by Linda K. Laffey, MFT
Just because you don’t need bandages, an ambulance, or a first aid kit, does not mean you are not a victim of abuse.
An abused person is simply a person who is dominated.
Not one punch has to be thrown.
All that is required is the sense that you are powerless or under someone else’s control.
Abuse manifests itself in the following ways:
• Verbal Abuse: The Power of the Tongue.
The abuser who uses words breaks his or her victim with a stream of language that tears down, humiliates, and degrades.
Everything is a convoluted debate, criticism, or even an out-of-context manipulation of the victim’s own words.
The victim’s own voice is squashed by blame, accusations, and insults. Passive aggressive “jokes” and negative verbal suggestions about the victim’s sanity, usefulness, or intelligence are common control tactics.
• Psychological Abuse: Power Trip.
The victim of psychological abuse is mentally under siege.
Mind games, threats, and punishment are the abusers consistent instruments of control.
Affection and connection with others is withheld. The abuser is always right.
The victim is never permitted to trust the relationship; he or she is constantly uncertain and vulnerable. The abuser actually exploits those vulnerabilities to keep the victim isolated, off-balance, and possibly even questioning his or her own worth and sanity.
• Emotional Abuse: Power Play.
Emotional abuse is often hard for the victim to pinpoint.
The abuser’s dominance is covertly applied, layer upon layer.
Emotional abuse causes the victim’s self-esteem to plummet.
It slowly tears down the victim’s independence and self-confidence.
It is often indirect and passive aggressive.
The validity of the victim’s perceptions, wants, and needs is questioned, belittled, and eroded, one interaction at time. His or her choices are under constant scrutiny and regulation.
The victim lives with the demoralizing idea that he or she can’t do anything right.
• Economic Abuse: Money is Power.
Often accompanying other types of abuse is economic dominance and financial control.
Victims of economic abuse are sometimes not permitted to work. If they do, they aren’t permitted to control their own wages and finances. Other times, the abuser refuses to work and uses the victim’s wages as his or her own income.
Bank accounts, financial information, investments, even shopping or household expenses are tightly controlled, and the victim is usually kept in the dark regarding any specifics or entitlements. He or she is unable to obtain or use money without the abuser’s permission.
• Cyber Abuse: The Power of Technology.
Through the power of the Internet, an abuser can humiliate, taunt, misrepresent, and manipulate the victim.
The abuser may use a controlling mix of suspicion, jealousy, and possessiveness to fuel his or her need to keep tabs on the victim, calling or texting constantly.
The proliferation of tech gadgets with tracking features, GPS applications, and cameras can make it very difficult for a victim to escape the abuser’s “big-brother” type of control.
• Sexual Abuse: Stolen Power.
An abuser may take or demand the surrender of a victim’s sexual consent by assault, manipulation, or removal of reproductive rights.
An abuser may try to control the victim by demanding the victim make him or herself available on demand, participate in risky sexual behavior, or forgo birth control.
The damage of sexual abuse, especially during childhood or over the course of long periods of time, is devastating, degrading, and victims often suffer from debilitating shame.
The abuser uses the victim’s own body against him or her.
The harm is uniquely internal and traumatic.
Abuse is multifaceted, sometimes both obvious and subtle.
Too often, people are reluctant to call their own terrifying, life-shattering, traumatic experiences “real abuse,” as the obvious “wrong doing” is often accompanied by confused feelings of love, affection and physical pleasure.
If your relationship resembles any of these abusive situations or you are still suffering from past abuse, please reach out now for help. Real solutions are just a phone call away.
I look forward to hearing from you.