"Abuse victims are always the best actors. They have to be, to live their whole lives with the
pain and shame, pretending there is nothing wrong. It's the greatest performance of all."
Great Book on Verbal (Emotional) Abuse
Verbal Abuse is like being "stabbed with words".
Emotional abuse, which is 8% of all substantiated cases of child abuse, is commonly defined as the systematic tearing down of another human being. It is considered a pattern of behavior that can seriously interfere with a child's positive development. Emotional abuse is probably the least understood of all child abuse, yet it is the most prevalent, and can be the cruelest and most destructive of all types of abuse.
Because emotional abuse attacks the child's psyche and self-concept, the victim comes to see him or herself as unworthy of love and affection. Children who are constantly shamed, humiliated, terrorized or rejected suffer at least as much, if not more, than if they had been physically assaulted.
An infant who is being severely deprived of basic emotional nurturing, even though physically well cared for, can fail to thrive and can eventually die. Less severe forms of early emotional deprivation may produce babies who grow into anxious and insecure children who are slow to develop or who might have low self-esteem.
Types of Emotional Abuse:
1] Rejecting -- Parents who lack the ability to bond will often display rejecting behavior toward a child. They tell a child in a variety of ways that he or she is unwanted. They may also tell the child to leave, call him or her names and tell the child he or she is worthless. They may not talk to or hold the young child as he or she grows. The child may become the family scapegoat, being blamed for all the family's problems.
2] Ignoring -- Adults who have had few of their emotional needs met are often unable to respond to the needs of their children. They may not show attachment to the child or provide nurturance. They may show no interest in the child, express affection or even recognize the child's presence. Many times the parent is physically there but emotionally unavailable.
3] Terrorizing -- Parents may single out one child to criticize and punish. They may ridicule him or her for displaying normal emotions and have expectations far beyond his or her normal
abilities. The child may be threatened with death, mutilation or abandonment.
4] Isolating -- A parent who abuses a child through isolation may not allow the child to engage in appropriate activities with his or her peers; may keep a baby in his or her room, not exposed to stimulation; or may prevent teenagers from participating in extracurricular activities. Parents may require the child to stay in his or her room from the time school lets out until the next morning, or restrict eating to isolation or seclusion.
5] Corrupting -- Parents permit children to use drugs or alcohol; to watch cruel behavior toward animals; to watch pornographic materials and adult sex acts; or to witness or participate in criminal activities such as stealing, assault, prostitution, gambling, etc.
What are the effects of emotional abuse?
Other types of abuse are usually identifiable because marks or other physical evidence is left, however, emotional abuse can be very hard to diagnose or even to define. In some instances, an emotionally abused child will show no signs of abuse. For this reason, emotional abuse is the most difficult form of child maltreatment to identify and stop. This type of abuse leaves hidden scars that manifest themselves in numerous ways. Insecurity, poor self-esteem, destructive behavior, angry acts (such as fire setting or cruelty to animals), withdrawal, poor development of basic skills, alcohol or drug abuse, suicide and difficulty forming relationships can all be possible results of emotional abuse.
Understanding Abusive Relationships
No one intends to be in an abusive relationship, but individuals who were verbally abused by a parent or other significant person often find themselves in similar situations as an adult. If a parent tended to define your experiences and emotions, and judge your behaviors, you may not have learned how to set your own standards, develop your own viewpoints and validate your own feeling and perceptions. Consequently, the controlling and defining stance taken by an emotional abuser may feel familiar or even conformable to you, although it is destructive.
Recipients of abuse often struggle with feelings of powerlessness, hurt, fear, and anger. Ironically abusers tend to struggle with these same feelings. Abuser are also likely to have been raised in emotionally abusive environments and they learn to be abusive as a way to cope with their own feelings of powerlessness, hurt , fear, and anger. Consequently, abusers may be attracted to people who see themselves as helpless or who have not learned to value their own feelings, perceptions, or viewpoints. This allows the abuser to feel more secure and in control, and avoid dealing with their own feelings, and self-perceptions.
Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.
Understanding the pattern of your relationships, specially those with family members and other significant people, is a fist step toward change. A lack of clarity about who you are in relationship to significant others may manifest itself in different ways. For example, you may act as an "abuser" in some instances and as a "recipient" in others. You may find that you tend to be abused in your romantic relationships, allowing your partners to define and control you. In friendships, however, you may play the role of abuser by withholding, manipulating, trying to "help" others, etc. Knowing yourself and understanding your past can prevent abuse from being recreated in your life.