In this paper my goal is to point out the flaws with our society and how we view abuse, I want readers to question their own judgements and assumptions. I am proud of the research I did for this paper, I think i have a good balance of personal stories and scientific research. I hope when reading this you can better understand what those being emotionally abused are going through.
Psychological violence is the act of using manipulation, and verbal threats to control of another person. It is one of the four major types of abuse in relationships, those being: physical, emotional, sexual and psychological. In today's society, only the physical forms of abuse are deemed worthy of recognition. Specifically focusing on parent-child relationships, often psychological and emotional violence are not recognized as real abuse by child protective services because there is no physical evidence. In reality psychological violence is just as damaging as physical violence to growing adolescents.
A bruise, a red mark, the fear of a belt, a sob, a yelling mother, slamming doors, the sound of hand pressed against skin, a sting, a burn, the lack of a home. This is a description of how society sees abuse. We only see the loud, the dramatic, and the physical, but psychological violence is not as visible as this. This violence is a threat to harm oneself or someone else; it's unjust blaming. It’s constant lying to make another feel crazy, it’s berating and name calling and threats to abandon. Psychological violence doesn’t attack the body, but the mind, a tactic used to make someone feel worthless and out of control. You can’t see the physical effects of this kind of violence, which is why it is disregarded by society - we as people only believe what we see. Children who are victims of psychological violence are told they are lying, or are not believed because there is no proof; this stigma furthers their own devaluing of self.
An article from Psychology Today entitled The Enduring Pain of Childhood Verbal Abuse dives deep into the personal stories of abuse and how it affected the individuals’ brain development: “I didn’t know that the way my mother talked to me wasn’t the way other mothers talked to their daughters. I was an only child, and her constant criticism and putting me down made me feel terrible about myself, and it made me double my efforts to please her. More than anything, I wanted my mother to be happy with me.”(Aileen, 2016) This quote shows that those struggling with verbally abusive parents do not realize that it’s wrong; it is all that they know. Children are taught that being physically hurt is wrong, but they are never told what to do when their parents hurt their emotions. From the moment they are born, children are taught that adults are always right, and that they must respect their parents. Along with that, emotional battery is a common occurrence in many households, and because it isn’t physical, it’s swept under the rug. Without having an outlet for all of their feelings the children internalize what their parents say to them and start to believe it, such as with Aileen. The abuse affected the way she viewed herself and lowered her self esteem. And that made her focus all of her efforts into pleasing her mother, therefore her mother benefiting from the situation and remaining in control. Some people label this as simply “strict parenting”, but in reality it is manipulating a child's vulnerable mind for selfish gain.
Insecurity isn’t the only outcome of psychological abuse, however, as the pain becomes deeply rooted. “If you want to get a sense of how abuse affects a person’s life...in the long-term, imagine skipping a stone over water and then watching the ripple effect. There’s the direct effect of the verbal abuse in the moment, which inflicts deep emotional pain”(Peg Streep, 2016). This metaphor of skipping a stone represents verbal abuse, mindlessly hopping over the traditional definitions of abuse, and sinking into the water cleanly, escaping the consequences of being labeled abusive. But with every hop comes an emotional bruise to the victims brain, which turns into more and more bruises until the person has been fully broken down. This system of emotionally wounding a child makes them more compliant and dehumanized in order for the parent to reign in control.
But what, specifically, are these bruises doing to the adolescent mind? In a research paper from the Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences entitled Parental Psychological Abuse Toward Children and Mental Health Problems in Adolescence, the author states that, “In many cases PA [psychological abuse] is considered to be the most developmentally damaging dimension and has been linked with negative outcomes such as impaired emotional, social, and cognitive development, including helplessness, aggression, emotional unresponsiveness and neuroticism. Research consistently suggests that PA and neglect in childhood have negative effects on normal development.” This shows that psychological violence is having a larger impact on development than expected, and that all research points to society taking this form of abuse more seriously, but why it is still ignored. We as Americans have built up a reputation of being strong willed, and wary of being sensitive. We popularized the expression “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” We are a country afraid of showing weakness, and fragility. Therefore we will not express emotion, a country that doesn’t recognize violence until we see it with our own eyes. We are a country that ignores peaceful protests, makes every blockbuster and video game filled with gore, and that idolizes the strength of war and fighting. We will never see words as weapons, and children of generations past and to come will suffer because of it.
1. Defining Violence and Abuse https://www.gov.nl.ca/VPI/types/
2. Parental Psychological Abuse Towards Children https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3998989/
3. When Parents Are Too Toxic To Tolerate https://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/health/20mind.html
4. The Enduring Pain of Childhood Verbal Abuse https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/201611/the-enduring-pain-childhood-verbal-abuse
5. He Didn't Hit Me, It Was Still Abuse https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/07/15/he-didn't-hit-me-it-was-still-abuse/?utm_term=.9a271acbf4a5