“Emotional abuse is the silent monster in our midst, occurring in neighbors’ and loved ones’ homes more than we realize. It is a tragic situation that’s a daily reality for millions,” Krumins says. “A widespread illegal activity is being ignored when people are victimized in their own homes. What emotional abusers are doing to their victims is criminal and has to be stopped.”
Bruises and broken bones are potential signs of physical abuse, but emotional abuse leaves no obvious marks. "Emotional abuse is about someone manipulating your emotions on a psychological level," Krumins explains. "And it goes beyond simple verbal bullying." Emotional abusers may come across as bullies, yet they are often "silent monsters" that fake affection while knowing precisely how to manipulate situations, hurt and humiliate their victims and do whatever it takes to stay in control of the situation and their victims.
Even though emotional abusers can quickly explain away or make excuses for their abusive behavior, Krumins is quick to state that emotional abusers know exactly what they’re doing. Emotional abusers are masters of manipulation, lying, intimidation and guilt. "They’ve been perfecting what they do to people ever since they were little -- and they chose to be this way," she adds. "They don’t want to change and they don’t care who they hurt as long as no one suspects them, and the situation works for them."
Because emotional abuse doesn't leave physical scars, it can be hard to discern. Krumins says the signs are subtle and that awareness goes a long way in helping to spot emotional abuse. Oftentimes, nothing seems obviously wrong, but you just get a sense that something seems off. For example, your best friend’s new boyfriend appears to be “too good to be true” yet your gut doesn't trust that the affections are genuine. "You may see or feel things that are off and start second-guessing yourself or making excuses for oddities," she explains. "Trust your instincts. They’re usually right. And if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to help your best friend."
What about when you're the one being emotionally abused? It's hard to admit that your boyfriend or husband is hurting you, but don't let embarrassment keep you in an unhealthy relationship. Krumins warns that women in emotionally abusive relationships suffer feelings of conflict, grief, insecurity, feeling overwhelmingly stifled and that nothing they do or say is right or good enough. Whether they disagree with their abuser or tell the abuser exactly what he wants to hear, the abuse doesn't readily ease up. "This negative pressure will come at you in various forms, such as threatening, blaming, accusing, yelling, teasing and even laughing, and is applied 24/7 in extreme cases," says Krumins, leaving you feeling confused, ashamed, and afraid.
Krumins says if you suspect you're in an emotionally abusive relationship, answer these questions:
"If you answer yes to these questions, I would tell you that it is not normal. You are being emotionally abused," Krumins warns. "As a victim, no matter what you are being told, you must know that it is not your fault and know that the abuser has no intention of changing. The only thing you can do is leave. Get someone to help you pack your bags and stay away from this person. Never go back. He means you harm."
It's true: Emotional abuse is hard to prove, but you have a right to be protected, even if it means getting authorities involved. Krumins says, "You can’t prove emotional abuse by treating it as a private family matter. It has to be investigated as a crime by professionals who are properly trained." When you report it, Krumins recommends keeping the following points in mind.
Whether you are the loved one of someone who is being emotionally abused or are a victim of emotional abuse, Krumins says it is critical that you don't stay silent. "As a community, we have to change our attitude toward emotional abuse. If we continue to ignore it or walk away from those who need our help, we just become enablers ourselves. We have to openly start challenging abusers and holding them accountable for their actions. Exposing the perpetrators of emotional abuse is the very least we can all do to help the victims."
Krumins hopes that with the increase of public awareness campaigns, there can be social change that puts policies and protocols in place that classify emotional abuse as a crime and render appropriate punishment to the offenders. "By exposing emotional abusers and having them face consequences for their actions, we’re managing them and we’re one step closer to stopping emotional abuse."
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