Emotional abuse is widely misunderstood in our society. Yet, for many survivors, emotional abuse is often described as equally painful, if not more painful, than physical abuse. To be emotionally abused may raise several difficulties for the survivor trying to reach out for help. First, if a survivor tries to get help and has physical signs of abuse then s/he can show that to someone. The questions arises, however, how do you show someone that you’re being emotionally abused? The marks that emotional abuse leave scar someone’s heart and soul and that cannot not be physically shown to anyone.
Second, the fact that emotional abuse leaves no visible wounds frequently makes it difficult for survivors to get the help they need when they reach out to others. For many, unless there are obvious physical injuries, the disclosure of abuse raises the question “Are they really telling the truth?” Often, it may come down to “he said, she said.” Third, many people minimize the impact that emotional abuse has on survivors and discount this form of as abuse as “less dangerous” than physical or sexual abuse. The reality is that emotional abuse has serious short and long-term effects on survivors, including, but not limited to, lowered self-esteem and self-confidence, depression, and suicide.
Another important factor when addressing emotional abuse deals with the manner in which this type of abuse occurs within the abusive relationship. Many physically and sexually abusive relationships actually begin with emotional abuse and, over time and with no intervention, will escalate to include other forms of abuse. If you’re working with a survivor that is being physically and/or sexually abused, the chances are great that s/he is also being emotionally abused. The reverse is not true however. Some relationships begin with emotional abuse and will stay at that level for the duration of the relationship.
The last important point I’d like to make deals with the manner in which survivors deal with emotional abuse. Since so many people in our society don’t have a clear understanding of the complexities of emotional abuse it is frequently difficult for survivors to actually name what they are experiencing as emotional abuse. While survivors may know that their feelings have been hurt, or that they don’t like what is being said (or not said) to them, it is rare to find a survivor who clearly states “I’m being emotionally abused.” Don’t get me wrong here. Some survivors are able to do this, but in over 25 years I haven’t worked with or witnessed many that have. As so many physically abusive relationships begin with emotional abuse, the survivor may not even realize they are being abused until the abuse escalates into physical and/or sexual abuse.
For the purposes of this discussion topic, please complete the following:
1. Interview 3 people about emotional abuse. This is a confidential interview so please do not identify the people you interview by name, address, or personal relationship with you. You will need to do the following:
Identify the person’s age and gender (this is basic demographic data that may help us better understand the responses)
Ask the following questions:
1. How do you define domestic violence?
2. How do you define emotional abuse?
3. Please give some examples of emotional abuse.
4. Do you think emotional abuse is as damaging as physical abuse? Why or why not?
NOTE: Do NOT ask the respondents if they have experienced abuse. Asking this question requires some very special “set up” that we are not going to be doing for this assignment.
3. Once you have completed your interviews please post the results in this conference.
4. Also post an analysis about the respondents’ answers. Postings that do not include an analysis of the responses will lose points. Consider at least some of the following when writing your analysis:
The analysis should be more than whether or not you agree with the respondents.
Do all of the respondents have the same or similar definitions?
Does it appear that the respondents are focusing only on intimate partners or are they including all family members in their discussions?
Are the respondents thorough in their definitions of domestic violence or are they leaving anything out?
Are the definitions/responses inclusive of all types of relationships or just
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