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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.

Domestic Emotional abuse shows no signs of inury unlike physical abuse, but the impact on the victim can be devastating.
Domestic Emotional abuse shows no signs of inury unlike physical abuse, but the impact on the victim can be devastating.

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"Do you want some tea?"
"You need to ask?"

***brings tea***
"Is this the time to drink tea?"

***makes tea, does not give***
"You can't even make tea for everyone?"

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"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?"

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"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?"

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"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."

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"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."

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"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."

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***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."

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***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."

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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.

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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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While domestic abuse is distressingly common, it is equally normal for the victim to receive little or no assistance in dealing with an abusive partner or member of the family. Sadly, the "mind your own business" mentality continues to triumph against all logic. It does not seem to strike people that if marriage is not supposed to include abuse, abusive behavior between married people cannot be considered the "relationship". Absurd social assumptions of privacy continue to inadvertently strengthen abuse and stack odds against the victim and allow situations to escalate to levels where the only thing remains is for the chain to break at the weakest link - whether it is a person or a relationship.

But it need not be so. It is possible for socially committed people to influence situations so that abusive people cannot leverage their silence as a consensus against the victim. It is even possible without much risk or effort. What remains is to do it.

How can domestic abuse be prevented by bystanders?

A lot is possible. I'm listing out a few ideas that can be attempted according to the situation, how well you know the victim, and how strongly you feel about the matter.

Voice what is happening

You may not object, but make it clear that you notice what is happening. Abuse thrives in the shadows. For example, one person overruling or suppressing another in a group can easily be acknowledged with something as simple as "five of us want this, 3 want that, and XYZ seemed to want this till ABC stopped her.". In essence, you are doing nothing about the actions of the abuser other than stating them. However, an unfair action being stated reflects badly on the actor and discourages further similar actions out of a wish to not be seen as an unfair person. This is among the safest choices, as you are not required to know any backgrounds of actions beyond what you see, and if it isn't abuse, but has an alternative explanation, you do not end up making any accusations.

Make your disengagement clear

Abuse typically interprets silence of third parties to taste. Your lack of disagreement can be presented as your agreement with the abuser's view even if completely false. It is important to categorically make disagreement clear. While most people hesitate to make a scene, abuse going unchallenged gives it power because it creates the illusion of social sanction. You may not necessarily confront the abuser, but you can easily say something like "I see no harm why s/he shouldn't join us." By providing an alternative perspective, you break the image that "everyone" thinks like that. More so, you never know when others in the group also don't like but remain quiet, and it provides them with a graceful reminder to make their distance known too.

Make a stand

Make your stand clear. You don't have to support the victim, in fact, it is better that you don't in that moment. What you can do is make it clear that the abuser's behavior is unacceptable. "Please don't speak with your wife/husband/child like that in my presence". In this, it is important that you do not side with the victim who could be targeted in retaliation in your absence for things you said. Your confrontation should strictly be between the abuser and you, even if the subject is the victim. This may mean not involving information confided by the victim in particular - which may be seen by the abuser as an attack by the victim to influence you against them.

Use authority

Understand this. If you are in a position of authority and you don't challenge abuse, you are sanctioning it in the environment. It is absolutely reasonable to use your role and authority to set norms of behavior. "No hitting. No intimidation." "I have asked her for her opinion. If I wanted yours, I'd ask you." Straight, non-negotiable forbidding of inappropriate behavior when you have the authority to do so.

Offer support

Make it known to the victim that s/he can reach out for help. Cliched as it sounds, offer money if you can. Offer a safe home if you can. This cannot be stressed enough. Money and accommodation are the biggest reasons victims dare not leave abusive relationships. A stash of money comes in Handy for a quick taxi out when shit hits fan. Offer contacts. Discretely collect and share information on inexpensive accommodation if you offering is not possible or otherwise unsuitable. Offer it quietly and in an easy to remember/access manner. Repeat offer periodically, so that it remains in mind as a constant resource that can be trusted not to vanish. You may not be able to offer an option to get out of the abusive environment, but there may be other things that could help. Ask. Ask if there is anything.

Provide socialization

The biggest symptom of abuse is a person who withdraws, avoids social contact, feels awkward about answering questions about self and has poor self image. Having company helps. Helps provide a diversity of conversations rather than only abusive ones dominating the victim's interactions, which is how abusive situations narrow and create a perception of isolation and inferiority. Socialization also reduces opportunities of abuse as well as increases the threat of discovery and social disapproval.

Check up

Keen an eye, ask friends to occasionally check up on the person. If warranted, provide the victim a simple code that will mean she needs rescued. Something that is not blatant to others. DON'T take it lightly, ever. One of the things that helped me finally decide to risk moving out on my own with a disabled child in tow was something as seemingly unrelated as a day of internet outage resulting in phone calls asking if I was all right since I had vanished online.

Rescues

Unless you feel capable of taking charge of the victim's well being or offering a substantial part of the assistance needed in recovering, do not do solo rescues. Get police along. The rescue is the beginning. then comes the challenge - of rebuilding life. More difficult to get that assistance after being rescued. Much easier if the police are involved all through. A victim is also less likely to be intimidated into covering up in the presence of the police asking questions of the abuser.

Speak with social workers

They have options, ideas and assistance that could help the person much more effectively. They also have the manpower and diverse competencies to keep an eye, intervene or provide support as needed.

When to call cops rather than be sorry later?

You see unexplained injuries, acute depression to the point of aloofness, inexplicable changes of behaviour that are out of character for the person, hearing loud/angry voices or sounds of objects being thrown/banged/hit/etc, if you have a safety code that gets triggered... if you feel uneasy about the well being of someone in a known abusive situation.

Very likely that it will be a false alarm. Do it anyway. For one, you never know what you prevented by interrupting on time. For another, as someone outside the abuser's control with the power to call cops and get the abuser in serious trouble, you act as a shield. The abuser cannot prevent you from acting in any manner you wish, including reporting possible domestic abuse/crime. It becomes essential that any cops arriving find no trouble. It is as much a deterrent as a response.

If enough people do these simple things, society would be much safer.