Psychological abuse is designed to strip a person of all self esteem. It is mental violence that may or may not be accompanied by physical violence. It erodes self-esteem, isolates its victim and prevents actions to seek help. Psychological domestic abuse usually happens as a constant corrosive factor in a relationship rather than the easier to recognize physical violence, which occurs as distinct episodes with visible damage or actions of harm.
In a patriarchal culture, psychological abuse is rarely recognized as active harm being inflicted, but it is very damaging to the victim. Psychological abuse is almost always a part of domestic abuse, but less recognized and equally true is that where there is psychological abuse at home, it is domestic abuse as well. A person does not have to be hit to be abused.
“Do you want some tea?”
“You need to ask?”
“Is this the time to drink tea?”
***makes tea, does not give***
“You can’t even make tea for everyone?”
“Is it Diwali? Can’t you switch lights off?”
***reverse isn’t true***
“Please remember to switch lights off”
“So I forgot, you can’t even do such a small thing yourself if you spot it?”
“I am used to eating staying hungry. At least feed the kid.”
“Can’t you cook anything better? I’m sick of eating this all the time.”
“Why do I have to tell you what to cook? Can’t you even manage that much on your own?”
“Cook one day, tell everyone about it for a month.”
“House is always untidy. What do you spend your time on?”
“What do you need money for?”
“So what if you spend or work more at home? Do I do these comparisons?”
“Whatever you have is because of me, you ungrateful bitch.”
“Anyone else in my place would have kicked you out long ago.”
“If it weren’t for the child, I’d have kicked you out long ago.”
“Where are you going? Or is it too much to ask?”
“I’m not interested in the useless things you do.”
“Why are you dressed like this?”
“You can’t go now. You have to help me with this.”
***taunts in front of other people***
“She’s always eating.”
“Any time I drink, I have to see her long face.”
“Best wishes on your wedding. May your wife turn out to be better than mine.”
“You’re lucky. My wife is always spending my money and asking more.”
“She doesn’t understand all this.”
“Can’t go one day without embarrassing me.”
***if you seek help***
“Go… tell the world how you are suffering. It is fashionable to complain.”
“What will you do? Everyone will sympathize with you, but agree with me.”
“Not even your father will take you back. Your actions are like that.”
“Go approach who you want, but don’t come back to this house.”
“You won’t last a day on your own.”
More easily recognized forms include rage, blackmail and other intimidation. It is very common to have some “trigger subjects” that result in extreme rage and the victim is blamed for “starting it” knowing the reaction she gets. Such subjects usually are a reasonable expectation that the abuser does not want to agree to as a form of control over the victim. So extreme rages can happen over “I want to do a job” or “You need to contribute to household expenses.” or “Going somewhere for a few days” or anything. Really.
Such talk is designed to keep a person defensive and unable to question the treatment they get. It is abuse. Seek help. Find someone to speak with. The reality being painted is one designed to make you see yourself as an inferior, undeserving person getting advantages you don’t deserve, when the reality is usually the opposite.
Domestic mental abuse may not leave visible injuries, but it does result in other physical manifestations ranging from stress related ill health, psychological disorders, paranoia, sleeping or eating disorders and can be a risk factor for suicide. Apart from the obvious problem with it. It is unjust and hurtful.
It is likely you will recognize these words as some you hear often. To yourself, to others around you…. or you may recognize this as how you talk.
If you are a recipient of such talk, it is important to know that you are not responsible for the actions or speech of another. You have not caused this person to be nasty. They are nasty because they want to be nasty.
If you speak in such a manner, you are basically an abusive person, who I hope changes or meets an ugly end. Such conversation is often a part of “normal” home for many, who don’t realize it is abuse to speak in such a manner. If you wish not to speak in such a manner, it is important to keep an eye on what you say. Counselling for anger management can help dramatically in achieving an ability to express yourself without declaring to the world that the only way you can be right is by being too much of a nuisance to engage with to disagree with your self declared claim.
If you see such talk happening around you, you are in a position where with very little effort, you can disrupt the talk and show solidarity with the victim. Here are some idea on how you can prevent or fight domestic abuse around you.
It is possible for a person to be an abuser as well as abused. It is also possible for men to be abused, and it is a difficult area to understand, because accusations of women torturing men are more commonly used as psychological weapons against women to isolate them from sympathy. A good example is the highly strident “Men’s Rights Activists”, who are almost always found describing women as oppressors, while rarely seen seeking help for securing justice for any of the abundant men they believe to be “equally wronged by women”. On the other hand men who actually suffer end up silent for fear of social shame. A reliable indicator to check for is if the claim of abuse an accusation or a description of suffering. Using accusations of mental violence as further psychological weapon against a victim is common. However, When using such accusations to vilify, the sense of the communication is one of aggressive dominance, dictated interpretations of reality, generalizations and there is a distinct lack of any sense of helplessness, even when describing a situation where the “victim” is left with no choice. This goes for women who may use accusations against men too, though this is considerably rarer, specially if they are residing in a home owned by those they accuse.
The important thing is to remember that fixing guilt on any party is not useful, particularly when there are mutual accusations and a relationship history. It will also not help the victim for abusers to be able to claim a bias against them. The priority is for the abuse to end and space for talk to be created or distance so that the abuse cannot harm while a more proper resolution can be seeked.
The important thing is that all talk is a choice. A bully chooses to speak in a manner that hurts. Like any other abuse, no one “asks for” or “deserves” mental abuse either. No matter what.
Are there common phrases you hear that are not included in this post? Add them in comments. Let us help people learn to recognize unfair talk.
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