Dear The Band,
My husband and I got into a very heated fight (to say the least). We were in each other’s face and things got physical and turned into domestic abuse.
Alcohol was involved.
I ended up going to the ER and was diagnosed with a head injury and a bruised rib. The police came to the hospital to ask me what happened – if I’d been the victim of domestic abuse – and I kept my mouth shut because I didn’t want both of us to to to jail.
I was charged with a domestic abuse charge. He would have been too, if I’d said anything.
Anyway, there’s a no contact order between him and I, but he has my children: my 2 1/2 son and my 9 year old daughter. I am only allowed to communicate through my attorney or at the family resource center.
Right now? He won’t answer the phone to either number.
It has been nine excruciating days since I’ve seen my children.
I learned that he’d filed a restraining order on me. He then shut my phone off and took all the money I had out of my bank account.
I’m staying with family now.
I want to see my children but he will not let me see them and I’m devastated.
We have a hearing for the restraining order on the 11th. I don’t know what to do to prepare for it. I have the hospital records of my injuries. I don’t want him in trouble because he is my husband and I still love him very much – we both need help and things got out of hand.
Without my kids, it’s hard to get up in the morning.
Has anyone else been in this situation?
*UPDATE* I finally got in touch with my attorney and let him know all the details. He told me to bring the hospital records to the hearing. As much as I wish this never had happened, I’m not going to be a doormat and let him scare me.
If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.
Abuse is defined as any sexual, emotional, physical, economic or psychological actions, or threats of actions that influence a victim, including behaviors that terrify, frighten, manipulate, terrorize, hurt, humiliate, blame, or cause physical injury. It is still abuse even if it only happens once. Domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior in any marriage or intimate partnership used to gain or maintain power, domination, and control over the other partner. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone of any age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, marital status. It can happen to couples who are dating, living together, or married. Domestic violence affects all education levels and socioeconomic backgrounds.
There are no “better” or “worse” stories of domestic violence or abuse, If it has happened to you, you have been abused. Many people associate domestic abuse with domestic violence as it is the most recognizable form of abuse, however emotional, financial, verbal, social, or neglect are also types of incredibly damaging behaviors. While domestic violence is often blamed, by the abuser, on losing control of their emotions, as a direct result of the victim’s actions, or outside forces, this is false: abuse is always a deliberate choice made by the abuser to control, silence, guilt, shame, intimidate, scare, humiliate, to hurt their victim.
It’s important to note that domestic violence and abuse do not discriminate: abuse occurs in hetero, homo, and other sexual relationships. The bottom line remains: abuse is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a woman, a man, a teenager, or an older adult. Every partner in the relationship should feel respected, safe, and valued. Unfortunately, domestic abuse often escalates from threats and other types of verbal abuse and leads to violence. While physical injury may be the most feared type of domestic abuse, the physiological and emotional consequences of exposure to domestic abuse are very serious. They can cause victim’s self-esteem and self-worth erode, them feel helpless and alone, and isolate them from their support system.
While it is often less-reported, men can also become domestic violence victims. It’s been estimated that one in every three domestic violence victims are indeed, male. Regardless of your gender, no one deserves to be abused by someone they love.
Why Does An Abuser Abuse?
It’s easy to dismiss episodes of domestic abuse as a “temporary loss of control” or as a “bad temper,” however you must remember that domestic abuse and violence are a deliberate choice by the abuser to control their victim. The domestic abuser engages in abusive behavior in order to gain control over their victim, which is done through a number of methods, including:
- Humiliation: is done by an abuser to make their victim feel badly – or defective – about themselves by name-calling, shaming, public insults and many other abuses all designed to make their victim feel powerless. If the victim’s self-esteem is eroded and they begin to feel worthless, they will begin to obey their abuser.
- Isolation: As a means to increase the victim’s dependence on their abuser, a domestic abuser will try to cut you off from the rest of the world. This may include prevention of the victim from seeing their families, prevent the victim to go to school or work, and prevent the victim from the outside world. Isolated domestic abuse victims must ask specifically to do anything, see anyone, or go anywhere.
- Dominance: Abusive individuals need to feel that they control the relationship. In order to achieve that, the abuser will make executive decisions for the victim, their family and expect their partner to do exactly as they say and obey the abuser at all costs. Sometimes abusers treat their victims like a servant, child, or even as their possession.
- Denial and Blame may be the hardest for abuse victims to distinguish as abuse. Abusers are incredibly good at making excuses for things that simply aren’t excusable. Domestic abusers may blame their behavior on a bad day or upon something the victim (or victims) did to deserve their abusers wrath. An abusive partner often will deny or minimize that the abuse happened and shift the responsibility for their abuse onto the victims.
- Threatening: in order to prevent their victims from leaving their abuser or frighten them to drop any domestic violence charges, the abuser may turn to threats, including killing the victim, the victims children, pets, or other family members. Abusers may even threaten suicide, report their victim to child services, or file false police reports against their victim.
- Intimidation is a means by which an abuser uses intimidation tactics to scare their victim into submission. Intimidation may include threatening looks, breaking possessions, smashing things, threatening gestures, destroying property, putting weapons on display, or hurting children or pets. The message from the abuse is clear: if the victim doesn’t obey, their will be violent consequences.
Can The Abuser Control Their Abuse?
Many people believe that abuse occurs simply because the abuser “can’t control it.” This could not be further from the truth; here’s why:
- An abuser picks and chooses those they abuse and don’t assault, threaten, or hurt every single person who gives them grief in their lives. Generally, abusers abuse their closest family members as their victim
- Violent abusers are able to control their temper and land any abuse in places where others cannot see them; the torso, upper legs, and other areas generally covered by clothing
- As an abuser chooses when and/or where they will abuse their victim(s) meaning that they can coordinate their behavior and assault their victim(s) when they are alone so that no one else is able to see the abuse. Often, in public, abusers are perfectly behaved to their victim(s)
- Abusers are not out of control; they can stop the abuse when it benefits them.
Types of Domestic Abuse:
Physical Domestic Abuse: physical abuse is the use of force in a manner that injures or endangers the victim as a means to exert control of the victim. Physical abuse may involve kicking, slapping, punching, or choking or some combination of physical tactics, all aimed at control and power. It can be hard to draw the line at what physical domestic abuse is. It is still domestic abuse even if:
- The episodes may seem minor when they’re compared to other people’s stories, things you’ve seen on TV, or heard other people discuss. There is no better or worse circumstance form of domestic physical abuse: all incidents can severely injure the victim.
- If you stop engaging and behave passively during a bout of physical abuse by giving up your right to express your feelings or self, to give up your rights as a person, make decisions, and stop whatever behavior is upsetting your partner, you are not assaulted.
- The episodes of abuse have only occurred a couple times in the relationship. If your loved one has hurt you physically once or twice, studies say that it’s very likely they will continue to do abuse their partner physically.
Emotional /Psychological/ Verbal Domestic Abuse may not leave physical scars on its victims, which can make domestic abuse victims that they are not, in fact, being abused. However, it has become evident that even if your abuse is emotional/verbal abuse, it is just as damaging to your self-esteem, self-worth, and feelings of independence. Emotional domestic abuse is often hard to identity for the victim, as it often occurs slowly and steadily, increasing in voracity as the years progress. Emotional abuse can include verbal abuse, isolation, controlling behavior, shaming, blaming, and name-calling on the part of the abuser.
- Sometimes, abusers who use emotional/psychological to threaten their victims by threatening actual physical violence, in order to get their partners to do as their abuser pleases
- The scars of emotional abuse are incredibly real and they run very deep within their victims. Many victims assume that if they’re not being beaten, it’s not abuse, however, emotional abuse can leave scars that run deeper than those from physical abuse.
- Emotional abuse does include verbal abuse: yelling, blaming, shaming, isolation, name-calling, intimidation, and controlling behaviors on the part of the abuse
Sexual Domestic Abuse is a form of physical abuse in which a victim is forced to participate in unwanted sexual activity, involving the genitals, anus, and/or mouth. The old way of thinking was that partners could ALWAYS demand sexual intimacy from their partners, however it is important to note that intimate partners do not have to right to force non-consensual sex upon their partner. Sexual abuse is an act of violence and aggression, not an act of love or passion.
Economic Domestic Abuse: Many abusers are hyper-controlling when it comes to finances and they often use money and finances as a means of control their victim. Examples of economic domestic abuse include:
- Insisting their partner account for every penny spent
- Setting an allowance for their partner
- Withholding money from their partner
- Insisting their partner open credit cards and run up the bills
- Insisting their partner commit fraud
- Prevention of the victim from gainful employment or sabotaging the victim’s job, preventing them from “moving up in the company”
- Withholding basic necessities
Cycle of Violence in Domestic Abuse:
Generally, there is a cycle of violence and abuse in domestically abusive relationship and it tends to follow this order:
- Abuse: The abuser lashes out in a power play designed to show the victim who is in control in their relationship. Afterward, the abuser feels:
- Guilt: The abuser feels guilt, not for what he’s done, but over the idea that they may get caught by authorities, friends of family. After that, the abuser begins to make:
- Excuses: The abuser fully rationalizes what they have done to the victim, and may rationalize their behavior by making up excuses “I just had such a bad day, I’m sorry” or victim-blaming, “Look what you made me do.” Abusers will say and do anything to avoid taking responsibility for the abuse. This leads to:
- “Normal” Behavior: In this part of the cycle, the abuser attempts to regain control of their victim in order to keep the victim from leaving their abuser. Sometimes, the abuser turns on the charm, loads his victim up with expensive gifts, and makes the victim feel loved and cherished. Or, the abuser may behave aif nothing has happened. No matter the form, this “Normal” behavior is an attempt of the abuser to make their victim feel as though the abuser has truly changed. They have not changed, as the next in this cycle of violence is:
- Fantasy and Planning: In this cycle, the abuser begins to have fantasies about his next violent abuse of the victim; how to punish the victim, and how to make the victim(s) pay. This begins the next cycle of domestic abuse:
- The Set-Up occurs when the abuser has decided to “set the victim up” for the next cycle of abuse. The abuser puts his diabolical plan in motion in order to abuse, then justify WHY the abuser opted for violence. Then, we return to #1 in the domestic violence cycle.
Am I Being Abused?
Sometimes it’s really hard to figure out what’s normal in a relationship, especially if it’s a relationship you’ve been in for a long time. But some may start to wonder, am I being abused? If you answer “yes” to any of the following (even if it is just one), you may be a victim of domestic abuse. Does your partner:
- Embarrass you or put you down?
- Behave in a way that scares you?
- Take your money or refuse to give you money when you ask?
- Make all of the decisions for you?
- Tell you you’re a crappy parent and threaten to take away your kids?
- Prevent you from going to work or school?
- Act like hurting you is no big deal?
- Stop you from seeing you friends or family?
- Intimidate you with guns or knives?
- Shove you, hit you or slap you around?
- Threaten suicide in order to keep you around?Threaten to kill you or someone you love?
- Use your pets and/or children to control, punish, manipulate or exact revenge on you?
If you answered yes to any of these, you may be in an abusive relationship.
Recognizing abuse for what it is is the first step to getting help.
For support, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY: 1-800-787-3224.
Potential Warning Signs of Domestic Violence:
It’s very hard to spot all the red flags of domestic abuse, but here are some common concerns:
The victim may:
- Talk about their partner’s temper or possessiveness
- Check-in excessively with their partner when alone
- Spend excessive worn and concern with pleasing their partner
- Do everything their partner says to do
- Receive frequent harassing phone calls from partner
Possible signs of domestic abuse:
- Seem scared or anxious to please their partner
- Be overly agreeable to everything their partner says and does
- Check in often with their partner to report on their activities
- Frequently receive harassing phone calls from their partner
- Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy or possessiveness
Possible signs of financial abuse:
- Have limited access to money or credit cards
- Have their spending tightly monitored
- Worry excessively how their partner will respond to what are typically considered simple, everyday purchases
Possible signs of physical abuse:
- Frequently miss work, school and social obligations without notice or explanation
- Make seemingly odd clothing choices in an effort to conceal bruises or scars, for example: wearing long sleeves or turtlenecks in the summer and sunglasses indoors
Possible signs of isolation:
- Have low self-esteem, even if they were once very confident
- Show significant changes in personality, such as an extroverted person becoming withdrawn
- Show signs of depression, anxiety or being suicidal
If you see any signs of domestic violence in a friend, loved one, co-worker, take them aside and talk to them about domestic violence.
If You Suspect Someone Is Being Abused:
- If you suspect someone is being abused and you’re hesitating, please, open your mouth and ask. The victim may not want to talk about it and may tell you that you’re wrong, and maybe you are wrong, but sometimes, expressing concern may save a life. How do you talk to someone you suspect is being abused? Simple:
- “I’ve noticed, this, this, and this (your reasons for suspecting domestic violence) and I’m concerned about you. Can I help?”
- Maybe they won’t want to talk to you then, but knowing someone cares about them, sometimes that’s a port in a storm.
- If you ask, be ready to support the person in a positive way.’
- Talk to this person privately
- Let go of all your preconceived notions of domestic violence and people who are abused.
- Remember, as frustrating as it is, there is no quick fix solution to domestic abuse.
- To empower this person, learn a little about domestic violence. Find out the services in your area that may be available.
When you are listening, remember:
- Support and respect this person and the decisions he or she makes. Even if you do not agree with them.
- Believe this person and tell them so.
- Validate his or her feelings. “Your feelings are very normal.”
- Do not judge this person when responding to what he or she says.
- Offer specific forms of help. “I can help you find a counselor” versus, “Let me know what you need.”
- Point out ways that he or she has been strong and courageous.
- Tell the victim that the abuse is not her fault and avoid bashing the abuser.
- Call 911 for all emergencies
How Do I Prepare For Leaving My Abuser?
Help If You’re Not a Citizen:
According to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), immigrant women who are experiencing domestic violence — and are married to abusers who are US Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents — may qualify to self-petition for legal status under VAWA. Get more information here. Domestic violence is against the law regardless of your immigration status. Learn more at Casa De Esperanza about your rights as an immigrant. Call the hotline for resources in your area that can help: En Español: 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
If you’re an immigrant, you may be hesitant to seek help out of fear that you will be deported. Language barriers, lack of economic dependence and limited social support can increase your isolation and your ability to access resources.Laws in the United States guarantee protection from domestic abuse, regardless of your immigrant status. Free or low-cost resources are available, including lawyers, shelter and medical care for you and your children. You may also be eligible for legal protections that allow immigrants who experience domestic violence to stay in the United States.
Call a national domestic violence hotline for guidance. These services are free and protect your privacy.
If you’re an older woman, you may face challenges related to your age and the length of your relationship. You may have grown up in a time when domestic violence was simply not discussed. You or your partner may have health problems that increase your dependency or sense of responsibility.
If you’re in a same-sex relationship, you might be less likely to seek help after an assault if you don’t want to disclose your sexual orientation. If you’ve been sexually assaulted by another woman, you might also fear that you won’t be believed.
Prepare for Emergencies:
- Be on the lookout for the red-flags that abuser is getting upset and may be ready to strike out in anger and try to come up with a couple reasons to get out of the house if you feel in imminent danger.
- Establish a code word, phrase or symbol for “call the police.” Teach it to everyone you are in contact with.
- Plan and identify a safe place your children can go to be safe, a locked room, a neighbor’s house. Be sure to remind them that it is not their job
- Establish the safe areas of the house that you can retreat to if the abuser attacks. Avoid enclosed spaces with no exits. If you can, get to a room with a phone or a window.
- Keep evidence of physical abuse (pictures), a diary of the abuse, and any medical documentation of the abuse
- Please call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for local resources for domestic violence victims with resources for legal help.
- Find out about local resources in your area: Women’sLaw.Org also provides state-by-state legal information
- Try to gain employable skills /take community college courses so that you are able to support yourself when you are free
- Squirrel some money away as you can and keep it in a safe place
Have an Escape Plan:
- Be ready to go at any time. Have the car gassed up, driver’s door unlocked, keys handy. Have emergency cash, documents, and clothing stashed somewhere safe.
- Have a packed bag ready and keep it in a secret place that is easy to reach. Leave money, an extra set of keys, extra clothes and, if you can, copies of important documents with someone you trust.
- Practice your escape – especially with children
- If your abuser will likely become violent to whomever you stay with, you are better off in a domestic violence shelter
- Memorize a list of emergency contacts including local shelters, police, and domestic violence hotlines.
- Find domestic violence shelters in your area and see which will accept your family.
- Here is a state-by-state list of Domestic Violence Resources
- Decide and plan where you will go if you have to leave home (even if you do not think you will need to). This should be a safe place from which you can call for further assistance.
- Figure out who’d let you stay with them and/or or lend you some money.
- Have a packed bag ready and keep it in a secret – yet easy to reach – place.
- Leave money, an extra set of keys, extra clothes and, if you can, and copies of important documents with someone you trust.
- Open a savings account in your own name to start to establish or increase your independence.
- Keep some change or a calling card on you at all times for emergency phone calls.
- Be mindful that a GPS locator can be easily hidden in a very small item, so be wary of any new “gifts” from your abuser
- Take the car to a trusted mechanic to locate the GPS and you can opt to remove it. Keep in mind, your abuser may track you to the repair shop and discover your escape plan. You can also buy counter-surveillance equipment to jam the GPS, but it may also jam the frequency of your cellphone.
Important Documents to Gather Prior to Leaving Your Abuser:
- All bank account numbers, credit cards, credit union, and 401(k) information
- Copies of outstanding loans, amount of monthly payments, current budget
- Joint and individual credit cards with balances. Get your name removed from joint cards if possible
- Pay stubs for at least 2 months
- Extra key for the safe deposit box
- Copies of your car title(s)
- The past 3 years’ worth of income tax returns
- Deeds to joint or individual property
- Copies of your and the abuser’s signature cards at the bank, CDs, and bonds
- Copy of any Personal Protection Order (PPO) – if one is in place
- Copies of all insurance policies, wills, trust funds, or pension fund information
- Abuser’s Social Security number, driver’s license number, work address and number
- Addresses and phone numbers of friends; criminal history; license plate number, and recent pictures
- Unless an attorney advises you not to, if you leave, take all personal assets and half of all joint assets (for example, bonds, saving accounts, checking account, credit card)
Protect Your Privacy:
- Most computer browsers (Google, Firefox, Safari, AOL, Microsoft Edge) track the pages that you visit when you are online, so you should clear your “cashe” after every time you use it. Learn more about erasing your browsing history.
- You are safest on a computer outside your home. Try your local library or college for access to free computers
- Be cautious with what you say in emails, texts, and messages. Your abuser may be able to access your account.
- Expect that everyone – even your abuser – will find out about your social media accounts. Close your social media accounts.
- Remove all information about yourself from online, including old blogs, old social media accounts, and email accounts.
- Make sure that your Twitter account is not set to tweet out your location. Here’s additional information about Twitter and privacy
- If you can’t delete certain pages of personal information, contact the “webmaster” or “host” of the site and explain why you need your information taken down
- Delete the Facebook App off your mobile device, tablet, and computer – this site frequently “follows you” around and you ex may be able to track you through it. Here’s how to remove your Facebook page.
- Change usernames and passwords for all accounts frequently and do not write them down. Change them into nonsensical series of numbers, symbols, and letters. Even if you believe that your abuser doesn’t have access to them, there are keylogging programs that can easily determine that information.
- Disconnect GPS from you phone, computer, and tablets. Learn how to disable geo-tagging on your smartphone.
- If you use a computer-based email program like Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora or Apple Mail, anybody who has access to your computer can read your email.
- Make certain that your computer does not “save” your email address and/or password and make certain to log out of your email each and every time you are finished using it.
- Be mindful of what you buy and where you buy it from – you don’t want to be tracked.
- Use landlines rather than cordless telephones, if you are able to find one as corded phones are harder to tap.
- Use a prepaid phone card or call collect so that the charges don’t appear on your phone bill.
- Obtain a new cellphone before you leave if possible – you want to make sure your phone is in no way connected to your partner.
- Check your cellphone settings – as there are a large number of social media site and other technologies that your abuser can use to listen to your calls or track your location, even if you do not answer the phone.
- Get your own cell phone that your abuser doesn’t know about. If you are purchasing a pay-as-you-go plan, pay cash so it cannot be connected to you
- Set a lock code onto your phone or use fingerprint sensing technology to ensure that no one can access your phone
- Turn off “Locate My Phone” if your phone has this
- Turn off the GPS on your phone and leave it on E-911
- Log yourself out of any apps you’re not using and consider deleting apps off your phone that show your location (Facebook, for example)
- Turn off Bluetooth when you’re not using it
- You can get a donated phone through a low-income program such as Safe Link Wireless – it is important to know that Verizon’s Hopeline will no longer be participating in donating phones to victims as of December 2018.
- If you had to bring your old phone with you, when you’re not using your cellphone, take out the battery and wrap it in tinfoil, however the minute it powers on, it will signal your location if someone is watching it
If You Have Pets:
- Have your pets vaccinated & licensed in your own name in order to establish ownership.
- Contact your local humane society, SPCA, animal control agency, boarding facility, or veterinarian to check if they have temporary foster care facilities for pets belonging to battered women. Check out a list of all the emergency housing for your pets available in all 50 states.
- Animals are considered property in all 50 states so be sure to include them in temporary restraining orders.
- Prepare the pets for a quick departure. Collect vaccination records, pet license, medical records, & other documents.
- Ask for help from animal care & control officers or law enforcement if your pets need to be retrieved from the abuser. Never reclaim animals from your abuser alone.
Safety After You’ve Left:
- Get an unlisted phone number
- Change locks and phone number and make sure your phone has caller ID and ask for it to be blocked so that when dialing out, your phone number does not appear
- Alert your employer and ask if they can have someone screen your calls
- Keep printouts of any online harassment, a diary of any stalking behaviors – including time, date, and what the abuser did
- Use a PO Box rather than using a home address
- Apply for state’s address confidentiality program (it will confidentially forward all mail to your home)
- Cancel all old bank accounts and credit cards. When you open new accounts, use a new bank.
- You may want to get a restraining order, BUT DO NOT FEEL FALSELY COMFORTED BY ONE. Not all states enforce restraining orders. Contact your state’s Domestic Violence Coalition to see what is legal in your state.
- If you do have a restraining order, keep a certified copy of it with you at all times, and inform friends, neighbors,and employers that you have a restraining order in effect
- Call local law enforcement to enforce the order, see how they can help you keep safe, and give copies of the restraining order to employers, neighbors ,and schools with a picture of the offender.
- Be aware that your addresses will be on your restraining order and any police reports, and be extremely careful who you give them to
- Tell people who take care of your children, drive them/pick them up from school, and activities. Explain your situation to them and provide them with a copy of the restraining order and a picture of your abuser and have them alert the police if they see anything suspicions
- Change your routine – new work hours, new routes, new places to frequent
- Change the route to school for your kids – or transfer them to a new school
- Make certain all the school staff are aware of this situation
- Change the stores you frequent, any appointments you have had on the calendar, and different social places
- Ask your neighbors to call the police in the event they see your abuser or feel that you are in danger
- Install a security system with video if possible
- Install metal doors to the outside
- Install motion-activated security lights outside
Additional Information For Domestic Abuse:
For those in the US, please call or visit the National Domestic Hotline (RAINN) at 800.656.HOPE (4673)
Visit ShelterSafe to find the helpline of a women’s shelter in Canada
In The UK, call Women’s Aid UK at 0808 2000 247.
If you’re in Ireland, call Women’s Aid at 1800 341 900. This company works to make women, men, and children safe from domestic violence, offer support, provide hope to those affected by abuse and work for justice and social change.
If you’re in Australia, please call 1800RESPECT at 1800 737 732 – this is a hotline open 24/7/365
The International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies has a global domestic violence network with country and state-specific information. They offer domestic violence hotlines and resources in over 110 different languages and are an invaluable resource for those around the world.
Last edit 11/2018 BSH
My therapist has asked me to write down a list.
A list of all the traumatic experiences that have happened to me in my life, that have contributed to my Bipolar Disorder and PTSD.
Right now, my therapist doesn’t feel as though I’m ready for the therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). As far as I understand, I have to relive my traumatic experiences, have the proper emotional response, get over it, then have Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) so I can develop some sort of coping mechanism for the future. But until my medications are adjusted and I’m in a better place, I have to wait.
So, here is my list:
Sexual abuse around age 3 by a family member. I repressed this memory until it slapped me in the face at age 12, causing an intense anxiety attack.
Constant arguing between my parents, thanks to my father’s alcoholism, gambling, and pain issues due to needing a hip replacement. The pain issue turned into an anger issue; turned into a power tool being thrown at my mother, missing, and going through the window and landing at my feet; followed by an argument on a holiday with my father resulting in me taking a heavy duty power torch to the head.
As a “gifted child,” I was bullied a lot in primary school and high school. I still carry some of those emotional scars with me.
Funnily enough, my brain is currently trying to stop me from accessing more memories. Suck it, brain; stop being a whiny bitch and let me write this shit out.
When I was 16, my mother – being severely depressed – attempted suicide several times. The last time she tried, she had an argument with my father (now a better man, nothing like his days in my earlier life), and downed a ton of pills. I found her and her suicide note. I actively suppress the things written on that note, but if I actively access that memory, the note started with “I no longer fear death. In fact, I embrace it.” That sentence haunts me in my dreams. She is fine now, thankfully, but I refused to talk about it with anyone and pretended it never happened.
I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder when I had a panic attack at high school so bad my heart rate was 180, and I had to be rushed to hospital for fear of doing damage to my heart. Since that day, I regularly have palpitations.
I had a psychotic episode at 17, when voices told me to stab my mother. I became paralyzed in my own bed while lights shone down from the ceiling, and I was convinced aliens were coming for me, despite my logical brain telling me I was being stupid.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis and told I should probably have children before 25. I’m currently a week away from my 24th birthday.
I moved out of my family home to the capital of my state to attend university. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at this stage, and promiscuity, sleepless nights, shopping sprees, and severe irritability kicked in.
I dated a Muslim man for eight months. Toward the end of the relationship, I was emotionally abused, when he called me a dog. I went running into the arms of a male friend.
I decided I was the worst person in the world and went off screwing any guy who looked my way, drinking myself into oblivion, and eating pills like candy, just to numb the pain. I wanted to be used. I asked my male friend – now my fuck buddy – if he was using me for sex. He replied yes. I cried and said, “good.” Turned out he wasn’t using me: he was in love with me; as a result of my promiscuity, and his inability to tell me how he felt, he quit university, broken-hearted.
I started dating my current partner, whom I have been with for five years now. We lived with his sister, her fiancé, and their daughter. His sister is a lazy bully who cannot look after herself, let alone children (currently a total of three). Her fiancé is a violent, alcoholic gambler. After being made a prisoner in my own bedroom, we got our own place.
My diagnosis of fibromyalgia explained my constant pain and tiredness. Yay for inheriting every single shitty illness my parents have.
Recently, I have started to have feelings for a close friend, who also has a partner. While drunk, we have made out twice. I have feelings for him, but he is just attracted to me. I have immense guilt over betraying my partner, who is emotionally stunted. I think I’m just attracted to my friend because he has the social and emotional skills my partner lacks.
I was severely bullied at my last job until I began having daily panic attacks and getting into a screaming matches with a higher-up and former friend.
I decided to self-harm and contemplated suicide when the medication I was taking for five years stopped working. Unfortunately, while the medication stopped working, my now non-existent libido did not return.
Have also suffered Dermatillomania (chronic skin-picking) for most of my life, particularly my feet. It is disgusting.
Currently, I am plagued by insomnia, headaches, anxiety, shame, severe depression, guilt, and every other horrible feeling imaginable. According to my therapist, I have feelings of low self-worth. According to my friends, I have a much lower opinion of myself than everyone else does of me.
I am both numb and emotionally unstable. I can’t cry, even though I really want to let it out. I think of myself as selfish and horrible, a terrible person who doesn’t deserve what I have. I theorize that I have some subconscious need to sabotage myself. Every time something is going well, just to add some drama in my life. Why I do this, I don’t know. And as I have written this list in such a cold, emotionless manner, I find it odd that I can be so numb and feel so many negative emotions at the same time. I feel like a robot.
I don’t want sympathy. At least, I don’t think I do. I am just tired. Tired of struggling through every day with these issues. I want the problems to just magically disappear because I’m tired of fighting.
I know it’s a long road ahead to my recovery. And as much as I don’t want to relive the aforementioned memories, I am also excited for the first time in ages because maybe, finally, with proper therapy…
…maybe I’ll finally get some peace and closure.
Call 911 for all emergencies.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)
National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (2-24453)
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1.800.656.HOPE (4673)
What Is Emotional Abuse?
Emotional Abuse is a form of abuse where the perpetrator uses fear, humiliation or verbal assault to undermine the self-esteem of their victim.
Many people think that if they’re not being physically abused, they’re not being abused. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Emotional abuse is extremely difficult to identify because it is often subtle. Emotional abuse leaves no physical “marks.”
Emotional abuse often accompanies other forms of abuse, but it can happen on its own as well. No abuse – neglect, physical, sexual or financial – happens without psychological consequences, therefore all abuse contains elements of emotional abuse.
Emotional abuse doesn’t just “go away.” Emotional abuse gets worse over time as it erodes a person’s self-esteem, confidence, and trust in their own judgment. It is similar to brainwashing – it can cause a victim to question reality and their own sanity, which leaves them at the mercy of relying on the very person who is abusing them.
Like other forms of abuse, emotional abusers strive to overpower the other person – the one with all the power has all of the control.
Emotional abuse is every bit as damaging as physical abuse.
How Does Emotional Abuse Happen?
Very few people willingly enter into an abusive relationship, but many of us who were emotionally abused as children find ourselves in emotionally abusive relationships as adults. We did not learn how to develop our own standards, viewpoints, or validate our own feelings as children, so as adults, the controlling/defining stance of an emotional abuser is familiar.
An emotional abuser (like his or her victim) struggles with feelings of powerlessness, anger and hurt, and may be attracted to those who haven’t learned to value themselves and their feelings.
The first step in recovery from emotional abuse is to evaluate and understand your relationship patterns (especially family relationships).
Knowing where you came from and why you’re like this can help prevent future abuse.
Signs You’re In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship:
How to Spot Emotional Abuse in Your Relationship
You must remember that emotional abuse is often subtle and, as a result, it can be very hard to detect. If you are having trouble understanding whether or not your relationship is abusive, stop and think about how the interactions with your partner, friend or family member make you feel. If you feel wounded, frustrated, confused, misunderstood, depressed, anxious or worthless any time you interact, chances are high that your relationship is emotionally abusive.
Here are signs that you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship. Keep in mind, even if your partner only does a handful of these things, you are still in an emotionally abusive relationship. Do not fall into the trap of telling yourself “it’s not that bad” and minimizing their behavior. Remember, everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.
Emotionally abusive people display unrealistic expectations. Some examples include:
- Making excessive demands of you
- Expecting you to dump everything to meet their needs
- Insisting you spend all of your time together
- Being dissatisfied – no matter how hard you try or how much you give
- Criticizing you for not completing tasks up to his or her standards
- Expecting you to share their opinions – you’re not allowed to have your own opinions
- Demanding that you name exact dates and times when discussing things that upset you. When you cannot, they dismiss the event as if it never happened
Emotionally abusive people invalidate you. Some examples include:
- Undermining, dismissing, or distorting your perceptions or reality
- Refusing to accept your feelings – trying to tell you how you should feel
- Requiring you to explain and explain and explain how you feel
- Calling you “too sensitive,” “too emotional,” or “crazy when you share your feelings
- Refusal to accept that your opinions matter or are valid
- Dismissing your wants, needs, requests as “ridiculous”
- Suggesting that your feelings are wrong or that you cannot be trusted by saying things like “you’re blowing this out of proportion” or “you exaggerate”
- Accusing you of being selfish, needy or materialistic if you express your wants or needs. He or she has the expectation that you should not have any wants or needs outside of your partner
Emotionally abusive people create chaos. Some examples include:
- Starting arguments for the sake of arguing
- Making confusing and contradictory statements (sometimes called “crazy-making”)
- Having drastic mood changes or sudden emotional outbursts
- Nitpicking at your clothes, your hair, your work, and more
- Behaving so erratically and unpredictably that you feel like you are “walking on eggshells”
Emotionally abusive people use emotional blackmail. Some examples include:
- Manipulating and controlling you by making you feel guilty
- Humiliating you in public or in private
- Using your fears, values, compassion or other hot buttons to control you or the situation
- Exaggerating your flaws or pointing them out in order to deflect attention or to avoid taking responsibility for their poor choices or mistakes
- Denying that an event took place or lying about it
- Punishing you by withholding affection
Emotionally abusive people act superior and entitled. Some examples include:
- Treating you like you are inferior
- Blaming you for their mistakes and shortcomings
- Doubting everything you say and attempting to prove you wrong
- Making jokes at your expense
- Telling you that your opinions, ideas, values, and thoughts are stupid, illogical or “do not make sense”
- Talking down to you or being condescending
- Using sarcasm when interacting with you
- Acting like they are always right, knows what is best and is smarter
Emotionally abusive people attempt to isolate and control you. Some examples include:
- Controlling who you see or spend time with including time with friends and family
- Monitoring your phone calls, text messages, social media, and email
- Accusing you of cheating and being jealous of outside relationships
- Taking or hiding your car keys
- Demanding to know where you are at all times or using GPS to track your every move
- Treating you like a possession or property
- Criticizing or making fun of your friends, family, and coworkers
- Using jealousy and envy as a sign of love and to keep you from being with others
- Coercing you into spending all of your time together
- Controlling the finances
Signs You May Be Emotionally Abusive:
Although not an exhaustive list, here are some signs that YOU may be emotionally abusive:
- You feel your partner pushes your buttons.
- Your partner puts you in a bad mood.
- There are times you don’t want to speak to or be around your partner.
- You feel you have to criticize your partner for not being more efficient or more reliable or a better person.
- You treat your partner in ways you couldn’t have imagined when you first started loving her.
- You sometimes make your partner feel like a failure as a provider, partner, parent, or lover.
- You automatically blame your partner when things go wrong.
- You resort to name-calling, swearing at your partner or putting him down.
- You threaten to take his children away.
- Your family and friends would be surprised to know how you treat your partner behind closed doors
Children are sensitive to what is going on around them and to the environment in which they live. Emotionally abusive actions towards children may include:
- Ignoring your child when he or she is in need.
- Not calling your child by his or her name.
- Making your child feel unwanted.
- Comparing your child to siblings or peers.
- Isolating your child from family and friends.
Types of Emotional Abuse:
Emotional abuse can be subtle that reading this list may be an eye-opener for you:
Abusive Expectations – Makes impossible demands, requires constant attention, and constantly criticizes.
Aggressing – Name calling, accusing, blames, threatens, or gives orders, and often disguised as a judgmental “I know best” or “helping” attitude.
Constant Chaos – Deliberately starts arguments with you or others. May treat you well in front of others, but changes when you’re alone.
Rejecting – Refusing to acknowledge a person’s value, worth or presence. Communicating that he or she is useless or inferior or devaluing his or her thoughts and feelings.
Denying – Denies personal needs (especially when the need is greatest) with the intent of causing hurt or as punishment. Uses silent treatment as punishment. Denies certain events happened or things that were said. Denies your perceptions, memory, and sanity by disallowing any viewpoints other than their own which causes self-doubt, confusion, and loss of self-esteem.
Degrading – Any behavior that diminishes the identity, worth or dignity of the person such as name-calling, mocking, teasing, insulting, ridiculing,
Emotional Blackmail – Uses guilt, compassion, or fear to get what he or she wants.
Terrorizing – Inducing intense fear or terror in a person, by threats or coercion.
Invalidation – Attempts to distort your perception of the world by refusing to acknowledge your personal reality. Says that your emotions and perceptions aren’t real and shouldn’t be trusted.
Isolating – Reducing or restricting freedom and normal contact with others.
Corrupting – Convincing a person to accept and engage in illegal activities.
Exploiting – Using a person for advantage or profit.
Minimizing – A less extreme form of denial that trivializes something you’ve expressed as unimportant or inconsequential.
Unpredictable Responses – Gets angry and upset in a situation that would normally not warrant a response. You walk around on eggshells to avoid any unnecessary drama over innocent comments you make. Drastic mood swings and outbursts.
Gas-lighting -A form of psychological abuse involving the manipulation of situations or events that cause a person to be confused or to doubt his perceptions and memories. Gaslighting causes victims to constantly second-guess themselves and wonder if they’re losing their minds.
What is the Long-Term Impact Of Being Abused?
When emotional abuse is severe and ongoing, a victim may lose their entire sense of self, sometimes without a single mark or bruise. Instead, the wounds are invisible to others, hidden in the self-doubt, worthlessness, and self-loathing the victim feels. In fact, many victims say that the scars from emotional abuse last far longer and are much deeper than those from physical abuse.
Over time, the accusations of verbal abuse, name-calling, criticisms, and gaslighting erode a victim’s sense of self so much that they can no longer see themselves realistically. Consequently, the victim begins to agree with the abuser and becomes internally critical. Once this happens, most victims become trapped in the abusive relationship believing that they will never be good enough for anyone else.
Emotional abuse can even impact friendships because emotionally abused people often worry about how people truly see them and if they truly like them. Eventually, victims will pull back from friendships and isolate themselves, convinced that no one likes them. What’s more, emotional abuse can cause a number of health problems including everything from depression and anxiety to stomach problems to insomnia.
What Do I Do If I’m Being Emotionally Abused?
Leaving an abusive relationship is difficult and can be dangerous. If you do not have friends or family that can help you, please contact a local women’s shelter or other organization that can help you safely leave the abusive relationship. Here are some tips for things you can do to help yourself if you’re being emotionally abused:
Make yourself physically and emotionally well – step one will always be to make sure you’re getting all the help you can. Stop worrying about pleasing the person abusing you. Take care of your needs. Do something that will help you think positive and affirm who you are.
Establish healthy emotional boundaries with your abuser – Firmly tell the abusive person that they may no longer yell at you, call you names, insult you, be rude to you, and so on. Then, tell them what will happen if they choose to engage in this behavior.
Stop blaming yourself – guilt may be the enemy of emotional abuse victims. What’s happened to you is not your fault – you couldn’t have known what your partner would do. If you have been in an emotionally abusive relationship for any amount of time, you may believe that there is something severely wrong with you. Why else would someone who says they love you act like this, right? But you are not the problem. Abuse is a choice.
Realize that you cannot “fix” the abusive person. Despite your best efforts, you will never be able to change an emotionally abusive person by doing something different or by being different. An abusive person makes a choice to behave abusively. Remind yourself that you cannot control their actions and that you are not to blame for their choices. The only thing you can fix or control is your response.
Do not engage with an abusive person. In other words, if an abuser tries to start an argument with you, begins insulting you, demands things from you or rages with jealousy, do not try to make explanations, soothe their feelings or make apologies for things you did not do. Simply walk away from the situation if you can.
Build a support network. Stop being silent about the abuse you are experiencing. Talk to a trusted friend, family member or even a counselor about what you are experiencing. Take time away from the abusive person as much as possible and spend time with people who love and support you.
Work on an exit plan. If your partner, friend, or family member has no intention of changing or working on their poor choices, you will not be able to remain in the abusive relationship forever. It will eventually take a toll on you both mentally and physically.
If your safety has been threatened, don’t hesitate to contact the local authorities.
Educate yourself about emotionally abusive relationships.
Remember that you’re not alone. The abuse is not your fault. No one deserves to be abused. Help is out there.
How Can I Help Someone In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?
If safety is ever a concern, don’t hesitate to find outside help. Here’s the State Coalition page for a state-by-state list of resources.
Educate yourself about emotionally abusive relationships.
Be gentle when you talk to the victim in an emotionally abusive relationship. Criticism of the abuser and his or her behavior may cause the victim to withdraw from you. Offer to lend an ear if they’d like it.
Help the person disconnect from their abuser so that they can see the situation in a more balanced light. You may be able to help provide the distance and clarity needed for the victim of emotional abuse to see the patterns of abuse.
Suggest continued therapy to overcome the abuse and work through their issues.
Additional Emotional Abuse Resources:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)
National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (2-24453)
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE (4673)
State Coalition List – Directory of state offices that can help you find local support, shelter, and free or low-cost legal services. Includes all U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
Domestic Violence Coalition: State-by-State directory of the Domestic Violence Coalitions.
Domestic Violence Shelters: State-by-State Directory of Domestic Violence Shelters.
RAINN: The nation’s largest anti-sexual assault network and a list of International Sexual Assault Resources
Page last audited 7/1/2019
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)
National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD
What Is Child Abuse?
Child abuse is an act by a parent or caretaker that results or allows a child to be subjected to emotional harm, physical injury, sexual assault, or death. Emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse are different types of child abuse.
Regardless of the type of child abuse, the result is serious emotional or physical harm.
Almost 5 children die every day as a result of child abuse. Three-fourths of those children are under the age of four.
It is estimated that between 60-85% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
Long-Term Effects of Child Abuse:
While there are several types of child abuse, all child abuse leaves lasting scars long after broken bones heal.
Difficulties with relationships. Growing up in a negligent and abusive environment damages the ability to easily trust another person.
Emotional Irregularities. Thanks to being unable to express emotions as children, adult child abuse survivors may have unexplained emotional irregularity, like unexplained depression or anxiety.
Core feelings of being worthless and damaged. It’s very difficult to overcome the feelings that, as an abused child, you were to blame for the abuse. As adults, it’s common to accept that those core feelings of worthlessness are facts. This may lead to settling for less than deserved in every aspect of adult life.
What Are The Types of Child Abuse?
As there can be a number of types of child abuse, it is important to note that most children are abused in a number of ways and may exhibit a great number of symptoms.
Physical Child Abuse:
Physical Child Abuse is when a parent, loved one, family friend, or caregiver causes any non-accidental physical injury to a child. There are many signs of physical abuse. If you see any of the following signs, please get help right away. Nearly 29% of adults report that they were physically abused as a child. Physical abuse may include striking, kicking, burning, biting, hair pulling, choking, throwing, shoving, whipping or any other action that injures a child. Even if the caregiver didn’t mean to cause injury, when the child is injured – it is abuse. Physical discipline from a parent that does not injure or impair a child is not considered abuse; however non-violent alternatives are always available.
Physical abuse can result in:
- Bruises, blisters, burns, cuts, and scratches
- Internal injuries, brain damage
- Broken bones, sprains, dislocated joints
- Emotional and psychological harm
- Lifelong injury, death
Signs of physical abuse in parent or caregiver:
- Can’t or won’t explain injury of child, or explains it in a way that doesn’t make sense
- Displays aggression to child or is overly anxious about child’s behavior
- Indicates child is not trustworthy, a liar, evil, a troublemaker
- Delays or prevents medical care for child
- Takes child to different doctors or hospitals
- Keeps child from school, church, clubs
- Has history of violence and/or abuse
Signs and symptoms of physical abuse in a child:
- Any injury to a child who is not crawling yet
- Visible and severe injuries
- Injuries at different stages of healing
- On different surfaces of the body
- Unexplained or explained in a way that doesn’t make sense
- Distinctive shape
- Frequency, timing and history of injuries (frequent, after weekends, vacations, school absences)
- Aggression toward peers, pets, other animals
- Seems afraid of parents or other adults
- Fear, withdrawal, depression, anxiety
- Wears long sleeves out of season
- Violent themes in fantasy, art, etc.
- Nightmares, insomnia
- Reports injury, severe discipline
- Immaturity, acting out, emotional and behavior extremes
- Self-destructive behavior or attitudes
Child neglect is when a parent or caregiver does not give the care, supervision, affection and support needed for a child’s health, safety, and well-being. Child neglect may involve:
- Physical neglect and inadequate supervision
- Emotional neglect
- Medical neglect
- Educational neglect
Physical Child Neglect: Children need enough care to be healthy and enough supervision to be safe. Adults that care for children must provide clothing, food and drink. A child also needs safe, healthy shelter, and adequate supervision.
Examples of physical child neglect:
- Deserting a child or refusing to take custody of a child who is under your care
- Repeatedly leaving a child in another’s custody for days or weeks at a time
- Failing to provide enough healthy food and drink
- Failing to provide clothes that are appropriate to the weather
- Failing to ensure adequate personal hygiene
- Not supervising a child appropriately
- Leaving the child with an inappropriate caregiver
- Exposing a child to unsafe/unsanitary environments or situations
Emotional Child Neglect: Children require enough affection and attention to feel loved and supported. If a child shows signs of psychological illness, it must be treated.
Examples of emotional child neglect:
- Ignoring a child’s need for attention, affection and emotional support
- Exposing a child to extreme or frequent violence, especially domestic violence
- Permitting a child to use drugs, use alcohol, or engage in crime
- Keeping a child isolated from friends and loved ones
Medical Neglect Some states do not prosecute parents who withhold certain types of medical care for religious reasons, but they may get a court order to protect the child’s life. Parents and caregivers must provide children with appropriate treatment for injuries and illness. They must also provide basic preventive care to make sure their child stays safe and healthy.
Examples of medical neglect:
- Not taking child to hospital or appropriate medical professional for serious illness or injury
- Keeping a child from getting needed treatment
- Not providing preventative medical and dental care
- Failing to follow medical recommendations for a child
Educational Neglect: Parents and schools share responsibility for making sure children have access to opportunities for academic success.
Examples of educational neglect:
- Allowing a child to miss too much school
- Not enrolling a child in school (or not providing comparable home-based education)
- Keeping a child from needed special education services
Signs of Child Neglect: There is no “smoking gun” for most child neglect cases. While even one instance of neglect can cause lifelong harm to a child, neglect often requires a pattern of behavior over a period of time for the child to develop symptoms:
Signs of Child Neglect in Caregivers/Parents:
There is no “typical neglectful parent.” Nevertheless, certain indicators may suggest a parent or caregiver needs help to nurture and protect the child or children in their care:
- Displays indifference or lack of care toward the child
- Depression, apathy, drug/alcohol abuse and other mental health issues
- Denies problems with child or blames the child for problems
- Views child negatively
- Relies on child for own care and well-being
Signs of Neglect in the Child:
While a single indicator may not be cause for alarm, children who are neglected often show that they need help:
- Clothing that is the wrong size, in disrepair, dirty, or not right for the weather
- Often hungry, stockpiles food, seeks food, may even show signs of malnutrition (like distended belly, protruding bones)
- Very low body weight, height for age
- Often tired, sleepy, listless
- Hygiene problems, body odor
- Talks about caring for younger siblings, not having a caregiver at home
- Untreated medical and dental problems, incomplete immunizations
- Truancy, frequently incomplete homework, frequent changes of school
Child Sexual Abuse:
Child sexual abuse occurs when an adult uses a child for sexual purposes or involves a child in sexual acts. It also includes when a child who is older or more powerful uses another child for sexual gratification or excitement. Over 21% of adults report being sexually abused as a child.
Sexual abuse of children includes:
- Non-contact abuse
- Making a child view a sex act
- Making a child view or show sex organs
- Inappropriate sexual talk
- Contact abuse
- Fondling and oral sex
- Making children perform a sex act
- Child prostitution and child pornography
Signs of sexual abuse in parent or caregiver:
- Parent fails to supervise child
- Unstable adult presence
- Jealous/possessive parent
- Sexual relationships troubled or dysfunctional
- Parent relies on child for emotional support
Signs of sexual abuse in a child:
- Difficulty sitting, walking, bowel problems
- Torn, stained, bloody undergarments
- Bleeding, bruises, pain, swelling, itching of genital area
- Frequent urinary tract infections or yeast infections
- Any sexually transmitted disease or related symptoms
- Reports sexual abuse
- Doesn’t want to change clothes (e.g., for P.E.)
- Withdrawn, depressed, anxious
- Eating disorders, preoccupation with body
- Aggression, delinquency, poor peer relationships
- Poor self-image, poor self-care, lack of confidence
- Sudden absenteeism, decline in school performance
- Substance abuse, running away, recklessness, suicide attempts
- Sleep disturbance, fear of bedtime, nightmares, bed wetting (at advanced age)
- Sexual acting out, excessive masturbation
- Unusual or repetitive soothing behaviors (hand-washing, pacing, rocking, etc.)
- Sexual behavior or knowledge that is advanced or unusual
Child Emotional Abuse:
Child Emotional Abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver harms a child’s mental and social development, or causes severe emotional harm. While a single incident may be abuse, most often emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior that causes damage over time. Nearly 11% of adults report being emotionally abused as a child.
Emotional abuse can include:
- Rejecting or ignoring: telling a child he or she is unwanted or unloved, showing little interest in child, not initiating or returning affection, not listening to the child, not validating the child’s feelings, breaking promises, cutting child off in conversation
- Shaming or humiliating: calling a child names, criticizing, belittling, demeaning, berating, mocking, using language or taking action that takes aim at child’s feelings of self-worth
- Terrorizing: accusing, blaming, insulting, punishing with or threatening abandonment, harm or death, setting a child up for failure, manipulating, taking advantage of a child’s weakness or reliance on adults, slandering, screaming, yelling
- Isolating: keeping child from peers and positive activities, confining child to small area, forbidding play or other stimulating experiences
- Corrupting: engaging child in criminal acts, telling lies to justify actions or ideas, encouraging misbehavior
Signs of emotional abuse in parent or caregiver:
- Routinely ignores, criticizes, yells at or blames child
- Plays favorites with one sibling over another
- Poor anger management or emotional self-regulation
- Stormy relationships with other adults, disrespect for authority
- History of violence or abuse
- Untreated mental illness, alcoholism or substance abuse
Delays in development, including:
- Wetting bed, pants
- Speech disorders
- Health problems like ulcers, skin disorders
- Obesity and weight fluctuation
- Habits like sucking, biting, rocking
- Learning disabilities and developmental delays
- Overly compliant or defensive
- Extreme emotions, aggression, withdrawal
- Anxieties, phobias, sleep disorders
- Destructive or anti-social behaviors (violence, cruelty, vandalism, stealing, cheating, lying)
- Behavior that is inappropriate for age (too adult, too infantile)
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
What Do I Say To An Abused Child?
If you’re in a situation where a child discloses abuse to you, there are a number of steps you can take.
- Listen carefully to the child. Avoid expressing your own views on the matter. A reaction of shock or disbelief could cause the child to ‘shut down’, retract or stop talking
- Let them know they’ve done the right thing. Reassurance can make a big impact to the child who may have been keeping the abuse secret
- Tell them it’s not their fault. Abuse is never the child’s fault and they need to know this
- Say you will take them seriously. A child could keep abuse secret in fear they won’t be believed. They’ve told you because they want help and trust you’ll be the person to believe them and help them
- Don’t talk to the alleged abuser. Confronting the alleged abuser about what the child’s told you could make the situation a lot worse for the child
- Explain what you’ll do next. If age appropriate, explain to the child you’ll need to report the abuse to someone who will be able to help
- Don’t delay reporting the abuse. The sooner the abuse is reported after the child discloses the better. Report as soon as possible so details are fresh in your mind and action can be taken quickly.
- Child abuse is rarely faked, so it’s important to take any allegations of abuse seriously. If a child comes to you with claims of abuse, call 1-800-4AChild to report abuse or get help.
- Reassure the abused child that it was not their fault; that they did nothing wrong. It’s hard to come forward and the feelings of guilt are strong for an abused child.
- Don’t play interrogator and fire questions at the child because it will only confuse them and make them feel as though you’re questioning the validity of their claims of abuse.
- Remain as calm as you can.
- Make sure that the child is safe. Do not put yourself or that child at risk. Alert the professionals to the abuse.
Child Abuse Hotlines:
National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (US, its territories, and Canada)
National Youth Crisis Hotline – 1-800-HIT-HOME
For Parents: 1-855-4-A-PARENT
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
Canadian Child Abuse Hotlines:
Child Abuse Prevention: 310-1234 (no area code needed)
Child Abuse Resources For Parents:
National Parent Helpline Resources and an anonymous helpline staffed by volunteers to help foster emotional support for parents and build stronger families.
Parents Anonymous is a child abuse prevention organization dedicated to supporting families creating strong communities and safe homes for all children.
Professional Resources for Child Abuse:
Nurse-Family Partnership – a voluntary, free maternal and childhood health program, Nurse-Family Partnership gives first-time moms valuable knowledge and support throughout pregnancy and until their babies reach two years of age. Partnering first-time moms with caring nurse home visitors empowers these mothers to confidently create a better life for their children and themselves.
Darkness to Light – nationally available program proven to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change child protective behaviors. This site also has a list of state-by-state resources.
National Children’s Alliance: is a professional membership organization dedicated to helping local communities respond to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective and efficient – and put the needs of child victims first.
For Victims of Child Abuse:
Childhelp – dedicated to preventing and treating child abuse. If you are being abused, know that no one has the right to do this to you. Please call the hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD, then press one. The hotline is confidential which means you don’t have to tell them who you are. It is also free, so no one will see the number on your phone bill.
This hotline is staffed by degreed, professional counselors who are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. All calls are anonymous and toll-free. Use this number if you know or suspect a child is being abused; if you are a child who is being abused; of if you abuse or fear you may abuse your children
Page last audited 7/2018