Many people who have never been in an abusive relationship don’t understand why someone would stay in such a bad situation. But the truth is that like many things in life, relationships are complicated, personal, and depend on context.
Some people stay with their abusers because they are afraid for the safety of themselves or their children. Others stay because they have nowhere else to go. And sometimes, people don’t even realize that their relationships have become abusive.
Emotional abuse doesn’t leave physical scars, but it can leave other, less visible signs of trauma. In a relationship, emotional abuse can be as harmful as physical abuse. If you’re not sure whether your relationship is abusive or not, here are some signs to look out for so you can seek help if necessary.
Emotional abuse can be subtle. It’s not as dramatic as physical abuse and it can be harder for people to notice. On top of that, emotional abuse can escalate, getting gradually worse over time. There are four main signs that can help you identify abuse in your relationship.
Control and Shame
One clear sign that your partner is emotionally abusing you is that they’re using control and shame to gain a position of power. They might make threats to reveal sensitive information, act unpredictably, and exert control over your life. If your partner makes a habit of lecturing you or giving you orders, then you need to consider if you’re suffering from emotional abuse.
If your partner needs to know where you are at all times, or they spy on you via your browsing history and other digital communications, that’s a huge red flag. Emotional abusers also often take control of their partners’ finances or make big decisions without consulting them.
Accusations and Denial
Abusers will often make unfounded accusations and behave with extreme jealousy. They might blame you for their actions or problems or even make you upset on purpose and claim you’re the source of the problem.
If you express any concerns about their behavior, an abuser might tell you you’re crazy (gaslighting) or overreacting. They also might deny their behavior or accuse you of having no sense of humor.
If your partner ever makes you feel humiliated, then you may be dealing with an emotional abuser. Examples of humiliation within a relationship include character assassination or public embarrassment, name-calling, and put-downs. An emotional abuser may also belittle your accomplishments or interests and make you feel silly for being proud of them.
One of the ways abusers assert control is by isolating the victim. If your partner is coming between you and your friends and family, they may be trying to isolate you and prevent others from picking up on their abuse. People who are isolated from loved ones are easier to control.
An abusive partner might even try to dehumanize you by looking off to the side while they’re talking to you or shut down attempts to communicate. They might tune you out, give you no affection, or are indifferent to your emotions.
How to Get Help
Emotional abuse is hard to talk about, but it’s even harder on your self-esteem, well-being, and happiness. If your partner is displaying signs of emotional abuse, then you should get help as soon as you can.
You don’t have to go to friends and family if you don’t want to. There are resources for victims of abuse, including the National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.
How to Help Other Victims of Abuse
Many people who have been victims of abuse want to help others who have been through similar experiences. Even if you aren’t being abused yourself, you probably know someone who is. Getting involved will help to ensure that victims of abuse have the support they need to get out of the abusive situation.
There are lots of ways to help, including lobbying for changes in mental health policies. You can spread awareness and organize community events that educate people on helping abuse victims. Be a voice for change by speaking up and volunteering!
Where to Find Victim Advocate Training
If you want to advocate for domestic abuse victims and provide support for those who have been abused by a partner or family member, then you need to seek out victim advocate training. You can help people move on from their past and heal from the trauma of abuse, but you can’t just go in with good intentions and a sympathetic ear; you need in-depth knowledge.
People who are being abused need help. It isn’t easy to get yourself out of an abusive situation, but you should never be made to feel like you’re alone. If you’re being emotionally or physically abused, reach out and you’ll find people who are willing to help you build a better life.