No More Week | Identifying Emotional Abuse

It’s No More Week this week (March 7th-13th) and this Monday also happens to be International Women’s Day! It’s the perfect time to raise awareness for domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Sometimes, individuals don’t realise that they’re in an abusive relationship due to the insidious nature of emotional abuse. It can be very gradual and incremental, seemingly normal or not a big deal at first.

But these ‘isolated incidents’ are often crucial steps in abusers’ efforts to systematically lay the groundwork for future patterns of abusive behaviour. The ultimate goal is for an abuser to subtly gain control over the victim – controlling where they can go, what they can do, who they can see or speak to, etc.

However, it’s also important to recognise that not every case of emotionally abusive behaviour is accompanied by an overarching plan to gain control, and can occur simply because there is not enough awareness about what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. If somebody has grown up in an emotionally abusive environment, they may repeat those same behaviours thinking it is normal – for example, giving the silent treatment when they are angry rather than talking openly about feelings. It may not be intentional or part of a grand plan, but it is still emotional abuse and the effects are still very real.

It can be incredibly difficult to separate the systematic abuse from the context of the relationship, which means sometimes people can rationalise or excuse what is happening to them for various reasons that make sense to them. It may take a while after a relationship ends for somebody to recognise patterns of emotional abuse that existed in the relationship. Love and dependency can cloud judgement, making it difficult to see something that you might easily spot in somebody else’s relationship.

Emotional abuse can be extremely detrimental to somebody’s self-esteem, sense of self-worth and their emotional well-being. What we can do to try and prevent emotional abuse from happening is talk openly and loudly about the lesser known signs of emotional abuse so that is becomes clearer to identify.

Here are a couple of examples of emotionally abusive behaviour:

– Gaslighting: This is when the abuser convinces the victim to doubt things that they know to be true, leading them to question their own memory or sanity.

– Invalidating: This is when an abuser refuses to acknowledge or consider the victim’s thoughts or feelings, dismissing them entirely and making them feel small or unheard.

– Silent Treatment: Where an abuser refuses to talk openly about their feelings and instead ignores the victim, creating an atmosphere that places the victim in ‘the wrong’ and the abuser in ‘the right’.

– Passive Aggression: Where an abuser indirectly communicates their negative feelings, instead of talking openly and healthily about them.

– Derogatory Nicknames: Using belittling or disrespectful nicknames when addressing the victim in a non-playful, intentionally hurtful way (although they may claim to be joking – the intention is still there).

– Boundary Violation: Frequently overstepping the victim’s personal boundaries, be it emotional, physical or sexual.

– Sexual Coercion: Disregarding the victim’s sexual boundaries and convincing them to engage in sexual activity when they don’t want to and have said no or implied they are not okay with it.

If you have experienced any kind of emotional abuse and are in need of support, you can always book in a discovery call with me here and we can discuss how we could work together to help you process what has happened and begin to move forward.

You can also visit the No More website for more information about this year’s campaign against domestic abuse and sexual violence and how you can get involved.

Take care everybody,


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