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Mental and emotional abuse

Emotional abuse happens over a sustained period of time, where the perpetrator repeatedly controls their victim.

Experiences of emotional abuse include:

  • Feeling frightened of your partner, so you worry about the consequences of relatively minor things – “treading on eggshells” and changing your behaviour because you are afraid that you may “set them off”
  • A perpetrator may switch between being charming and aggressive, confusing you and making you doubt your judgement
  • ‘Gaslighting’ – where someone demonstrates abusive behaviour and then pretends it didn’t happen, or switches blame on to the victim to make them feel responsible
  • Feeling like you have to give up on the things that are important to you in order to make your partner happy and avoid negative consequences
  • Verbal abuse – name-calling, shaming and belittling language, e.g. telling you that you’re worthless, useless, unattractive, stupid, insignificant or that you “would be nothing without them”
  • The perpetrator threatening to harm or kill themselves if you leave
  • Humiliating you in front of others
  • Accusing you of flirting or having affairs
  • Making unreasonable demands for your attention
  • Manipulating, ignoring or undermining you
  • Stalking or harassing you
  • Threats of violence or control

Coercive control

Mental and emotional abuse also includes coercive control.

This is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation, intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten the victim.

The controlling behaviour is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence, and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Some common examples of coercive behaviour are:

  • Isolating you from friends and family
  • Depriving you of basic needs, such as food
  • Monitoring your time
  • Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware
  • Taking control over aspects of your everyday life – such as where you can go, who you can see, what you can wear, or when you can sleep
  • Depriving you access to support services such as medical services
  • Making threats or intimidating you
  • Constantly checking up on you

Support services

REFUGE: WARWICKSHIRE'S DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND ABUSE SERVICE . If you are experiencing domestic violence in Warwickshire, Refuge’s domestic violence and abuse service can support you and your children to keep safe. Refuge is a county-wide service that provides support to women, men and children experiencing domestic violence in Warwickshire.

Telephone: 0800 408 1552

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