Domestic violence does not have to be physical. It can also be sexual, emotional, and controlling. Domestic violence occurs in almost all social classes, socioeconomic, religious, and cultural groups. World Health Organization (WHO) reports that this burden is global and mainly affects women.
Domestic violence doesn’t have to be physical. It can be defined as actions that cause physical, psychological, or sexual harm to a person in the relationship. The most visible form of domestic abuse is violence. You can often see the results of slapping, hitting, kicking, and beating. You can also see sexual violence, such as forced sexual intercourse.
Non-violent emotional abuse can be more brutal to see. Abuse that takes an emotional form can include insults, belittling, and constant humiliation. This type of domestic abuse is psychological. In such instances, it is harder to draw a concrete line between what is right and wrong. This dilemma has led to domestic abuse being reported or noticed if it is violent.
Non-violent abuse can have severe health effects on a person. After years of this abuse, a person becomes conditioned to behave in a way that prevents the abuse. Behaviors such as isolating family and friends, reporting their movements; and handing over control of financial resources are critical examples of unseen non-violent abuse. These controlling behaviors can lead to psychological illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
How Common is Non-Violent Domestic Abuse?
A study by WHO on 24000 women from 10 different countries reported that 20–75% of women are experiencing emotional abuse. These statistics include any abusive act, or more, from a partner in their lifetime. The current research literature argues that different types of violence often coexist. This factor means victims often experience both physical and non-physical domestic abuse. [Further Reading]
Why don’t women leave non-violent, abusive partners?
Most women become conditioned to the abuse through positive and negative reinforcement. Non-physical abusers are often master manipulators. The victim ends up developing strategies to maximize their safety and that of their children. The inaction on the part of the victim can be a subconsciously calculated assessment of how to protect themselves best. The fears surrounding leaving an abuser stem from fear of retaliation, no access to personal financial resources, and possible separation from children in lengthy custody battles.
Another reason is that the victim is sometimes in love and hopes the partner will change. Education surrounding abuse is sometimes not readily available. Victims can go years without seeing a problem in their partner.
When do women leave non-violent, abusive partners?
Several factors are involved when women finally find the courage to leave abusive partners. Often victims experience an escalation in the non-physical abuse severity, which leads them to a realization that the partner will not change. These eye-opening moments are often coupled with research into the behaviors. It leads to recognition in the victim that the violence is harmful to them.
What risk factors lead to non-physical abuse?
- The abusers need to assert power over the relationship.
- A feeling of being socially superior to their partner.
- A feeling of entitlement to discipline their partner when they display “incorrect” behavior.
- Physical violence is commonly found to be an acceptable way to resolve conflict in their cultural, familial, and societal relationships.
- Being tolerant of non-physical abuse is a method to prevent physical violence from occurring.
What are the consequences of non-physical violence?
Many indirect consequences result from abuse that is not violent. Many victims begin to suffer from chronic health problems due to prolonged stress. Living in a home with a history of violence and injury can lead to a life of fear. Merely being around someone who has physically abused you can cause non-physical abuse symptoms. The influence of abuse remains even after the abuser is gone. It continues to affect the victim. The more severe the abuse was, the greater its effect on the victim’s physical and mental health.
Victims often experience illnesses that cannot be directly traced to an identifiable medical cause. ”Functional disorders” or ”stress-related conditions” are the main problem. People who suffer from non-physical abuse end up with health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome/ gastrointestinal symptoms and fibromyalgia.
The research conducted by WHO suggests victims who experience non-physical abuse suffer higher levels of depression, anxiety, and phobias. This abuse is associated with victims turning to alcohol and drug abuse, having eating and sleep disorders, poor self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder, and self-harm. This emotional distress is directly linked to thoughts of suicide.
Best approaches to preventing non-physical abuse
There are hundreds of pathways that society needs to consider to reduce and eradicate non-physical abuse. The most practical options are available to victims, promoting women’s and girls’ social and economic empowerment. Spotting the abuse allows for early intervention services for at-risk families. Society must offer many initiatives to teach victims the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of non-physical abusers.
Getting out of an abusive relationship is often only the beginning. Dealing with the harmful psychological after-effects of the abuse is necessary to reintegrate the victim into society. Adequate service provision must be made for psychological help, including well-established written protocols and referral systems to help survivors access services from other sectors. It is also imperative to increase access to comprehensive service responses to survivors.
Building the knowledge base and awareness of this abuse will help victims get out early before severe damage can be done.
Signs of an unhealthy and controlling relationship
You have to report your movements
This relationship is unhealthy if you are ‘prohibited’ from doing the things you want. Seeking permission in a healthy relationship requires accepting the need for independence. Being able to do something separately and together allows for healthy self-interests or separate friends.
They determine your happiness
Non-physical abusers often believe the world revolves around them and therefore are unwilling to listen to why they’re unhappy. They think they determine your happiness, and having this control over you gives them power. You may find them constantly putting you down if they see you too happy. A short time spent enjoying with friends in their absence can lead to them calling you names like stupid and unattractive. This emotional abuse isolates people and causes low self-esteem.
You are always the cause of their behavior
When confronted about negative behavior, the abuser will often try to explain what is happening. They will try to pretend the behavior does not exist and your feelings are invalid. If forced to accept, they will find an excuse to blame you or other things. An example is they may say the behavior results from alcohol or drugs. This action is called gaslighting.