We all do it.
We think of a victim of ‘domestic abuse’- and picture someone who’s suffered some form of physical violence.
But not all abusive relationships involve physical violence. Psychological & emotional domestic abuse can be just as damaging. But also insidious and gradual.
What is Psychological & Emotional Domestic Abuse?
It might start off with a couple arguing from time to time; but when this becomes consistent - increasingly one-sided and one partner is in fear of ‘setting off' the other, then the relationship is not normal and has become abusive.
It’s often ignored or denied - not only by the abuser, but by the victim as well or even by people who witness the abuse.
You might think emotional or psychological abuse is all about the abuser losing their temper or losing control, but in fact, the opposite is true. Abusers use emotional or psychological abuse to control and manipulate their partner.
Emotional and psychological domestic abusers use many tactics to exert power over their victims.
- They will often humiliate their partner and try to make them feel bad about themselves.
- They may try to isolate the victim and cut them off from families and friends.
- They may threaten to hurt the victim or their children.
- Victims of domestic abuse in homosexual relationships can be threatened with being ‘outed’.
The national survey on domestic abuse of women and men in Ireland (2003) identified emotional abuse as the one of the “worst things” they had experienced in relation to their experiences of domestic abuse.
This was true for both men and women. The study found that:
- 1 in 13 women have experienced severe emotional abuse.
- Women were 3 times more likely to have experienced it than men.
(Source: Watson and Parsons, 2005)
Examples of emotional and psychological abuse
If we witness domestic violence but choose to walk away; we leave another victim behind.
We’re not just bystanders.
Signs of Psychological & Emotional Domestic Abuse
But how can you tell if someone is experiencing psychological or emotional domestic abuse?
What are the signs and #whatwouldyoudo?
When you’re concerned about someone you know:
Someone experiencing abuse may seem:
- Anxious to please their partner
- Afraid of their partner, talking about their possessiveness, or jealousy
- Restricted from seeing family and friends
- Limited in access to money or a car
- Depressed, anxious, or suicidal
- Seem to have very low self esteem
When you’re concerned about a stranger:
These are some of the warning signs that a situation might be abusive.
If the person suspected of being an abuser is:
- Acting excessively jealous of their partner
- Insulting or embarrassing their partner in public
- Yelling at or trying to intimidate their partner
Or if the victim is:
- Acting afraid of their partner
- Acting submissive
Advice if you’re concerned about someone you know:
If you notice these warning signs and suspect someone you know is being abused, don’t wait for them to approach you - follow your instincts.
Look for a private moment where you can express concern and let them know that you’re there for them.
- Express concern
- Assure them that the violence is not their fault.
- Support, but don’t give advice
- Give them resources
There are several agencies in Ireland who can offer help and support.
Check out www.whatwouldyoudo.ie for a list of services and advice.
Advice if you’re concerned about a stranger:
If you decide that a situation requires an intervention and you are happy that it is safe to do so, try following one or more of the three D’s.
Creating a distraction is an indirect and non-confrontational way to intervene. If you can, use a distraction that will get you a moment alone with the victim, to ask if there is a problem.
Even if you don’t know the victim and the abuser, someone else might. Friends might be in a better position to get involved, and they might have a better opportunity for a sustained intervention than you.
If you’re going to try a direct approach, your best bet will probably be to approach the victim. You can simply say that you’re concerned, that you want to help and that it’s not their fault.
Remember, if you suspect someone is being abused - before you get involved, ask yourself if it’s safe and legal to intervene.
If the situation is already violent or looks like it's escalating quickly, do not directly intervene. Call the Gardaí on 999.
The only effective bystander intervention is a non-violent one.
If you see or suspect domestic abuse in Dublin visit whatwouldyoudo.ie or call 999
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