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Emotional Abuse

QUESTION: What is emotional abuse?


Emotional abuse silently attacks the self worth of a human being. There are no physical bruises for anyone to see or notice, no scars, or black and blue marks. Words that demean, shame, blame, threaten, or unfairly criticize, inflict emotional abuse. Neglect and withholding affection and/or love as a means of punishment are also forms of emotional abuse. Statistically, women and children are the more frequent victims of emotional abuse, although there are reported incidences of emotional and verbal abuse of men, as well.

According to Therapist Finder Mental Health Journal published in 2001, emotional abuse is more than just verbal abuse. It is an attack on a child's emotional and social development, and is a basic threat to healthy human development.1 Such an attack may cause serious emotional injury and/or psychic trauma in the life an child or adult. Robert Burney, the author of The Dance of Wounded Souls defines emotional abuse as heart and soul mutilation.

Victims of emotional abuse frequently display a familiar pattern of behavior. This may include, cowling in the presence of the abuser, depression, feeling ashamed, assuming responsibility for the abuser's behavior, and "walking around on egg-shells to try to prevent an occurrence of fresh abuse. A young child may exhibit low self-esteem, destructive behavior, angry acts such as hurting younger siblings or animals, withdrawal, and poor social development.

Dr. Susan Forward, author of Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them has written a personal bill of rights to assist victims of abuse in finding wholeness in the aftermath of any form of abuse.
  1. You have the right to be treated with respect.
  2. You have the right not to take responsibility for anyone else’s problems or bad behavior.
  3. You have the right to get angry. You are responsible for how you express it.
  4. You have the right to say “No.”
  5. You have the right to make mistakes. You have the right to have your own feelings, opinions, and convictions.
  6. You have the right to change your mind or to decide on a different course of action.
  7. You have the right to negotiate for change.
  8. You have the right to protest unfair treatment or criticism.
The Bible speaks specifically about the emotional abuse of children. In Ephesians 6:4 (TLB), it says. “And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice.” When we consider Scriptures such as this one, together with the whole counsel of the Bible, we know that there is never a justifiable excuse for any kind of abuse.

Learn More About Spouse Abuse.

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