The Hidden Faces of Abuse

Your punch may hurt my bones, but your words shreds my soul!

Most often than not, when the topic of abuse is brought up we focus on this picture. It depicts the ultimate form of abuse known to many; with the man being the perpetrator and the woman the victim.

However there are different categories of abuse physical, emotional/mental, financial, sexual etc which most people have no idea existed(at least not under the category of abuse).

When it comes to abuse, men and women are victims and perpetrators (even though women make up a majority of victims).

So a few days ago I teased a couple of people on the topic of abuse. It was quite interesting to hear different opinions on abuse, abusive relationships and how to deal with an abuser.

Most opinions were focused on physical abuse, the emotional aspect was completely discarded; mostly due to ignorance rather than sher disregard for emotional abuse.

Most people being abused emotionally don’t even know they are victims of abuse.

Abusive relationships are unhealthy and should be discouraged. When I talk of abuse it mainly entails emotional and physical molestation.

No one should be finessed into thinking abuse is normal or it helps enhance relationship bonds as we are made believe.

In the light of it enhancing relationship bonds, I can hardly see how a spanking, bruises, outright insults, general disrespect and sometimes death! can increase a healthy bond in any relationship (in case you have an idea of how it does let me know).

Before I dive into what emotional abuse is, let’s first note what it is NOT;

It is not emotionally abusive to break up with a partner. It is not emotionally abusive to argue with your partner. It is not emotionally abusive when someone reacts to what you have done with hurt. People react out of their own perceptions, so their reactions do not define your behavior. It is also not emotional abuse to speak one’s mind with blunt honesty. Perhaps the statement lacks tact, but it is not emotionally abusive. Again, just because someone reacts to what has been said with hurt does not mean that one has been emotionally abused.

That said we can now focus on what exactly is Emotional abuse (we will focus more of this aspect since physical abuse is widely known and understood).

Andrea Mathews

Emotional abuse ranges from insults to gas-lighting, boundary pushing, isolation and so on. That said, let’s see what emotional abuse is;


Insults are a way of breaking you down. An abuser may insult your looks, your intelligence, your job, your family or anything else that’s important to you. Their goal is to upset you and offend you, then make you feel guilty for being upset. They’ll tell you that you’re too sensitive, and they’ll justify their insults or backhanded compliments. David Wolfe

The main aim of insults is to instigate pain. Healthy relationships don’t need insults and unnecessary fights to build their bonds.

Pushing Boundaries

Everyone has a “No Go Zone”. If your partner over steps their bounds once, it’s possibly a mistake; but if they realize it makes you uncomfortable and yet keep pushing, that is not something you need to laugh about or ignore.

One of the most common forms of boundary stepping today is not respecting one’s privacy i.e phone messages, emails etc.

Abusers may hack into your private information without your consent or bully you into letting them access it. No one should be manipulated or forced into releasing information they deem private, that’s both disrespectful and abusive.


Threats come in different ways and dimensions from threatening to expose your private information, take away your money, job, kids or any thing that ‘s important to you. In some cases they threaten to leave you.

This is a dangerous dungeon, threats hardly end as soon as expect, most often they last throughout the relationship. Always ask yourself if it’s worth living a conditioned life.

Magic Tricks & Gas lighting

A magic trick in this light means distracting a person from the real situation. It may include redirecting blames back to you during an argument (they may bring up what you did wrong before with the aim of shying away from their bad behavior and making you look crazy or feel guilty for what you did instead of focusing on their own mistake).

Gas lighting is a little extreme, an abuser makes their victims question their feelings, instincts and sanity, giving the other person the ability to control them. Below are a few signs you are being gas lighted;

  1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
  2. Start to question if you are too sensitive.
  3. Often feel confused and have a hard time making simple decisions.
  4. Find yourself constantly apologizing.
  5. Can’t understand why you’re so unhappy.
  6. Often make excuses for your partner’s behavior.
  7. Feel like you can’t do anything right.
  8. Often feel like you aren’t good enough for others.
  9. Have the sense that you used to be a more confident, relaxed and happy person.
  10. Withhold information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain things.

David Wolfe

Playing the blaming game

This basically a situation in which one party blames others for something bad or unfortunate rather than attempting to seek a solution.

We have all played this game before (be it knowingly or unknowingly).

No one likes to play the bad guy, it is easier to shy away from a situation than to take the bull by the horn and find long lasting solutions.

If one person constantly plays this game, the person may either be immature to face their actions or just trying to manipulate the situation. Blaming others often means you are avoiding a difficult truth about yourself!

You can make mistakes, but you aren’t a failure until you start blaming others for those mistakes

John Wooden

Alienation & Ultimatums

Do you remember that bf/gf who told you not to hang out with “so and so”, not because they genuinely care for your well being but due to selfish desires and intentions.

Abusers aim is to separate you from people or things that make you happier (with the fear that you may chose the person or thing over them or just due to mare wickedness).

Most often alienation moves hand in gloves with ultimatums. An ultimatum is a final decision, condition, proposition or demand whose rejection will end a relationship, negotiation etc.

Whenever an abuser tells you to stay away from so and so, it most often ends with “if not I will…..”.

This is emotional imprisonment, putting someone in a difficult position of having to make a decision out of their free will.

“Relationships are negotiated and if you deal with ultimatums and authority all the time, then you’re not going to get anywhere.”

— Phillip C. McGraw

Withholding Affection

Relationships are meant to be loving and caring, with each partner sharing love and affection equally.

If you find yourself in a situation where affection is withheld for one reason or another which has nothing to do with your partner’s health (ex withholding sex for medical reasons), but aimed at hurting you, you are being emotionally abused.

Avoidant abuse is someone willingly withdrawing affection with the specific goal to hurt your feelings or control you. It’s a form of psychological abuse that’s particularly cutting, since humans need love and affection in order to feel happy in a relationship.

A lot of people will often give you the “cold shoulder” as a way to keep you under their thumb if you refuse to do what they say, and yes, avoidant abuse can happen with both groups and single people.

Ossiana M. Tepfenhart



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