Publications - Domestic Violence

Forms of Emotional Battering
  • Insults
  • Rejection
  • Isolation
  • Emotional threats
  • Possessive behavior
  • Emotional blackmail
  • Financial blackmail
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Physical harm
  • Crazy making

Social and Sexual Prejudice: Added to all of the other forms of emotional battering that a victim suffers from, he or she also lives in a society that perceives the victim as helpless, second class, emotionally immature and often irrational. This means that as a victim struggles to break free from an abusive situation or relationship, he or she has to battle social, financial and cultural pressures that may prevent the victim from breaking free from the batterer. Although we often pay more attention to the physical and sexual abuse, more often these prejudices provide the context in which repeated abuse occurs.

Insults: Constant or extreme criticisms that injure the personal, emotional, sexual and professional image. Insults can greatly undermine a person's self-confidence and eventually render the victim emotionally incapacitated.

Rejection: Direct or indirect statements that create feelings of unworthiness. Constant rejection teaches a victim that he or she is unworthy of receiving loving behavior. Rejection can be used as punishment for not cooperating with an abusive partner. Abusers may also employ rejection in an attempt to justify their anger towards the victim.

Emotional Threats and Accusations: Direct or indirect statements made in an attempt to cause emotional or physical harm to the victim. This includes lying about the victim's behavior, attitude or emotional state.

Emotional Blackmail: A statement or behavior that uses fear, guilt, insecurity or confusion to trap a victim into giving the abuser power over him or her.

"Crazy-Making": This behavior distorts reality and destroys the possibility of honest communication. Demonstrated in the classic movie, A Clockwork Orange, this is a very effective device to increase confusion and insecurity in the victim.

Possessive and Punitive Behavior: Perceiving another person as physical property or an emotional extension of himself or herself. Behavior includes jealousy, limiting freedom, creating isolation, denying a person's capabilities or opportunities to develop. Many times it includes using shame and guilt to prevent a victim from getting the deserved support and protection.

Basing Relationships on Unrealistic Expectations: This includes an assumption by the abuser that he or she knows what is best for the victim. Denying someone the opportunity to discover and define himself or herself prevents the possibility of a mutually beneficial and realistic relationship.

Threats to Harm or Take Away Children: One of the most common reasons given for resuming an abusive relationship is the fear that the abuser will act on the threats of taking the children from the victim. Studies show that batterers have been able to convince authorities that the victim is unfit or undeserving of sole custody in approximately 70% of challenged cases.

Financial Blackmail: A batterer often controls the victim's finances, denying access to money. Financial battering may range from not allowing the victim to earn money to preventing education or access to work. If the victim is currently working, the abuser will make threats to destroy the means of earning a living.