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We're Watching You

Am I Being Emotionally Abused?

By BAD undergrad Sabrina Jamaludin.

Physical abuse is tangible. You can see the bruises. The blistering pain. The tingling rawness left from a slap or a punch or a kick. Emotional abuse isn’t. It doesn’t leave any evidence on your body, no wrap around bruises or bite marks or burns. That’s the worst part. It can be so elusive, sometimes neither the abuser or the abused are fully aware of it happening.

So what is emotional abuse? It involves a regular pattern of verbal offense. This

includes threatening, bullying, constant criticism, as well as subtler tactics like intimidation, shaming, and manipulation. Does he or she monitors what you’re doing all the time? Do they prevent or discourage you from seeing friends or family? Tries to stop you from going to work or school? Gets angry in a way that is frightening to you? Threatens to harm himself or herself when upset with you? These are all just examples of emotional abuse.

This form of abuse is used to control and subjugate the other person. Many of these cases occur because the abuser has childhood wounds that they haven’t tended to, maybe as a result of being abused themselves – be it physically or mentally. Abusers also tend to have high rates of personality disorders, some of them including borderline personality disorder, narcissism, and bipolar disorder. Although emotional abuse doesn’t always lead to physical abuse, physical abuse is almost always preceded and accompanied by emotional abuse.

There are five categories to emotional abuse. Ask yourself these questions to see if you’re being emotionally abused in your relationship.

1. Humiliation, degradation, and criticizing

Do they regularly ridicule, degrade, dismiss, or disregard you, your feelings or your opinions? Do they tell you your feelings are “wrong”? Do they say that’s it’s a joke and claim that you’re too sensitive?

2. Domination, control, and shame

Do you have to get “permission” before going somewhere or before even making small decisions? Do they remind you that you are inferior to them? Do they think they’re always right and remind you of your shortcomings? Do they belittle you? Do they give descending looks, comments, or behavior?

3. Accusing and blaming, trivial and unreasonable demands or expectations, denies own shortcomings

Are they extremely sensitive when it comes to others making fun of them or making any kind of comment that seems to show a lack of respect? Do they have trouble apologizing? Do they call you names or label you? Do they blame you for their problems or unhappiness? Do they continually have “boundary violations” and disrespect your valid requests?

4. Emotional distancing and the “silent treatment,” isolation, emotional abandonment or neglect

Do they use pouting, withdrawal or withholding attention or affection? Do they not want to meet the basic needs or use neglect or abandonment as punishment? Do they play the victim to deflect blame onto you instead of taking responsibility for their actions and attitudes? Do they not notice or care how you feel? Do they not show empathy or ask questions to gather information?

5. Codependence and enmeshment

Does anyone treat you not as a separate person but instead as an extension of themselves? Do they not protect your personal boundaries and share information that you have not approved? Do they disrespect your requests and do what they think is best for you? Do they require continual contact and haven’t developed a healthy support network among their own peers?

The first step for those being emotionally abused is recognizing that it’s happening. If you recognize any of the signs of emotional abuse in your relationship, you need to be honest with yourself so you can regain power over your own life, stop the abuse, and begin to heal. For those who’ve been minimizing, denying, and hiding the abuse, this can be a painful and frightening first step. The stress of emotional abuse will eventually catch up with you in the form of illness, emotional trauma, depression, or anxiety. You simply can’t allow it to continue, even if it means ending the relationship.

Can an emotional abuser change? It is possible if the abuser deeply desires to change and recognizes his or her abusive patterns and the damage caused by them. However, the learned behaviors and feelings of entitlement and privilege are very difficult to change. The abusers tend to enjoy the power they feel from emotional abuse, and as a result, a very low percentage of abusers can turn themselves around.

Here’s also a common problem that is difficult to bring up with the police. The amount of times this sort of stories has been heard is incredulous and it is a form of emotional abuse, yet not much action can be taken upon it, which is indeed terrifying for the abused, even long after he or she has left the relationship. The author urges both girls and boys who have been in a similar situation to be careful and realize be aware that this is not normal.

Here’s the story. Sara* was in a relationship with an emotionally abusive man. She knew he was smart enough not to hit her and drove her insane with threats, intimidation, threats to kill himself if she leaves, even breaking things in front of her, emphasizing that he would hit her like this or that. So she left and when she did, he finally put his hands on her, but she escaped unscathed and never saw him again. However, months after leaving him, she still gets stalked by her abuser. She has changed her phone number, moved homes, switched college campuses, but he always finds a way to reach her, leaving her very cryptic threatening messages. Messages like “I’m going to get you!” “I’m going to find you.” “See you 3 days.” If she blocks him on Twitter, he’ll message her on Soundcloud. Spotify. Pinterest. Old work e-mail. She also once found a Tumblr that he has reblogged her photos over and over again.

Sara* has gone to the police before. She has compiled all her evidence of his intimidating threats into a folder. All the messages. The whole story. They laughed her out the door.

“It’s not abuse if he doesn’t hit you.” “Takde luka kan.” “Ala, break up punya pasal sedih la dia.”

Why is this so? The author gathered this response from a Malaysian website:

If my abuser is following me around, phones to threaten me or sends me SMS to scare me, is this domestic violence?

A central aspect of the dynamics of domestic violence is psychological and emotional abuse, alone or accompanying cycles of violence and intimidation. Even when there is no physical abuse, victims can be subject to stalking, repeated phone calls, threats of withdrawing financial support, threats of harming or taking children away, ridicule or social isolationism. By broadening the definition of domestic violence, these forms of abuse can be addressed. The Select Committee did not include, in its proposed amendments, an extension of the definition of hurt to allow for this provision.

Even from the above statement, it seems to be directed towards married women. Despite the addition that emotional abuse is under domestic violence that can be reported in recent years, this still only applies to marriages. When you’re not married to them, it could be worse. The law doesn’t often recognize abuse outside of marriages, and if it does, has to go through a lengthy process from the duration of your relationship, intimacy, how much time is spent together, and etcetera.

If you are being abused or were abused in the past, you are not alone. It’s scary. You can call and ask for support from places in your community. If you’re in need of immediate help or advice, the Women’s Aid Organisation of Malaysia is the place for you to go. They are an independent, non-religious and non-governmental organization, who are committed to addressing violence against women. Their

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website not only lists their contact, but also other women’s rights organisations:



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