Susan and Tim have been married for 10 years. Susan has a full-time job, but still works hard to care for her home and family. That includes having a home cooked meal prepared when Tim arrives home every day. Today, her son became ill at school and it took her a couple of hours to pick him up and take him to the doctor. That meant Susan was not going to have that meal on the table today. Susan was afraid.

Why would something so minor cause Susan to become fearful? She was in a situation that most people wouldn’t give a second thought. It's just something that happens. For Susan, it could turn into a nightmare.

Susan raced home and hoped she had enough time to begin preparing dinner before Tim arrived. Unfortunately, Tim arrived only a few minutes after her. When he saw there was no food on the table, he was not happy. Therefore, as Susan had feared, he was about to make her life hell.

Tim proceeded to throw plates, glasses, silverware, and everything else he saw. As he was having this tantrum, he was screaming and cursing at Susan. When Susan ran over to pick up the mess, she slipped and fell on the floor.

Tim stood over her and told her she deserved to be on the floor because she was so stupid. He said that all he expected of her was to clean the house, take care of the kids, and have a home-cooked dinner on the table every day, but she wasn’t even capable of doing that. Susan knew better than to say a word because this has happened before. In fact, it happens frequently and she knew it would make him angrier.

Tim eventually left the house saying he was going to eat. Susan broke down and began sobbing uncontrollably. She wasn’t crying because Tim was angry with her or because he called her names. She wasn’t crying because she hurt her knee when she fell. Susan was crying because she couldn’t believe how she could be so stupid. Tim had every right to be enraged. She had disappointed him once again. She should have tried harder or found a way to do what was expected of her. She was so afraid that someday, Tim was going to hurt her or even worse, he might leave her.

It’s hard to believe that Susan reacted this way to the situation. How can she believe that she is responsible? Because over the years, Tim has programmed Susan to believe that she is the reason for everything wrong in their lives. He knew how to hurt her without laying a hand on her. Unbelievably, it happens to an extraordinary number of people every day.


What are the Signs of Emotional Abuse?

There are many ways a person can abuse someone. Most people think that physical abuse is the most prevalent. That’s because the bruises and cuts are evidence that abuse is happening. Mental abuse is easier to hide. The mental abuser inflicts pain without leaving marks and bruises.

It’s hard to understand how someone can be unaware they are being abused. Unfortunately, the victim has to recognize that the abuse is happening to them before they can free themselves from it. Other people are frequently unaware of the situation, because the abuser is very good at hiding it.

The victim has no support system because they are frequently isolated from friends and family. Unlike Susan, they are often forbidden to work. The abuser dictates their life by telling them where they can and cannot go and with whom they are allowed to communicate. It becomes normal for the victim to ask permission before doing anything.

Tim used several of the methods commonly used by mental abusers. As with Tim, the abuser seeks to destroy the victim’s self-esteem. They curse and call them names that will make them feel inferior. The victim becomes convinced that no one else will ever want them and they are trapped in this hopeless situation. Also as with Tim, they will insinuate violence without physically harming the victim by throwing and smashing items and yelling threats. The victim spends his or her life anticipating the dreaded moment when the hitting begins.

The victim frequently feels like they’re walking on eggshells. The abuser’s anger seems to be strangely misplaced. They frequently become enraged over a situation that would seem minor to someone else, such as the dinner situation with Susan and Tim. At the same time, when something major does happen, the abuser seems to take it in stride. The abused person is never certain how he or she should behave in any situation.

If you finally decide to leave, they may keep you there by threatening to take the children away. Another method is threatening to harm you, the children, members of your family, and even themselves. It’s all used to instill fear.

There are many more examples of this horrific and dangerous behavior. If you are in a situation similar to Susan, then you are most likely a victim of emotional abuse. It’s imperative that you recognize this and take action against it. It’s quite common for emotional abuse to progress to physical abuse. When that happens, the threat of injury or even death is all too real for the victim.

Reach out to the help that is available before that happens.

You may contact the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) to be directly connected to your local domestic violence program.



California Partnership to End Domestic Violence - Get Help Now. (n.d.). Retrieved June 2014, from


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UNCOVERING THE DECEPTIVE SCARS OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE by UrbanSculpt Staff Writer Brenda Rivera-Billings MSc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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