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Man arguing with his partner

How to Spot Emotional Abuse

Physical abuse is not hard to recognise: bruises, black eyes and scars are some of the tell-tale signs of domestic violence. Emotional abuse, on the other hand, can be harder to spot, often going unnoticed by relatives, friends, colleagues and even victims themselves. Emotional abuse takes several forms, including insults, unconstructive criticism and threats. Regardless of the tactics used, the goal is always the same: to gain power and assert their authority in the relationship.


These behaviours, which often happen in private, chip away at the victim's self-confidence, making them more susceptible to future abuse. Gradually, the victim becomes only a shell of their former self and spends all their time trying to figure out how to love their abuser better — which never works. Victims rarely spot emotional abuse in their relationships, so it's no wonder that outsiders have an even harder time spotting this toxic behaviour. Here are five potential warning signs that could indicate a loved one is the victim of emotional abuse:


Their partner talks down to them

Your loved one's significant other may pass rude remarks and label them as jokes. They may also accuse your loved one of being too sensitive once they complain about  the comments. Sometimes your loved one may laugh with their partner and claim the remarks were no big deal, even when you can tell they're hurt.


Their mood changes after a call/text from their partner

When your loved one gets off the phone with their partner, does their body language suggest they're in a bad mood? Do they tense up and close you off? If there's a shift in body language, facial expressions and tone of voice after contact from their partner, you may have reason to believe they're being abused


Their partner has access to their social media profiles

An abuser knows their partner's login details and uses them to gain access to certain sites or apps to keep an eye on their significant other. They may claim that they're building trust, but that is not the way to go about it. Giving your partner free reign over your social media can be problematic as it removes privacy, one of the most important boundaries in a healthy relationship. Allowing your partner to have their space demonstrates trust, while constantly keeping tabs on them signals the opposite.


Gender-based violence doesn't happen in a vacuum. There are other behaviours and types of abuse that accompany physical violence. While the signs of physical abuse may be plain to see, the signs of emotional abuse are not as easy to see. Knowing what to look out for can help you offer a helping hand when your loved one needs it most.


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