Annette Nay, PhD

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Spouse & Date Abuse
Coping With Assault
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Emotional & Psychological Abuse Continuum

This continuum includes behaviors which are emotionally and psychologically abusive. These behaviors are arranged in order of increasing severity. Many of the least sever abuses are considered to be common ways to show anger for many people and are not thought to be especially abusive. However, like all abuse, these behaviors are attempts to control one's partner through harm and threat of harm. Like hitting, targeted and repeated emotional abuse can have devastating effects on someone's sense of self-esteem and reality. A pattern of psychological and emotional abuse almost always accompanies, and in many cases precedes incidents of physical abuse. Like all abuse, the use of emotional abuse will increase in severity and frequency over time. This continuum indicates that without change, the ultimate result of ongoing emotional and psychological abuse can be lethal.

  1. Jokes about habits, characteristics, or faults of family members
  2. Ignoring or denying family member's feelings or needs
  3. Withholding affection or approval as punishment
  4. Yelling, shouting, invading family member's personal space
  5. Name-calling, insults
  6. Insulting or ridiculing beliefs, religion. family, race, etc.
  7. Repeated insults, labeling, and/or name-calling (e.g. "Stupid" "Jerk" "Crazy" etc.)
  8. Repeated humiliation (private an/or public)
  9. Controlling (insisting s/he dresses a certain way, having him/her account or his/her actions, controlling with whom s/he associates, not giving him/her a role in making decisions, etc.)
  10. Blaming family members for abuse or behavior
  11. Manipulating family members with lies and contradictions (playing "mind games")
  12. Slamming doors, hitting walls, breaking objects (displays of anger and violence)
  13. Threats of violence or retaliation (either direct or implicit)
  14. Threats of violence to his/her family, children, friends
  15. Puts downs about abilities as a parent, person, worker, partner
  16. Demanding all a family members attention and resenting others who do get attention
  17. Throwing objects at family members
  18. Jealousy (accusations, following him/her, etc.)
  19. Isolation (scaring or driving away friends and family)
  20. Manipulating others against family members
  21. Destroying meaningful possessions
  22. Threats of abuse
  23. Threats to hurt or kill
  24. Suicide threats/attempts
  25. Hurting or killing pets
  26. Suicide/Homicide



Excerpt from Male Awareness Program (MAP) in Anchorage, AK, 1997


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