Violence against women can be in a different form than the physical one: it can be psychological. This kind of oppression is especially subtle, since it does not leave noticeable marks but inflicts deep scars in the psyche which are hard to heal. There’s a series of behaviours through which it is possible to acknowledge that our partner is exerting psychological violence against us. Such actions have the same purpose: ensnaring the victims and get them to enter a vicious circle, hard to get out. The key ingredient is the erosion of the woman self-esteem and confidence, as a way of binding her more and more to the abuser. Psychological violence is a cowardly and despicable manipulation of mind, with the sole purpose of establishing a hierarchy, a power and control dynamic within the couple. Here are some of the most common attitudes of men trying to trigger such a mechanism.
1. DIMINISHING THE WOMAN. The man mocks, denigrates and belittles partner’s qualities and achievements. He constantly humiliates the woman with (more or less) concealed insults and harassments, shaking her certainties and the confidence in her own capabilities. As a result, the manipulator is able to instil in the victim the idea of falling short or not being enough for him. In this way, the woman will increasingly tie herself to her abuser and will begin to develop a real addiction to him.
2. ISOLATING THE WOMAN. The manipulative partner tries to discredit all the people surrounding the woman, too, showing annoyance at such acquaintances. The man hassles the woman so that she stops cultivating the bonds she had before their relationship. Another action performed in order to isolate the female partner is controlling her finances and limiting her access to money, in a manner that limits her autonomy. The woman, ending previous friendships and relations, will feel even more lonely and dependent on her abusive partner.
3. JEALOUSY OUT OF CONTROL. Another red flag of ongoing psychological violence is unhealthy jealousy. When the partner gets mad and makes a scene without an apparent and actual reason, we are dealing with another manifestation of violence. The obsession for controlling the woman’s movement, cell phone and every other aspect of her life, is another dangerous signal of a toxic relationship. Thus, in the victim, unjustified feelings of guilt and inadequacy are triggered, which makes her even more sirened to man’s harassment.
4. THREATS AND EXTORTIONS. Abusive man persistently threatens his partner to leave her, to start a relationship with another woman, to commit suicide or to humiliate her in front of her friends and family if she does not accept his terms. The woman, who had already lost touch with reality because of previous intimidation techniques, satisfies any request of the man, scared to be left alone.
5. ROLE REVERSAL: THE ABUSER IMPERSONATES THE VICTIM. This is one of the most despicable techniques enacted by the abusive partner: the man takes advantage of his incredibly emphatic partner and turns the tables, tricking her into believing she is the abuser herself. Once again, the manipulator exerts leverage on the woman’s guilt, exaggerating and irrationalizing it. This way, the actual victim will try to win back the partner’s trust and appreciation in every possible way.
The best way to get out the vicious circle is learning to recognize these behaviours and to understand that leaving an abusive partner is freedom and not a sentence to loneliness. Even if is easier said than done, the woman who realizes being a victim of psychological violence must summon the courage, lean on the people supporting her and find the strength to leave her manipulator. The harassment victim must regain strength to believe in herself and to trust her personality and abilities. Nevertheless, this path, which often should be followed with the support of a therapist, is possible only if the woman first experiences the toxicity of her relationship and the desire to get out of it.
Italian version by Isabella Poretti
Translated by Elisabetta Castellotti