Emotional Abuse (FocusAS.com)
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The Line: Emotional Abuse 

Where is the line between love and control? Coralee Trigger, a student filmmaker, made this video PSA as the culmination of her Girl Scout Gold Award.


Emotional abuse (psychological abuse, verbal abuse, mental injury) includes acts or omissions that have caused, or could cause, serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorders.  In some cases of emotional abuse, the acts of parents or other caregivers alone, without any harm evident in the child’s behavior or condition, are sufficient to warrant child protective services (CPS) intervention.  For example, the parents/caregivers may use extreme or bizarre forms of punishment, such as confinement of a child in a dark closet.  This is usually done in the name of "discipline."

Examples of emotional abuse include:

    Belittling - Disparaging comments; making what one said as unimportant or contemptibly small  

    Countering and correcting - Responding in opposition and pointing out errors and mistakes

    Put-downs disguised as jokes - Making critical, dismissive, or slighting remarks in a joking, often sarcastic, way

    Teasing - Harassing someone 'playfully' and often with sexual connotations, or harassing maliciously (especially by ridicule); provoking someone with persistent annoyances  
    If teasing is reciprocal, it can be considered a playful bonding interaction and is not abusive.  If one or both persons are already in a relationship with another, then this type of teasing is flirting and is emotionally abusive in its betrayal.

    Holding out - Refusing to provide emotional support, share information, or otherwise be intimate in a relationship,

    Shutting down - Changing the subject of a discussion (particularly if it is done rapidly), stopping an emotionally-uncomfortable discussion down entirely, and "forcing a discussion off-track"

    Blame-shifting - Scape-goating or laying the responsibility of one's actions on someone else (e.g., "It's your fault," "If only you were more/less (whatever)," "You're just trying to pick a fight")

    Fault-finding - Relentless criticizing and correcting

    Intimidation - Words or actions that threaten or imply harm or loss of something important; emotional blackmail

    Insulting and labeling - Calling someone something pejorative; name-calling

    Selective memory - Remembering only parts of an event or bringing up only negative aspects of a person; includes 'forgetting' and altering of facts to make himself/herself look good

    Commanding - Issuing demands in a controlling or dominating way (as opposed to polite and respectful requests)

    Lashing out - Angry attacks, yelling, screaming, raging, temper tantrums 
    Some emotional abuse, such as habitual scape-goating, belittling, or rejecting treatment, is often difficult to prove and, therefore, child protective services may not be able to intervene without evidence of harm to the child.

Andrew Vachss, an attorney who represents children and youth exclusively, with 30 years experience in child protective work, says that emotional abuse of children can lead in adulthood to:

Read Andrew Vachss' excellent article, You Carry The Cure In Your Own Heart.

No abuse - neglect, physical, sexual - can occur without psychological consequences.  Therefore all abuse contains elements of emotional abuse.

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Abuse  -  Neglect  -  Physical Abuse  -  Sexual Abuse - Teen Dating Violence  -  Abuse Help &  Support

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