We call it abuse only when we can see the wounds, the bruises, the split lip and the black eyes. There is an invisible abuse that we cannot see; an abuse more insidious and more brutal simply because it is difficult to see, perhaps more subtle but as damaging if not more so. Emotional abuse is not really abuse many would say; brushing it aside with a he doesn’t hit you does he? Dominican-American writer Zahira Kelly triggered a web-wide discussion when she started the hashtag #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou. There was an outpouring of angst and an acknowledgement of forms of abuse by women as well as some men:
Belittling someone can be abusive
Sneering at someone’s efforts, making them feel as though nothing they do can ever be good enough… this can chip away at a person’s belief in themselves and make them feel inadequate and insecure. Highlighting faults repeatedly can be emotional scarring.
“You should be grateful”
This is a commonly used gambit of the abuser… indicating that he doesn’t lift his hand in spite of the (supposed) provocation. It is a hideous form of emotional assault when the abuser not only is cruel, the implication is that the fault still lies with the victim.
Controlling can be abuse too
It’s a thin line that separates caring and controlling. When he decides what she wears, who her friends are, and decides to limit her interaction with others in a way that he becomes the only important thing in her life, this becomes problematic. Often this controlling behavior is wrapped up in the garb of being caring and possessive… many women enjoy this feeling and don’t realize when this tips over into abuse.
“You’re not important”
The woman may not be working; she may be doing volunteer work or may be in a low paying job. But no one has the right to make her feel any less valuable than a high ranking CEO. Sometimes the abuser will ridicule the fact that she has no paying job outside the home (ignoring the unpaid hours of labour she puts in at home), her hobbies, interests and even friends.
Always apportioning blame
The abuser never admits that he may be at fault; if you try to talk about it he will somehow manipulate it in a way that makes the victim feel that it is still her fault.
“I criticize you for your own good”
This is a common defence mechanism of the abuser… in trying to mold the victim to his specifications, he will be constantly and sharply critical; all under the guise of “doing it for her own good”.
So many different types of abuse
He may force her to do things she doesn’t like and then make her feel guilty for not wanting to do them. He may feel insecure and jealous; and again make it out to be her fault.
The whole point of the this hashtag was to make women realize that no one has the right to make another person unhappy and that women owe it to themselves not to suffer emotional abuse; even to draw attention to behaviors that are in fact abuse even though they leave no visible marks.
Author – Reena Daruwalla