Domestic violence victims are the target of many types of abuse from their significant others. In a relationship suffering from abuse, emotional abuse almost always surfaces much earlier than physical violence. At first, it may be challenging to identify emotional abuse, and many victims may not even realize it is a form of abuse at all. However, studies have found that it can be as damaging as physical abuse long-term.
What Is Emotional Abuse?
Emotional abuse is a broad term that describes several types of harmful behavior. Emotional abuse is sometimes used interchangeably with other terms, such as “psychological violence,” “psychological abuse,” or “mental abuse.”
Any kind of abuse that is not physical may be considered emotional abuse. Abusive behaviors that do not involve physical contact can include:
- Verbal aggression
These behaviors tend to unfold over time, and they aim to diminish the identity, dignity, and self-worth of the targeted individual. Ultimately, emotional abuse may have long-term effects on a person’s mental health and may prompt the development of psychological disorders such as:
- Anxiety and depression
- Suicidal thoughts
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Identifying Emotional Abuse
Sometimes, people are exposed to emotional abuse from such a young age that it’s accepted as a normal part of life. When a person is being emotionally abusive toward someone they care about, those who suffer may view the behavior as part of their loved one’s personality and may have an attitude of “oh, that’s just how they are.” Yet, long-term, this behavior can create lasting hardship.
The following behaviors may potentially be considered emotional abuse if the intent is malicious.
- Giving the silent treatment
- Forced isolation
- Using sarcasm and insults
- Being impossible to please
What Are the Effects of Emotional Abuse?
There is a widespread belief that some forms of abuse—like physical and sexual abuse—are more harmful to children and adults than psychological or emotional abuse. Yet studies have been conducted that show this may be untrue. Since emotional abuse manifests in various ways and looks different for everyone, it’s extremely challenging to pinpoint with certainty if it has occurred. However, experts agree that it has devastating effects on anyone who is subjected to it.
One study conducted by scientists at McGill University in Canada suggests that emotional abuse is as damaging as violent abuse when it pertains to behavioral and mental health. The study examined children between the ages of 5 and 13 who attended a summer camp for low-income children in New York from 1986 to 2012. Half of the children who attended the camp had a documented history of child maltreatment, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. The authors of the study described emotional abuse as including behaviors like ridicule, intimidation, rejection, and humiliation.
What they found was that all children who suffered any type of abuse displayed similar mental health and behavioral issues. According to David Vachon, the paper’s lead author, “physically abused children and emotionally abused children had very similar problems.”
A similar study, completed not long after the McGill study, revealed that children who were subjected to emotional abuse and neglect sometimes had worse mental health issues than those who were physically or sexually abused.
Can Someone Go to Jail for Emotionally Abusing Their Partner?
In Florida, emotional abuse is a form of abuse that may be used as evidence in a domestic violence case; however, on its own, it might not meet the definition of domestic violence. Statute 741.28 defines domestic violence as “any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of a family or household member by another family or household member.”
On the other hand, some types of emotional abuse may meet the legal definition of assault, which is an “intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to another person, coupled with the apparent ability to do so and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear that such violence is imminent.”
Contact The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel for Quality Representation
It may be extremely challenging for the prosecution to prove someone guilty of domestic violence using evidence of emotional abuse alone. If you’re accused of domestic violence, or have a domestic violence injunction against you in Florida, discuss your case with a knowledgeable defense lawyer like Brian Gabriel. Call West Palm Beach attorney Brian Gabriel at (561) 622-5575 for a free consultation or complete a contact form.