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Of Emotional Abuse As A Form Of Gender Based Violence

Emotional abuse is a type of gender based violence that is sometimes overlooked. This article therefore seeks to shed more light on emotional abuse. 

It is worth noting that emotional abuse is also enlisted as a form of domestic violence in Section 2 of the Domestic Violence Act Cap 28; 05. The contents of this article are largely excerpts taken from Paul Moglia’s book on Emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is a form of interpersonal violence that encompasses all forms of non-physical violence and distress caused through non-verbal and verbal actions. Emotional abuse is deliberate and manipulative and is a method of control. It often occurs in conjunction with other types of abuse, but it may also occur in isolation. Like other types of abuse, emotional abuse most often affects those with the least power and resources.

Emotional abusers have a need to dominate and feel in charge of their victims. Threatening or coercive tactics like intimidation, humiliation, harassment, embarrassment, social isolation, verbal assaults, insults, threats, financial control, work restrictions, and disregard for victims’ needs are all means to exert power and control over them. Occasional abusive behavior does not intimate an abusive relationship, but the frequency and duration of emotional abuse episodes and the actions that lead up to emotional abuse determine if it is an ongoing pattern of abuse. 

Whether obvious or subtle, emotional abuse eventually results in victims feeling powerless, hurt, angry, worthless, and afraid. Abusers choose who they will abuse. They do not threaten or abuse everyone; they abuse those closest to them. Abusers choose when to abuse. It is planned. In public, abusers may do well keeping themselves in control. Their outbursts of abusive behavior are conserved for private altercations. Abuse is not a random act of loss of control; abusers can and do stop when it is to their benefit.

Emotional abusers often struggle with the same emotions as their victims. Frequently, abusers were victims of emotional abuse that caused them to feel the same sense of powerlessness, hurt, fear, and anger. Consequently, offenders generally seek people who are helpless or who do not acknowledge their own feelings, perceptions, or viewpoints which then allows abusers to feel securely in control of their victims.

Tactics of emotional abuse ensure abusers maintain

control of their victims. Such tactics include the following: isolation from family and friends that increases victims’ dependence on their abuser; threats of personal harm, harm to loved ones, or self-harm that keep victims fearful to leave; intimidation with acts of aggression like destroying personal property, facial and physical gestures, harming pets, or displaying weapons that insinuate violent repercussions to make victims conform to the wishes of their abuser; and humiliation, verbal criticism, name-calling, shaming, and public insults that destroy self-esteem and leave victims powerless and controlled. Eventually, victims of emotional abuse lose all sense of self.

Emotional abuse is often longer lasting than physical abuse because it is a gradual destruction of victims’ confidence and sense of self-worth. Victims may be fearful to talk to anyone about the abuse because they have been convinced by their abuser that no one will believe them or they are threatened with severe consequences if they do.

Though physical injuries mend over time, emotional injuries can impact victims for a lifetime. Victims’ perceptions of their situation become unrealistic. They may not acknowledge or recognize the emotional abuse, and they develop coping mechanisms like denial and minimization of their abuse as means to accommodate for it. Victims’ reports of emotional abuse reveal that their abusers controlled the company they kept, where they went, when they made family contact. They also threatened to take their children. Women, especially, reported that they were made to feel ashamed, belittled, or humiliated by their abuser.

Conclusively, emotional abuse is a silent yet deadly cancer that often saps the victim’s zest for life.  We can never enjoy our human rights to the fullest if our emotions and confidence are relentlessly battered, hence the need for us to individually and collectively take charge of our emotional health.  The next article will be a buildup on this one. 

Gaone Monau is a practicing attorney and motivational speaker. For bookings on gender based violence awareness seminars, motivational talks or consultations on relationships, confidence building, stress management and self-discovery contact +26774542732 or  Her facebook page is Be Motivated with Gaone.

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