Domestic violence and emotional abuse | 17 October 2020
Family is a basic unit in society. Domestic violence is a worldwide problem that tears lives apart. One in three women experience physical or emotional abuse, or both, caused by someone known to them. It affects women, children, the family and the community. And it has big personal, social and economic effects.
Domestic violence occurs when a person consistently aims to control their partner through physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. It is “a pattern of abusive behaviour in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner”. October 10 is dedicated to World Mental Health Awareness Day and the month of October is dedicated to bringing greater awareness on ‘Domestic Violence’ and its effect on women and children.
The Domestic Violence Act passed by the Seychelles National Assembly on May 26, 2020, prohibits acts of violence in the domestic context, whether caused through emotional, verbal, physical, sexual, economic or psychological abuse as defined by law. It also provides for the protection of victims of domestic violence and for penalties for the perpetrators.
When we talk about raising awareness to stop domestic violence, it’s important that we acknowledge physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.
Emotional abuse is insidious and mostly happens behind closed doors which the outside world cannot see. It is a much bigger problem than a lot of people realise. Just because there are no visible bruises on the skin, it does not mean that the partner is not being abused. A lot of women and men suffer from emotional abuse, and it has devastating effects on the victim as well as children and the community at large.
Unfortunately, many victims of emotional abuse are often overlooked or minimised, even by those experiencing it. Domestic violence involves all the power and control by one partner. Some women do not even understand that they are being emotionally abused.
What is emotional abuse?
The story below (imaginary story and names) throws some light to understand emotional abuse scenario.
Annie has three children and lives with her partner. Annie was planning to visit her parents during the weekend. Jake, had “secret plans” for the weekend. In fact, he doesn’t like Annie’s relatives and doesn’t want Annie to go and visit her parents. If she goes, Jake has to look after the house and the kids, which Jake wanted to avoid all these responsibilities. Now Jake devices a vicious plan.
On a Thursday evening, Jake purposely started an argument over a shirt which was not ironed. Looking after the children, Annie was doing most of the chores in the house and tried to explain. But Jake provoked Annie accusing her being lazy, disorganised, unloving, uncaring, not preparing good food and comparing her with other female friends, name calling…..……the blame-game with a long list of the accusations, the drama goes on. Exchange of words ended in a fight. Children went and hid in another room closing their ears. After that Jake went on a ‘silent treatment’ and did not talk to Annie. Friday evening, Jake did not return home. Just disappeared without telling anyone. (ghosting)
Annie was panicking, phoning some of his friends, feeling guilty and blaming herself for arguing and participating in the fight, now she is on an emotional roller-coaster. She was left with anxiety, sleepless night and depression. The whole weekend Annie was exhausted working hard to clean the house, looking after the children, wash, iron, cooking food and so on. Annie was physically, mentally and emotionally drained.
While Jake put-up a pity-play by sharing his twisted one sided version of sob story to his ‘secret friend‘, saying that he was ill-treated by his partner to gain sympathy and attention.
Jake was secretly feeling happy with his ego boosted. Firstly, he prevented Annie from visiting her parents and deprived her happiness. Secondly, he took revenge by staying out and indirectly punished her for standing up to him and defending herself. Thirdly, he put her under stress on an emotional roller-coaster, to overwork, looking after the children and spend sleepless night.
Sunday morning Jake returned home with a bouquet of flowers and a fake apology covering his cheating and secret life and creating a trauma-bond with Annie and himself. Poor Annie had no idea about the malicious plan and the reason for all her suffering.
In this story Annie is the real emotional abuse victim, but Jake portrayed Annie as an abuser and projected himself as victim. Jake was the perpetrator, who managed to fool his partners and the people around. People are not fools, but their trust was betrayed by the perpetrator. It is time to realise that this kind of emotional vampires do exist and are addicted to feeding on others pain which is like drug for them.
Hence, it is important to empower women by educating them with some of the vocabulary that are highlighted in the story, which explains emotional abuse. These terms given below are part of emotional abuse tatics.
Baiting: A technique used to provoke the victim in order to gain an emotional response from a person, usually in the form of an angry, aggressive or emotional reaction.
Blame-game: Never taking responsibility for their abusive actions or the role they played in causing emotional pain. But placing all the burden on the victim for all the faults of the abuser.
Silent treatment: A passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse in which displeasure, disapproval and contempt is exhibited through nonverbal gestures while maintaining verbal silence.
Triangulation: The abusers involve multiple partners, friends, family members to gain sympathy and to evoke feelings of jealousy on a regular basis to giving the illusion they are in high demand. Through comparison, abusers create enmity between partners and friends. They try hard to keep these people apart as they cannot risk them talking to each other and discovering the truth.
Gaslighting: is used by the abuser to make you feel something is wrong with you; perhaps to make you feel you’re mentally unstable, that you’re overreacting, you’re hypersensitive. This is to change the belief, perception and reality.
Manipulation: they use words to deceive, coerce, seduce, and mislead to gain power and control.
Love bombing: This is to sweep you off your feet with compliments, text messages, gifts, days out, meals out, your every need was catered for and this was deliberate. This is a trap at the beginning of a relationship.
Smear campaign: is a method of control carried out by the close associates of an abuser called ‘Flying monkeys’ to spread false stories, rumours or negative propaganda to damage the reputation of the chosen target, to cause emotional pain.
Effects of domestic violence on women
Domestic violence is the leading cause of death, illness and disability for women aged under 45, Emotional and psychological trauma — the devastating impact on an individual’s physical, mental and emotional health including depression, shame, anger and suicide.
Effects on the children
Children and young people need to grow up in a secure and nurturing environment. Where domestic or family violence exists, the home is not safe or secure and children are scared about what might happen to them and the people they love. Studies show that living with domestic violence can cause anxiety, depression, suicide, low self-esteem, phobias, insomnia, teenage pregnancy, and use bullying behaviour or become a target of bullying and substance abuse.
Effects on the community
Children growing up without learning about positive and respectful relationships. Abusers going to prison, higher rates of alcohol and other drug use, and mental health problems.
Accelerating the realisation of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls is the theme of the Fourth World Conference of Women aiming to achieve gender equality by 2030 (Article 3rd Oct Nation)
Break the silence. Be the voice for the voiceless neighbour or a friend who is suffering because of domestic violence and emotional abuse.
With the new Domestic Violence Act, improved knowledge and awareness let us hope to eliminate domestic violence and protect families, men, women, and most importantly the children who are going to be the future generation.
References: Commonwealth Secretariat welcomes new domestic violence law for Seychelles.
Article contributed by the Seychelles Centennial Women Lions Club