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
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