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Sex + Relationships

Emotional Abuse Awareness

Although multitudes of people believe that abuse branches out into just two categories (physical and sexual abuse), there are far more ties of abuse that are skillfully neglected by society. Abuse can range from financial abuse to economic abuse, academic abuse, technological abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, and yes, sexual abuse and physical abuse. Some types of abuse are harder to see because they don’t involve bruises you can see with the naked eye. This is the case with emotional or psychological abuse. Abuse in itself constitutes “any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, manipulation, among other things”.


How is Emotional Abuse defined?

Emotional Abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to subtle tactics. Emotional abuse is characterized by humiliation, degradation, neglect, negating, judging, criticizing, domination, control, and shame, accusing, blaming, trivial and unreasonable demands or expectations, denies own shortcomings, emotional distancing, the “silent treatment,” isolation, emotional abandonment, emotional neglect, and codependence.


Usual traits of an abusive individual

The abuser can harbor a wide array of negative traits that the person will be an expert at handing. At first glance, the abuser may seem to be a charming, polite person, who is incapable of harm. Eventually, abusers show their true colors and can become all types of ugly.

Some characteristics are:

  • Being an excessively jealous and controlling person
  • Tends to start relationships quickly
  • Has unrealistic expectations of their partner
  • Isolates their partner
  • Blames others for their problems and emotions
  • The abuser could be hypersensitive, cruel, manipulative, and sexist.
  • Is verbally abusive (calls their partner by slurs, tells hurtful “jokes”, name-calling, criticizes, blames, yells and insults)
  • The abuser has “two personalities”.
  • Has a history of past abuse
  • Threats of violence
  • Breaks or throws objects
  • Uses any type of force used during an argument


Signs of emotional abuse

According to the Center for Relationship Abuse and Awareness, the following list constitutes common examples tactics that, when used as part of a pattern of behavior, may constitute emotional abuse:

  • Breaking promises, not following through on agreements, or not taking their fair share of responsibility.
  • Isolating you from family and friends.
  • Controlling what you do, who you talk to, and where you go.
  • Making threats against you.
  • Attacking your vulnerabilities, such as your language abilities, educational level, skills as a parent, religious and cultural beliefs, or physical appearance.
  • Playing mind games, such undercutting your sense of reality.
  • Forcing you to do degrading things.
  • Ignoring your feelings.
  • Driving too fast.
  • Withholding approval or affection as punishment.
  • Regularly threatening to leave or telling you to leave.
  • Harassing you about affairs your partner imagines you to be having.
  • Always claiming to be right.
  • Being unfaithful after committing to monogamy.


The Abuse Cycle


Why is emotional abuse so hard to see?

At times, even the recipient of emotional abuse is unaware that the abuse is occurring. One might associate it with other things, such as the current state of how things are going for the abuser. For example, a woman in a relationship might assume that the sudden emotional neglect from her boyfriend could be caused by the depression he suffers—instead of observing the cyclical pattern of abuse in which she keeps falling into. At other times, the victim blames their own self, again, instead of noticing how unhealthy the relationship has become.

Abusers often have a way of manipulating the situation, until the victim has no other option but to blame their own self. The fact that the victim is often isolated from friends and family makes them less likely to seek out for help, but if you – or a loved one – are going through an abusive relationship, never be afraid to do so.


National Domestic Abuse Hotline Toll-Free Phone: 800-799-7233 / 800-799-SAFE TTY: 800-787-3224

The sources consulted to write this article were Steve Hein’s EQI and the Center for Relationship Abuse and Awareness. Infographic provided courtesy of Casa de Esperanza.

Antoinette Luna is a Performance Studies and Comparative Literature major at the UPR. Her passions include writing, reading, and anything crafty. She loves to sew, write, and make things from scratch. DIY is the name of her game. Around campus, she is known as a bubbly young woman who goes by just Luna. Her future goals include traveling, traveling, and more traveling. Outspoken transfeminist, and wannabe activist, she's out to set fires.
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