When people think about abusive relationships and domestic abuse, often their first thoughts are of physical violence. But some abusers never raise a hand to their spouses. Emotional, verbal and financial abuse can be more subtle and hard to identify but still qualifies as domestic violence. The end goal of an abuser is to control you and there are many ways to do that. Here are some abusive behaviors to look out for:
1. Limiting contact with friends and relatives: Has your partner isolated you from your loved ones? This is a classic sign of an abusive relationship. Often an abuser wants you to rely solely on him/her for support. Your partner could achieve that by refusing to allow visitors to your home or persuading you to decline invitations to spend time with friends and family. An abuser may also tell you that your friends and family don’t care about you or love you like they do to further strengthen your reliance on your abuser. A more drastic step could be insisting on moving far away from people you know or demanding shared passwords and social media accounts in order to monitor your activities. By limiting your contact with others, your abuser cuts you off from people who may help you identify the abuse and assist you in getting out of the relationship.
2. Hiding financial information and restricting access to money: Some abusers insist their partners not work, which is another way of asserting control over your life. Without your own income, you will rely on him/her for all of your needs. You may be required to account for all of the money you spend, in some instances even by providing receipts for every purchase. They may also refuse to give you information about their income and assets and forge your signature on joint tax returns. If you are working, the abuser may force you to use all of your income to pay family expenses while refusing to tell you what they are doing with their money.
3. Shaming, belittling and name-calling: Abusers often use demeaning language to chip away at their partner’s self-confidence and feelings of self-worth. They will call you a “bad mother,” “stupid,” “lazy,” or criticize your physical appearance. If someone you trust cuts you down enough, at some point you may end believing them. This is a form of domestic abuse known as emotional abuse.
4. Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and manipulation that can be used by your abuser to gain more control over you. This may come in the form of telling lies in a manner that leads you to question your own ability to discern the truth, or they may deny things that they have said or done even though you are certain they happened and sometimes even have proof. They may accuse you of the negative behaviors they are engaging in even though you know that is not true, requiring you to defend yourself against something that never happened and thereby taking the focus off of them. Ultimately, victims of gaslighting can lose touch with reality.
5. Threats to take custody of the children: “If you leave me, I will take the kids and you will never see them again” or “I will fight you for custody and you know I will win.” These are the types of threats we have heard time and again in our domestic violence cases. The threats often come from a parent who was not particularly involved with the children but who has the resources for a protracted custody battle or to abscond with the children. The abuser is threatening to take away what is most important to you and the fear of losing one’s children can cause a person to stay in an abusive relationship.
If you recognize any of these behaviors in your relationship, Greenblatt Law can help. We have extensive experience representing victims of domestic violence. We know how hard it is to leave an abusive marriage and we can help you figure out how to get out and where to find resources for support.