Domestic abuse often escalates from verbal abuse to violence. And while physical injury may be the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological costs are also severe. Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy your self-esteem, lead to depression, and give you a sense of helplessness. Recognising that your situation is abusive is the first step to being free.
Signs of an abusive relationship
- feelings of self-loathing
- feelings of helplessness
- feelings of desperation
- fear of your partner
- walking on eggshells around your partner
- constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up
- your partner belittles you
- your partner controls you
Abusers use tactics to wield their control
Dominance– Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as his or her possession.
Humiliation– An abuser will do everything he or she can to make you feel bad about yourself. After all, if you believe you are worthless and that no one else will want you, you are less likely to escape. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public belittlement are all artillery of abuse.
Isolation– In order to increase your dependence on him/ her, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world by keeping you from seeing friends and family, or even prevent you from going to work.
Threats– Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, or other family members, and may threaten to report you to child services.
Intimidation– Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics intended to scare you into obedience. Such tactics include making threatening gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, or putting weaponry on display.
Denial and blame–Your abusive partner may minimise the abuse or deny that it occurred. He or she will commonly shift the blame onto you.
Survival strategies of abused women
Abused women develop astonishing ways of surviving the violence. Others rarely understand these strategies because they often seem unhelpful when viewed from outside the relationship. Often, a woman's survival strategies are used to support the myths around abuse and to blame her for the abuse.
Denial or minimising and making light of the abuse: pretending that the abuse isn't happening because it is too overwhelming to face what it means in her life
Learning not to fight back
Paralysis: not doing anything because whatever she does leads to more abuse.
Isolation and fear of intervention from outsiders (includes a woman refusing to contact the police or withdrawing charges): people who do not understand the situation often end up making it worse.
Trying to please the abuser: attempting to prevent violent outbreaks.
Hyper-vigilance (walking on eggshells): attempting to prevent violent outbreaks.
Playing "Superwoman": attempting to prevent violent outbreaks.
Belief in her own inferiority: The abuser insists that she accept his opinions and be submissive, passive and indecisive. He needs her to be dependent and subservient so he can feel in control. If she is not, he is likely to become violent.
Taking steps to heal and move on
The trauma of what you’ve been through can stay with you long after you’ve escaped the abusive situation. Counselling, therapy, and support groups for domestic abuse survivors can help you process what you’ve been through and learn how to build new and healthy relationships.
After the trauma you’ve been through, you may be struggling with upsetting emotions, frightening memories, or a sense of constant danger that you just can’t kick. Or you may feel numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. It can take a while to feel safe again. However, treatment and support from family and friends can speed your recovery from emotional and psychological trauma