Is it abuse if you are not hit?

Spousal abuse does not have to involve physical violence to qualify as abuse. Emotional and verbal abuse can be difficult to recognize and escape from.

Not all marriages end with happily ever after. In fact, it is often the opposite for many couples in New York. Some marriages are unhappy simply because both spouses do not get along with each other, but sadly, there are many marriages in which spousal abuse is a factor.

At least 10 million people across the country are victimized by their spouses or intimate partners every year, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The problem is so widespread that authorities claim 15 percent of all violent crimes are attributed to domestic violence.

Emotional abuse is also common, but often overlooked

However, one does not have to be slapped, punched, kicked or otherwise physically harmed for the marriage to be considered abusive. Abusers can spend the entire marriage dominating, threatening and controlling the other person without ever raising a hand to him or her. This type of abuse is known as emotional, verbal or psychological abuse. It can be just as damaging to a victim's emotional state as physical abuse. In fact, non-violent abuse is often difficult to recognize. Victims may wonder if they are just imagining things, while all the time they are falling further under the control of their abusers.

The tactics of emotional and verbal abusers often involve insults, belittling and outbursts of irrational anger. They usually blame the other person for everything that goes wrong and rarely take accountability for their temper. Victims may say they constantly feel as if they are "walking on eggshells," afraid of making the next slight that will set their spouse off. Because emotional abusers are often masters at manipulation, victims may second-guess themselves and wonder if their partners are actually right, until their self-esteem is badly damaged.

Planning an escape

This type of control is exactly what abusers aim for, because ending a relationship is difficult for those who have been badly victimized. The National Domestic Violence Hotline suggests that victims create an escape plan before deciding to leave. This may involve the following:

  • Asking for help from trusted family members and friends
  • Gathering emergency money, clothing and belongings, and putting them in a safe place
  • Having an alternate place to stay, such as a friend's home or an abuse shelter
  • Keeping a journal that details instances of emotional and verbal abuse, such as insulting things the abuser often says and how he or she manipulates a situation

One more thing to consider when leaving an abusive marriage is seeking a protective order. This is a legal order that serves to protect against abuse by prohibiting the abuser from contacting the victim or approaching him or her at home or work. While protective orders are often meant for violent situations, they also serve to protect victims against stalking or harassment - both situations that can occur in a psychologically abusive relationship.

Victims are likely to need help from authorities and counselors when they are ready to leave. It may also be beneficial at this time to seek assistance from a Brooklyn family law attorney who has experience in domestic violence cases.