Scenario 1; “You are worthless! Can’t you ever do anything right? And you call yourself a woman! Didn’t your mother ever teach you how to run a home? You disgust me”. The words rang in Omotunde’s ears, giving her a headache. Yet again, her husband of four years Efe was expressing his distaste in something she did.
“He’s just angry. He just needs to calm down” she says, in self consolation. Efe is just having a bad day, she surmises, in a bid to quieten the dark cloud that’s enveloping her heart. Her head hammers in aches as though Lagos is being reconstructed in it. Sure enough, the next day, Efe comes bearing gifts in both hands, and an apology in the mouth. He blames it on the stresses of life, especially Lagos traffic. He is just stressed. And they were just words; words he didn’t mean.
Scenario 2: Ms. Allen teaches Kindergarten. She knows her students like the back of her hand, and is quick to know when something is wrong. Today, she notices Michael at the back of the class, seated alone, sulking. Approaching him, she asks why he’s isolated from the rest of the class. Michael refuses to talk, casting furtive glances at his course mates. Ms. Allen takes him outside and there Michael tells her he doesn’t think he is good enough to mix with the other kids. Surprised by this statement, she asks him why he thinks so. His response? “Because my daddy always yells and says I’m good for nothing”.
The above scenarios are most likely familiar to all. You may have heard one or more of those words, or even said them yourself. You, or the perpetrator was probably just in a bad mood, and said some mean words. They are just words, after all. Words that weren’t meant. The dark cloud taking it hold on Omotunde’s heart in the story above is a seed of Psychological Abuse.
Psychological Abuse, is a form of abuse, characterised by a person subjecting another person to behaviour that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, depression, or post traumatic stress disorder. Emotional abuse capitalises on the sufferer’s emotional state, reducing it to mere dust over and over, till the victim becomes a ghost of their former self. They become reclusive, less outspoken, have low self esteem. In other words, they become pushovers.
Emotional abuse comes in many forms, the most common being verbal abuse. Like our scenario mentioned earlier, the use of words has a huge part to play when it comes to emotional abuse. There’s a saying that sticks and stones may break bones, but words cut the heart like a knife. Insults, criticisms, name calling, blaming, false accusations, to mention but a few are tools of emotional abuse, and metaphorically dig a grave in which the victim’s emotional state and stability will be buried.
Dominating behaviors, such as placing restrictions on a person’s movements and activities, especially if they’re important or necessary also constitutes emotional abuse. For example, expressly forbidding your partner from having contact with family and friends, or restricting their movement/freedom or forbidding them from having social relationships with others is a form of abuse. And while it may not be physically harming them, it is doing damage to something much deeper.
Intimidation, put-downs, accusations of infidelity or lack of integrity that are unfounded and most times clearly untrue, are also forms of emotional abuse. Rejecting, degrading, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting/exploiting and denying emotional responsiveness( in layman terms, ‘the silent treatment’ where an individual refuses to acknowledge another’s attempts at connecting emotionally and ignores their existence even, or deciding not to reciprocate such emotions). Emotional abuse may either be subconscious or intentional (usually the latter), and it is also important to know that it is never a one-time event. It is a process, leading up to a climax; a grand finale, if you must.
Psychological abuse prevails mostly in erotic relationships, that is, relationships with romantic interests, such as dating, courtship or marriage. One should note that psychological abuse does not always lead to physical abuse, however physical abuse in relationships is preceded and accompanied by psychological abuse. Studies show that while both genders can be oppressors, women tend to constiute a larger portion of the victim base.
A BBC radio documentary on domestic abuse, including emotional maltreatment, reports that 20 percent of men and 30 percent of women have been abused by a spouse or other intimate partner.
In Canada, a 1995 survey of women aged 15 and above showed that women 15 and over 36 to 43 percent of such women reported emotional abuse during childhood or adolescence, and 39 percent had experienced emotional abuse in marriage. Also, in 1996, the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, for Health Canada, reported that 39 percent of married women suffered emotional abuse by husbands or partners.
Psychological abuse can also take place in domestic institutions such as the family. The World Health Organization defines such abuse towards children as “a pattern of behavior by parents or caregivers that can seriously interfere with a child’s cognitive, emotional, psychological, or social development”. This shows that adults are not the only victims of psychological/emotional abuse, as children can be victims too. Elders are not exempted, and form a percentage referred to as elderly abuse.
Workplaces, as well as schools, also include settings where psychological abuse may take place. From gossiping to name calling to full blown bullying, psychological abuse occurs in this seemingly odd setting.
The effects of psychological abuse on individuals are devastating. It breeds distrust, lack of esteem, low cognitive, social, emotional development (mostly in children), depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, amongst others.
Unfortunately, most people do not recognise psychological abuse as an actual thing, and those that do rate it below more common forms of abuse, namely physical or sexual abuse. However, as earlier stated, emotional abuse is one which an individual may never heal from, unlike physical abuse. This makes it more lethal than any other form of abuse known to man.
It is advised that one should watch out for danger signs and presentation of emotional abuse in relationship and marriages. You don’t have to be hit physically for you to broken.
“She took his verbal punches and she felt silenced under the mental prison that he had held her in. She looked perfect on the outside, but her body expressed her pain. Her soul was crystallized, permanently on survival-mode. He thought he was smart, but he had no idea that he was married to a lotus. She rose every time because she knew he could not take away her worth. She knew she was meant to have more. She loved herself through the horror, and regained her ability to keep walking, to keep breathing, to keep living. She rose peacefully like the lotus, elegant and full of class, untouched by his filthy, meaningless existence… and that had always left him powerless.” ― Karen A. Baquiran
By Damilola Koye For Ubrokenchord