Healthy Living

Signs Of An Abusive Relationship When There Is No Physical Violence — Yet

Couple
Many women view abuse in a relationship as a purely physical occurrence. Ed Yourdon, CC BY-SA 2.0

When it comes to abusive relationships, the signs of physical abuse are often apparent enough for friends or family members to recognize. Bruises, broken bones, scars, and utter exhaustion can all be telltale signs that someone may be victim to abuse. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. And, in the United States alone, 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by a partner each year.

But, what happens when there is no physical abuse? Your partner doesn't hit you or physically hurt you, so can you still be a victim of abuse? Yes.

According to the Office of Women's Health under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, emotional abuse is often a precursor for physical abuse. And so, signs of mental or emotional abuse should be taken as seriously as those of physical abuse. In non-physical abuse situations, however, it may be even harder for victims to understand that they are in an abusive relationship.

Psychologists believe that emotional abuse can also lead to chronic states of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, which is the most common symptom of a mentally abusive relationship.

“The feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that many victims fall prey to has a profoundly undermining effect on their mental and emotional wellbeing,” said Susanne Babbel, Ph.D., a licensed marriage therapist.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

1. Humiliation

One partner goes out of his or her way to make the other person feel put down, ashamed, degraded, ridiculed, or embarrassed. Sometimes, this abusive partner might even follow-up his or her insult by saying that it was a joke and that the other person was being too sensitive.

2. Economic Abuse

This could mean controlling money, withholding it, or making it so that a spouse has no source of income besides by asking the abuser. This ultimately puts the abuser in a place of power and control. Economic abuse can also entail interfering with a partner's efforts to maintain a job by sabotaging childcare, transportation, or other arrangements, harassing the person at work, and making it generally difficult to find and keep a job.

3. Domination

The abuser tries to chastise his or her victim or treats the person like a child who needs to be scolded. Belittling the victim's aspirations, dreams, or goals is also a sign of domination. Such abusers also like to remind victims of their shortcomings, faults, and flaws. This plays into the insecurities of the victims, which often results in them staying in the abusive relationship. Domination is also used to control victims by making them feel as if no one besides their abuser will ‘accept’ and ‘love’ them.

4. Blame and Unreasonable Expectations

Victims will often feel as if they are not able to meet the unreasonable expectations of their abuser. Abusers make themselves appear to be absolutely perfect and, in turn, expect their victims to live up to their expectations as well.

If you or someone you know is being emotionally (or physically) abused, refer to the following national abuse hotlines below:

The Hotline: (800) 766-7233

Safe Horizon: (800) 621-4673

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