the abuse, that they had a bad day, being loving and apologetic after an attack
All of these behaviours are designed to make you doubt yourself and keep you doing as you’re told. It can be exhausting living in a state of constant anxiety, watchful that nothing you do or say upsets your partner. And it can take a long time to rebuild confidence after the abuse has ended. However, specialist domestic abuse support organisations like North Devon Against Domestic Abuse understand this and can help you recognise the effects and move on.