The following post is a piece I wrote for a uni assignment, so it’s a bit more of a read than my usual posts. However, I felt that this was something that should be shared as there is just so little awareness of emotional abuse in relationships of any kind.
Relationships and Emotional Abuse
In 2015 emotional abuse was finally recognized as a form of domestic abuse and is now considered to be on the same level as physical violence within a relationship due to the long term effect it can potentially have on its victims. In a 2014 interview concerning the then upcoming act, Home Secretary Theresa May stated, “Domestic abuse is a hideous crime that shatters the lives of victims, trapping them in cycles of abuse that too often end in tragic and untimely deaths… In many cases, dominance over the victim develops and escalates over the years until the perpetrator has complete control…’ Despite all this, so many people are still unaware that this new law is in place. Even worse is that many people don’t understand what is considered emotional abuse.
So what is emotional abuse? Well it’s a pretty wide spectrum, but it essentially boils down to controlling behavior, which can come across in multiple ways. For example, a partner could be controlling through assertive and dominant behavior, putting their companion down with insults and comments, or threatening behavior. On the other hand, a partner can be equally controlling through being over emotional and constantly striving for their companions’ sympathy and reassurance. They might manipulate situations so they look like the victim, or be overly needy and intense, threatening to hurt themselves if you don’t act accordingly. The point is, a partner doesn’t have to be physically violent or even display aggressive tendencies for them to be abusive. In fact, many emotionally abusive relationships build up the control so slowly over a long period of time that the victims don’t even realize how bad their situation is.
There are many little signs of emotionally abusive relationships building up. For example, when one partner is insistent on having the passwords or access to all of their companions’ social media or messaging services, and/or frequently checking up on them. This is usually not just an assertion of control and dominance, but also because the abuser is often actually very insecure themselves. They will often accuse their partners of cheating or of inappropriate behavior with others, ironically this is often because the abuser is practicing infidelity themselves. A common theme in abusive relationships, is that the relationship is very one sided. This often means that there is one rule for one partner in the relationship, and another for the other. This creates a lack of balance in the relationship, leading for one of the parties to become less equal and valued than the other.
But the question many of us want answered is, why isn’t emotional abuse addressed more in the education system? At 43%, nearly half of young women in higher education (university, college, etc) have reported to have been in an abusive relationship at some point in their lives, and those are just the figures of parties who have come forward or recognized their situations. There are still many more out there who are suffering in abusive relationships, many of them maybe not even realising the signs that they are in one, as there so little awareness out there for abusive relationships if violence isn’t a theme. When asking a random selection of people what constitutes an abusive relationship, over 70 percent of those asked mentioned that physical violence must be involved. In a .gov survey in 2015, it was found that 70% of girls and 50% of boys under the ages of 18 had suffered from emotional abuse at some time in their lives. That being said, the emotional abuse then escalated to physical violence in 25% of those girls, and 18% of those boys. Emotional abuse, if not bad enough on its own, can very realistically lead to physical violence, as shown by statistics and stories across the board. Emotionally abusive relationships though they can be found between any two people at any age, have been proven to be most common in younger people, more ‘serious’ cases are usually found in people between the ages of 18-25.
With the worst abuse cases being found in one of the youngest age demographics, and the statistics of those cases going up annually, it’s a wonder how these behaviors are still not taught in school. A school is meant to be a safe haven for children, surrounded by peers and having teachers on hand at all times should anything be wrong. But in real fact, from both my own experience and what I have witnessed in others, schools much prefer the approach of ‘if we don’t talk about it, its not a problem.’ As a child I was never taught about physical, sexual or emotional abuse, in fact I was never taught what interactions with people are right and which are wrong in relationships of any sort. I, like so many others, came out of school knowing my times tables, but not what to do if a boyfriend started hitting me or degrading me. It is here that our education system fails us, and when I say us, I mean the abusers and victims alike. As a young girl I recall myself and friends being told by adults that when a boy is mean to us, its because he likes us. This can work both ways, girls and boys alike are victim to this warped view point. It is this approach to kids at such a young age that turns the playground bullies into the abusers and the kids who accept the teasing because they have been told ‘its because they fancy you’ into the victims.
Countless campaigns and adverts attempting to shut down the high levels of abuse in young relationships will continue to have little effect, so long as the education system continues to turn a blind eye to what is happening on the playground or on campus. These values and lessons need to be taught at a younger age, so kids don’t grow up into their late teens and early twenties still thinking its acceptable to treat others in such a way.
Emotional abuse is far more deadly than many people realize. Please don’t let yourself, your friends, siblings, or children to grow up thinking its normal. Speak out. Make a stand.