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Emotional abuse: Most common type of domestic violence

The Pinoy Abroad section of GMA News Online is running a series of articles on gender-based violence to help empower women and enlighten men. We now turn our attention to EMOTIONAL ABUSE, the most common type of domestic violence.
Angela’s husband has never hit her. Still, she lives in fear of him as he constantly ridicules and scolds her for every little mistake she makes.  
According to the United States-based magazine “Psychology Today,” one of the worst things that can happen to a person is to live with an emotional abuser.
Psychological or emotional abuse is the most common type of violence experienced by women and children and is deemed by many as the "worst kind of abuse," the New Zealand-based non-profit group Women's Refuge said.
defines violence against women as any act that results in "physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women."
Specifically, the UN defines domestic violence as a violent act perpetrated by intimate
partners through:
  • physical abuse (such as slapping, beating, arm twisting, stabbing, strangling, burning, choking, kicking, threats with an object or weapon, murder, genital mutilation, and others); 
  • sexual abuse (such as coerced sex, intimidation or physical force, forcing unwanted sexual acts or forcing sex with others);
  • psychological abuse (includes intimidation, persecution, threats of abandonment or abuse, confinement to the home, surveillance, threats to take away custody of the children, destruction of objects, isolation, verbal aggression, and constant humiliation), and
  • economic abuse (includes denial of funds, refusal to contribute financially, denial of food and basic needs, and controlling access to health care, employment, etc.)
Resentful, emotionally abusive partner Dr. Steven Stosny, in a Psychology Today article, said one of the worst things that can happen to a person is to have an angry and emotionally abusive partner.  
“In terms of your health, happiness, and deepest values, one of the worst things that can happen is to live with a resentful, angry, or emotionally abusive partner," he wrote. On the other hand, he said the worst thing an abused person can develop is "an identity as a victim" as this destroys one's sense of self and personal power.
When emotional abuse occurs in a relationship, Stosny said two things must be done:
  • to stop the abuse, and
  • to help the abused person overcome “victim identity” by recognizing his or her “ inherent strengths, talents, skills, power, and appreciation of the self as a unique, ever-growing, competent, and compassionate person.”
Medline Plus, a service of the United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, said domestic violence is a serious problem as it can cause both physical injuries and emotional harm (such as "depression, anxiety or social isolation)."   
"It is hard to know exactly how common domestic violence is, because people often don't report it. There is no typical victim. It happens among people of all ages. It affects those of all levels of income and education," Medline Plus said. The educational site, a New York Times company, said: "People, who use emotional abuse to control others, use tactics similar to what prison guards use on prisoners of war. They know that physical control is not easily accomplished. They want the prisoners to cooperate and what better way to get someone to cooperate than to manipulate them emotionally?" Emotional abusers know that the "most effective way to gain cooperation is through subversive manipulation of the mind and feelings of the victim, who then becomes a psychological, as well as a physical, prisoner," About. com said.  
Usual tactics of emotional abusers The non-profit group Women's Aid said emotionally-abusive partners use several tactics such as:
  • destructive criticism, name calling, and sulking;
  • pressure tactics;
  • lying;
  • putting down the person in front of other people;
  • never listening or responding to his partner;
  • isolating his partner from friends and family;
  • monitoring his partner's phone calls, emails, texts, and letters, and
  • constantly checking on his partner and not letting her go out alone.
Women's Aid noted that even though the behaviors mentioned above are not legally considered as crimes, the impact of emotional abuse "may be even more devastating than physical assault — and have much longer term effects." It noted that it is more difficult to obtain protection for victims of emotional abuse, "or even to get others to take them seriously."
How women can cope with emotional abuse
According to the US-based organization Livestrong, "no one should have endure a spouse's emotional or verbal attack." Livestrong suggested some steps that abused persons can take:
(1) When a husband or partner is yelling or screaming, the affected person can direct her attention to something else or simply walk away from the situation.  
(2) Confront the abuser and let him know that "you don't wish to be treated poorly, humiliated or verbally knocked down." It cautioned women to "use your judgment, though. Sometimes confronting an emotional abuser can lead to violence."
(3) Seek help. "If you are not ready to leave your husband but you are tired of being hurt verbally and emotionally, seek professional help for yourself. This can be a support group for domestic violence or a counselor or therapist," Livestrong suggested.  
(4) Consider couples counseling as this "could allow both husband and wife to learn new ways of dealing with each other," Livestrong said.
(5) Avoid "bad coping mechanisms" such as hurting oneself, developing an eating disorder, or turning to drugs and alcohol.  
Livestrong urged women not to retaliate by committing abuse themselves. This could encourage partners to continue abusing them, it warned. "Stand up for yourself but don't retaliate verbally or physically. Repeated verbal abuse can be draining. Take care of yourself physically and mentally so you can be strong at all times," it said.  
"Any threat of violence or violence itself should not be tolerated. If you feel you are in a dangerous situation, seek emergency help right away," it added. - RJMD, GMA News