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Understanding Emotional Violence Against Women

If emotional violence is continuous, the survivors can develop long-lasting negative impacts on their physical and mental health says Shagun Sharma

Across the world, women are subjected to different forms of violence and discrimination.

Of all the forms of violence, one is an underestimated form, Emotional Violence. As per UN Women, “Emotional violence includes undermining a person’s sense of self-worth through constant criticism; belittling one’s abilities; name-calling or other verbal abuse; damaging a partner’s relationship with the children, or not letting a partner see friends and family.”

Emotional violence is different but closely related to psychological violence which is defined as, “Psychological violence involves causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner or children; destruction of pets and property; ‘mind games’; or forcing isolation from friends, family, school and/or work,” by UN Women. 

Emotional Violence: less recognised form of violence

There is no comprehensive study on the prevalence of emotional violence. However, as per National Family Health Survey-4, emotional violence was the second most prevalent form of violence with women in India. The situation is grim not only in India but in many other countries. 

  • Statistics shared by UN Women show that 50% of women in 13 countries experienced verbal abuse during COVID-19 Pandemic.
  • During the pandemic, emotional abuse rose from 29.5% to 35.0% in Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
  • As per a study conducted with college students of mid-western and southern USA, female, white, older students were more likely to report emotional abuse.
  • Psychological abuse was the most frequent type of violence (96%) faced by Tunisian women as an outcome of COVID-19.
  • In a study of 3,666 ever-married women in Pakistan,  the prevalence of emotional and physical violence was found to be 36.4%.

Impact of emotional Violence on Health & life

Emotional Violence is mostly commonly instigated by an intimate partner or someone else from close family and friends. Numerous researches have suggested that patriarchal upbringing and childhood abuse can significantly add to the vulnerability of the individual to emotional violence as an adult.

If emotional violence is continuous, the survivors can develop long-lasting negative impacts on their physical and mental health including depression, generalized anxiety disorder, stress, chronic pain and sleep disorders. Its ancillary impact can, also, be seen in the relations that the survivors develop with their friends, children and relatives. Being forced with an emotional abuser often leads to loss of self-worth, confidence, self-dignity by bringing feelings of powerlessness, guilt, hopelessness, manipulation and fear.

Preventing violence and seeking help.

Emotional violence is instigated over a period of time and at different intervals of time. Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviours that are meant to control, isolate, or frighten you. If you feel vulnerable in your relationship with your family members or your intimate partner, look out for the warning signs below:

  • Called with insulting names such as ‘whore’, ‘fat’, ‘worthless’, ‘disgusting’, etc
  • Given no autonomy of decisions that you should take
  • Personal & public degradation in various forms
  • If you are hesitant to express your emotions because are afraid of other person’s anger and humiliation
  • Absence of communication in the relation or hurt & threatful communication
  • Habitual tracking of where you are, what you do and who you meet
  • Constant monitoring of your social media,  texts and phone calls

Help is available irrespective of where you are, what you do, what your age is, and in which country you live. Reach out to a trusted friend and/or family member, dial into domestic helplines and contact a mental health professional in your country/region.

Feature Photo by Trym Nilsen on Unsplash


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Understanding Emotional Violence Against Women

by Shagun Sharma Reading time: 2 min