Unfortunately, some intimate and personal relationships may turn abusive. While physical abuse in relationships receives much attention, emotional abuse occurs just as frequently. However, many victims of emotional abuse and their family and friends may not realize when it happens.
When victims and their loved ones realize that emotional abuse has occurred, they may wonder whether emotional abuse falls under the definition of domestic violence. Many emotionally abusive behaviors may constitute domestic violence, especially when emotional abuse involves physical force, threats, or harassment.
What Is Emotional Abuse?
Emotional abuse occurs when someone attempts to control another person by manipulating their emotions through criticism, embarrassment, shaming, or blaming. Although emotional abuse most frequently occurs in intimate relationships, abuse may also occur in other familial relationships, friendships, and business/professional relationships.
Through emotional abuse, an abuser uses a consistent pattern of statements and behaviors designed to wear down the victim’s self-esteem and damage their mental health to facilitate the abuser’s control over the victim. Abusers isolate, silence, and discredit their victims, causing them to doubt their perceptions or reality or feel trapped in the abusive relationship. Victims may fear leaving the relationship because they’ve become emotionally dependent on their abuser, or they fear that no one will believe them if they seek help for the abuse.
Examples of Emotional Abuse
Abusers may use various statements and behaviors to destroy a victim’s mental health or self-esteem, trapping them in an abusive relationship and making it easier to control the victim. Common actions or statements that constitute emotional abuse include:
- Jealousy, possessiveness, or unfounded accusations of cheating
- Constant monitoring or surveillance of the victim’s activities
- Controlling the victim’s behavior, including requiring the victim to seek permission to spend time with others or leave the house
- Criticism of appearance, intelligence, accomplishments, or behavior
- Silent treatment
- Withholding affection
- Isolating the victim from family and friends
- Trivializing the victim’s feelings or concerns
- Threatening to harm the victim or their loved ones
- Threatening to leave the relationship or to commit self-harm if the victim leaves the relationship
Signs of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse may seem subtle to the victim and the people around them, making it hard to detect signs that it’s occurring. Abusers may not start emotionally abusing victims until well into the relationship after the victim has become emotionally attached. This may make it more difficult for the victim to recognize or differentiate abuse from typical relationship conflicts. Common signs that someone has begun emotionally abusing you include:
- Setting unrealistic expectations for your relationship, such as expecting you to prioritize them over your needs or goals, demanding to spend all your time together, expressing dissatisfaction with all your efforts, criticizing you for not meeting their standards, or expecting you to share all their opinions
- Invalidating your feelings by dismissing or distorting your perceptions of reality, refusing to accept your feelings, accusing you of being “too sensitive” or “crazy,” rejecting the validity of your ideas or opinions, dismissing your needs or requests as unmerited, accusing you of selfishness or neediness when you express wants or desires
- Creating chaos in your relationship and your personal life, including arguing for the sake of argument, making confusing or contradictory statements, having mood swings or emotional outbursts, and behaving erratically or unpredictably.
- Engaging in emotional blackmail, including guilt-tripping you, humiliating you, exaggerating your flaws, highlighting your flaws or mistakes to distract from their problems, denying details of past events, or punishing you with the “silent treatment” or withholding affection or intimacy
- Exhibiting a superiority complex or entitlement by blaming you for their mistakes or shortcomings, attempting to prove you wrong in every conflict, belittling you, making derogatory or condescending statements about you, making “jokes” at your expense, devaluing your ideas/opinions/values, or constantly taking a sarcastic tone with you
- Attempting to control and isolate you by controlling who you spend time with, monitoring you electronically and digitally, withholding your car keys or cell phone, criticizing you in front of family and friends, using envy or jealousy as a sign of love, controlling your finances, or accusing you of infidelity
When Does Emotional Abuse Lead to Domestic Violence?
Although no one should deal with emotional abuse in their relationship with a partner or family member, many emotionally abusive behaviors can cross the line between inappropriate behavior and domestic violence. Under Nevada law, certain acts constitute domestic violence when committed against a spouse/former spouse, a family member by blood or marriage, an intimate or dating partner, or a co-parent. These acts may include:
- Sexual assault
- False imprisonment
Other crimes rise to the level of domestic violence. One is coercion, where the abuser uses violence, injury, or the threat of force to compel a person to do something or abstain from doing something they have the right to do or not to do. Another is harassment, which may involve stalking, trespassing, home invasion, theft, arson, or burglary.
Emotional abuse involving physical violence or threats of violence will usually constitute domestic violence in a qualifying relationship. However, other insidious behaviors may also constitute domestic violence, such as using GPS or electronic monitoring to stalk a victim, taking away vehicle keys to prevent a victim from leaving their home or entering the victim’s home without permission.
How Can an Attorney Help?
When you’ve suffered from acts of emotional abuse in your relationship, an attorney can help you protect your rights and safety by:
- Reviewing the facts of your case to determine whether you may have become the victim of domestic violence
- Explaining your legal options to you, including pursuing a protective order to prevent further abuse
- Filing court petitions and advocating on your behalf to secure an order of protection
- Returning to court as necessary to secure further protection or relief for you if the other party violates any protective orders
Contact an Attorney If You’ve Suffered Emotional Abuse from a Partner, Household Member, or Family Member
If you’ve experienced emotional abuse from a partner or family member, contact an attorney from De Castroverde Personal Injury & Accident for a free, confidential consultation. Let’s discuss your legal rights and options for seeking relief and recovery.