Emotional abuse on the upswing
Sandra Schiele, Counsel House
Anger, depression and anxiety are all contributing factors to the rise in child/adult abuse/neglect during this pandemic.
What are abuse and neglect and are you living amidst it?
Abuse takes the form of physical and sexual assault. It’s not OK for parents and caregivers to physically injure their children. It’s not OK to become physically aggressive with one’s partner, break things, throw things at her/him, point guns/pull knives, coerce sexual acts or threaten her/his life. It’s not OK for adults or other children to touch a child in their private areas, involve them in pornography or subject them to sexual innuendos suggestive of sexual behaviors. These are just a few examples of abuse.
Children can be neglected in terms of their educational, medical, food, water, clothing, shelter, hygiene and emotional needs. Vulnerable adults can be neglected in very similar ways and also include financial exploitation. These are just a few examples of neglect.
This week we will focus on emotional abuse as many people don’t realize this is a form of abuse/neglect. It’s also referred to as verbal, mental or psychological abuse. It occurs when a person tells another such things that will significantly decrease their self-esteem, diminish their self-worth, remove their belief that they can function independently or generate fear for themselves, another person or even a family pet. They make statements like “You’re worthless.” “You’ll never make it alone.” “You’ll lose your children.” “I’ll find you if you ever leave.” “I’ll kill your dog.” “You’ll never find anyone because you’re so ugly and stupid.” “I wish I had never given birth to you.” These are only a few examples of things a victim of emotional abuse may hear.
As children growing up in this type environment, they become conditioned to hearing this. They even believe it to be true. Often, by the time they are in therapy, a great deal of damage has incurred.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the frequency and intensity of emotional abuse have increased. People are hearing, “I’m so sick of you.” “I wish you would leave and never come back.” “You’re such a horrible kid.” “You’re a pathetic provider.” “Why aren’t these kids under control when I get home?” “You’re a horrible mom/dad.” “I wish you were dead.”
With the increase in suicidal ideation and attempts, this last statement is the last thing someone contemplating suicide needs to hear.
If you are being emotionally abused, know someone who is or are the one doing it, there are resources available. Call the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-800-5556 or the Indiana Adult Abuse Hotline at 1-800-992-6978.
If we can be of assistance to you or a loved one, contact us at 812-738-3277 or via email at [email protected] For 24/7 crisis and information services, you can also call Louisville’s Hope Now Hotline at 1-800-221-0446.
Editor’s note: Sandra Schiele is a licensed behavioral health specialist who practices at Counsel House in Corydon.