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Emotional Abuse As A Form Of Gender Based Violence 2

This article is a build up to the erstwhile one and its contents are excerpts largely derived from Paul Moglia’s book on Emotional Abuse.

Emotional abuse, like other forms of abuse, occurs in cycles. There are three phases in the cycle of violence:

Phase I -Tension building phase, Phase II – Violence phase, and Phase III- Honeymoon phase. Over time the cycle of violence may change as the honeymoon phase shortens, and the tension and violence phases increase.

A decision to leave an abusive situation takes time and even repeated episodes of abuse before victims can leave. The amount of time may depend on a victim’s insecurities and concerns for others in the immediate environment who may feel the repercussions of a victim’s leaving. 

Phase I, or the Tension building phase, is when the abuser is extremely demanding, critical and moody, becomes more controlling, and makes threats. Money issues, children, or work are common triggers. The victim minimizes the problem in an effort to control the situation, withdraws as tension builds, and may attempt to pacify the abuser by giving in. As the tension intensifies, the victim has less and less control or ability to mollify the situation as it transitions into Phase II.

Phase II, or the Violence phase finds the abuser spiraling out of control as he or she feels control over the victim dwindling. The abuser’s threats increase, tension peaks, and physical or extreme emotional abuse follows. The violent incident is unpredictable, because it is not the victim’s behavior that triggers it. It is usually triggered by an external event or the abuser’s emotional state of mind. The abuser blames the victim for making “it” happen. The victim has lost control altogether and is helpless during this escalation. Sometimes victims instigate Phase II to “get it over with” so they gain some control again.

Phase III, or the Honeymoon phase, brings about a transformation in the abuser who is now remorseful, apologetic, and showers the victim with attention, expressions of love, and promises that “it” will never happen again as he or she manipulates the victim into forgiveness

and draws the victim back into the relationship. Though confused, the victim often feels guilty and responsible for the incident, minimizes it, and forgives the abuser.

Risk Factors

Research regarding risk factors for emotional abuse is

limited. Some general, identified risk factors for emotional abuse include lower socio-economic status, anger, fear, physical or mental disability, dependence, authoritarianism, low self-esteem, personality disorders, marital conflict, isolation, substance abuse, cognitive decline,  and discrepancies between partners’ education and occupation levels.

Risk factors for being an abuser include having problems controlling temper, extreme jealousy, fear of abandonment, history of being abused, unrealistic expectations of relationship, antisocial personality, risk taking personality, irresponsibility for own actions, animal cruelty, threats of violence, low self-esteem, relationship codependence, compulsiveness, substance abuse, personality disorder, and power and control issues.

Risk factors for being a victim of abuse include having low self-esteem, intense need for affection, history of being abused, substance abuser parents, codependence, depression, isolation, substance abuse, difficulty expressing emotions, validation of self through relationship, and selflessness. The majority of identified victims are women; however, men have been emotionally abused in both domestic and institutional settings.

Signs and symptoms

Generally, people who are in abusive relationships are afraid or fearful of their partners, conform to whatever their partners want, let their partners know their every move, are contacted frequently by their partners when they are out with them, comment on their partners’ jealousy and temper, have imposed restrictions regarding contact with family and friends, have restricted access to transportation and money, experience very low self esteem, and are withdrawn, depressed, anxious, or suicidal.

Abusers humiliate, chastise, publicly mock, demean opinions, ideas, suggestions, or needs of their victims, trivialize victims’ successes and accomplishments, control finances and how money is spent, stress mistakes victims may make, show no empathy for their victims, deny or blame victims for their (abuser’s) abusive behaviors, problems, and difficulties, believe they are never wrong, are intolerant of perceived lack of respect, and use manipulative or threatening tactics (sulk, withdraw, body language, facial expressions, play victim) to punish victims or force.

The next article will address how emotional abuse victims can find healing.

*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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