‘You don’t deserve to have time to play.’
‘Everything is your fault.’
‘You are a donkey.’
‘I am going to poke your eyes out.’
‘I hope you don’t wake up in the morning.’
These words, and much, much worse, have been venomously slung at children (and partners) in homes where domestic violence is the norm. Over time the victim invariably comes to believe that what is being said is true. And think they are to blame or somehow deserve the abuse.
Until they learn that this kind of behaviour is not normal and that they indeed are the victims. Children are particularly vulnerable.
Verbal and emotional abuse takes many forms – name calling, constant criticism, swearing, humiliation, insults, yelling, threatening, embarrassment, control, power play, guilt manipulation, social isolation. Like Chinese water torture, it has a serious and often lasting impact on self esteem and confidence. It bruises and hurts. Deeply.
When the perpetrator is confronted, they often deny what they said or blame someone else. That is called gaslighting.
“It’s a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed.”
The victim’s view of reality becomes distorted by the denial, excuses, and lying. Through this emotional torture, they change from a level-headed, confident person to a confused victim.
“It’s literally a manipulative attempt at making another person think they’re losing their ability to think, remember, and be rational.”
Bottom line – it’s about power and control. And it goes hand in hand with all the other forms of abuse – physical, financial, emotional, verbal, social, sexual, stalking, spiritual, image based, dowry and elder.
Watching and listening to those who are caught in the web of violence is heartbreaking. What is even more heartbreaking, if that is possible, is walking alongside as they try to navigate the torturous path of getting help. It can, and does, take years to break free from the cycle. The systems that have been put in place to support and assist are so convoluted and tied up in red tape that many give up in despair. And, sadly, far too many end up dead.
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017 data paints a stark picture. Here’s just a sampling –
On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.
1 in 4 women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15.
1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
85% of Australian women have been sexually harassed.
Almost 40% of women continued to experience violence from their partner while temporarily separated.
1 in 6 women have experienced stalking since the age of 15.
Children of mothers experiencing domestic violence have higher rates of social and emotional problems than other children.
Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and their children.
Most often it is women and children who are the victims. But that is not always the case.
Warning: this short film is graphic.
If you know of anyone in these circumstances, first and foremost, be a friend. Listen. Let them know you care. Let them know that they matter. That what is happening to them is not OK. That they have a right to be safe. To be respected. To be heard.
Be there to help them navigate their way through seeking help. It is not easy.
Be a friend to those in need