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Emotional abuse

What is emotional abuse?

A woman can experience abuse and violence without being physically hurt. Emotional abuse does not leave physical scars but it can have a big impact on a woman’s mental health and wellbeing. Women experiencing emotional abuse can feel anxious, depressed and even suicidal.

Perpetrators of emotional abuse use it to take away a person’s independence, confidence and self-esteem. This helps the perpetrator maintain power and control in the relationship. Physically abusive relationships often include aspects of emotional abuse.

Signs of emotional abuse

Because emotional abuse is non-physical, the signs of emotional abuse can be difficult to identify. In the context of men’s violence against women, emotional abuse includes:

  • blaming a woman for all the problems in a relationship
  • constantly comparing a woman with others to undermine her self-esteem and self-worth
  • usually being in a bad mood
  • intentionally embarrassing a woman in public
  • name calling
  • yelling, insulting or swearing at a woman
  • controlling a woman’s finances
  • telling a woman what to wear
  • preventing a woman from seeing her friends and family
  • stalking
  • threatening suicide
  • making a woman feel guilty when she refuses sex
  • threatening to report her immigration status
  • online humiliation and intimidation.

Impact of emotional abuse

A woman experiencing emotional abuse can start to believe that what the perpetrator says about her is true. She may begin to think she is stupid, ugly or fat and that no one would want to be in a relationship with her. The woman may also blame herself for the abuse.

The constant criticism lowers a woman’s self-esteem and confidence, making it very difficult to leave the abusive relationship.

Learn more about the other types of abuse that some men use against women.

What to do if you’re experiencing emotional abuse

If you are in an abusive relationship, you can find help now.


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