Mention abuse or abusive behavior to most people and they will automatically think about violence, such as wife beater crime that they see on television. They will conjure up an image in their head of a man who beats his wife and possibly his children being led away by the police in handcuffs. However, domestic abuse takes many forms, including emotional abuse which can be just as damaging and leave the same scars on the victims.
Emotional abuse can take many forms. Both men and women are equally liable for emotional abuse in a relationship. In most cases, this form of abuse is not relegated strictly between the spouses in a family situation, but also on children. Emotional abuse differs from verbal abuse as it is more subtle. Where we may see verbal abuse as name calling and loud tirades of screaming, emotional abuse can be something as subtle as constantly putting someone down for any efforts that they make.
Anyone can be a victim of emotional abuse. The tricky thing about this form of abuse is that technically it is not a crime. While batterers will face a criminal charge for attacking others with violence, emotional abuse is something that usually occurs for the length of the relationship. Emotional abuse from a parent to a child can even follow them into adulthood.
One form of emotional abuse that is not often discussed is a parent who continually looks for shortcomings in their child. A child may strive desperately to please their parent or parents in their endeavors, only to be cut to the quick when the parent rejects their efforts. Those who perpetrate emotional abuse usually have a very low self esteem and are people who although may appear congenial to others, are difficult to please by those around them. A child who grows up with emotional abuse will typically have a very low self esteem that will make them act out in various ways. They may seek to gain emotional fulfillment by looking for it through others, often not in healthy ways.
Abuse is all about control. This goes for sexual abuse, violence, spiritual abuse as well as emotional abuse. Those who perpetrate any form of abuse are usually seeking to control another person through their behavior. Some of the abusive behavior is evident and can be spotted and even prosecuted as a crime. However, in the case of emotional abuse, the crime is hidden. Many children who are the victims of emotional abuse by their parents never even realize the extent of the abuse until long into adulthood . In many cases, children who are victims of emotional abuse will perpetrate the same abuse onto their own children, often without even realizing that they are doing this.
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Gregory Kyles, LPC
Anger Management & Domestic Violence Institute