power and control wheel updated[July 15, 2020] Some say emotional abuse is the worst kind of abuse to heal from. Others say it’s not even a real thing, that the person is just weak and can't handle criticism. There's a huge stigma around it because of those views. I can tell you that EMOTIONAL ABUSE IS REAL!

Emotional abuse completely destroyed me, leaving me with absolutely nothing. I had to start everything over, become my own person again, learn who I am, what I like and dislike, figure out what works best for me to parent my kids. The relationship I was in was lopsided; my feelings were ignored because his were more important, I became someone who was centered around pleasing someone else and ensuring he was okay, that I didn't matter anymore.

The biggest example of this that comes to mind took place on the day of my grandmother’s funeral. I was visibly upset at the loss of my grandmother, and he came home from work, in a bad mood. Seeing me upset, he told me that if I was going to be “depressed,” I should go somewhere else, because I was bringing him down. This made me feel like my feelings weren’t valid.

Growing up, we always said that saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." While the concept is about building a “thick skin,” it blinds us to the fact that words can sometimes hurt much more than sticks or stones.

It didn’t click in my mind that what I was going through was abusive until very recently. When I looked at what I was experiencing from my kids’ perspectives - the constant name-calling and seeing him put me down over and over again - I realized that if they were experiencing that, I would call it child abuse. No one deserves to be treated that way. 

Victims of emotional abuse are often unsure if what they are experiencing is even abuse, because they believe every negative word about themselves the abuser put into their head. People who suffer emotional abuse are so often overlooked and under protected. Even though I was terrified of him, I could not get a restraining order based solely on the emotional abuse. Though emotional abuse can be just as dangerous as other types of abuse, it is the least recognized form of abuse, it is not a crime, and there’s no justice.

-        Helen, SOAR Member

SOAR members educate audiences about all forms of abuse. One tool used for educational purposes is the Power & Control Wheel, a tool developed by the Duluth Model in Duluth, MN, which describes eight tactics of abuse commonly seen in domestic violence relationships. Emotional abuse is included in the wheel as being a tactic that includes using put-downs, making the victim feel bad about him/herself, making her feel guilty, humiliation, and more. If you are in an abusive relationship or know someone who might be, or if you are looking for resources for a child who has witnessed domestic violence, call the Rhode Island statewide Helpline for 24-hour support and information at 800-494-8100.

Click here to view previous posts from Breaking the Silence.