From Natasha Silverbell: Emotional abuse in relationships is more common than we would like to admit. If we’re going to be realistic about it, abusive relationships are rampant. 1 in 4 American women experience physical violence by an intimate partner.
Culturally we have become pretty open and aware of what domestic violence looks like. Obvious signs of physical abuse are bruising, scratches, and individuals wanting to remain covered up. Emotional and verbal abuse are far more common and are just as damaging. It's crucial to understand what emotional and verbal abuse looks and sounds like.
It's even more crucial on how to learn to prevent it, stop it, and heal from it. Another fact we are quick to gloss over is that it affects both men and women. Let’s get educated.
I had a client, “Sophie”, who was lying in bed one night when she heard the neighbors arguing through the walls. Though the neighbors often fought in the middle of the night, this time she awoke to the husband making chanting like noises. The woman, now and then, would scream but then it would dissipate. Sophie turned to her husband and asked him what the noise was, and what the man was doing. The husband said he knew, the man was taunting his wife. In that moment Sophie realized that she was also a victim of this abuse. Her husband taunted her in berating and condescending tones.
The next day, Sophie talked to her doorman, generally asking why the neighbors fight so much and why the husband is so abusive. The doorman’s simple, yet profound response was “Well why does she choose to stay?”
When you are captive of an abusive relationship the idea that you could leave doesn’t even cross your mind. It’s too scary to think of the ramifications, especially if there are children involved.
You are being abused if you find yourself:
- Making excuses for your partners behavior
- Never doing anything right
- Wanting to go and hide
If your children start to ask, "Why did daddy call you a name? Or "Why did Mommy just yell so loudly?", these are also signs of abuse.
I always ask my clients, "Why does it have to take being beaten with a baseball bat for you to recognize you are being abused? It’s very important for these victims to have a strong, and secure support system so they know that they, themselves, and their feelings are just.
How To Talk To A Loved One About Abuse
If you have a strong feeling that someone you care about is in one of these abusive relationships there are very specific ways to approach the person. You can start talking to them about abuse, but not by talking about the abuse you think they are experiencing directly.
Let’s say “Catie” loves singing and music. You know it’s something she’s given up completely as a result of the influence of an unsupportive partner. You may want to ask her if she’s been able to do some singing events, go to a concert or listen to her favorite artist.
Non-threatening Talking Points
It’s a non-threatening way to make the person realize that they have a lot to offer that might be getting neglected and dismissed in their relationship. It may also allow her to think about something she’d like to do that is being taken away from her.
It’s always helpful to talk about abuse in a non-threatening way. Maybe one way is to talk about the abuse you see someone else suffering from to open up the door to that conversation. Or if you’ve had abuse in your own life talking about it openly can make others feels they are talking to someone who understands, without judgment. It is imperative if someone shares with you that they don’t feel judged.
If it’s clear someone you love is in a dangerous domestic violent situation, or even dangerous emotionally distressing relationship to take more immediate steps, you can always offer your place for a friend to stay. But that’s a very hard conversation to have in the beginning unless it’s an extraordinary circumstance.
One of my clients ‘Nancy’ knew her daughter was in a dangerous emotionally abusive relationship. She saw her daughter go from a healthy weight to a very scary low weight. Nancy knew her daughter’s partner had eating issues of his own. Now, he was pushing his non-fat, low calorie diet on her daughter. When she tried to talk to her daughter about it, her daughter was defensive and angry. The talk pushed her daughter closer to the abusive partner.
If this happens, let the person you’re concerned about know you are there. Offer to listen if they want to talk to someone about what’s going on.
How To Remove Yourself From An Abusive Relationship
If you know you’re in an abusive relationship and you want to get out, you need to build your support system. Then develop your own personal exit strategy.
Start by connecting with close, trustworthy friends and family. They can help by:
- Encourage you to leave in a non-threatening way
- Provide you with a place to stay
- Keeping eyes open for a job
- Make connections as volunteer in the community or your child’s school.
Maybe you always have a small bag packed in your closet? Maybe you distinguish your own close friend your "go to" call where you know she'll always pick up?
Have a plan and be willing to stick to it when you know the time is right. Taking your power back, knowing your worthy, and always putting you and your safety and health first is the #1 priority.
For More Information, Contact:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline
- Safe Horizon: Victim’s Services Agency
- Visit International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies for a global list of helplines, shelters, and crisis centers.
- Hidden Hurt: Domestic Abuse Information
- To find counseling and other therapies near you, visit Recovery Guidance.