Rain pattered on the window as I sat with my friend X for a steaming cup of chaa. Earlier we had been having a discussion on the current events regarding rape, when one thing led to another and we started talking about abuse.
It was the second week of October 2020, when women and men had started voicing their stories on Instagram and Facebook right after all those horrible back-to-back rape incidents. X had gathered up the courage to talk about her sexual abuse story on social media, and the memories had left her shattered.
She says, “I wasn’t in the right mind. All I wanted to do was call my boyfriend and cry and tell him how much I loved him.” She said that somehow the conversation went from “I love you,” to something very horrible — how she was unreasonable and immature. It ended with him saying “Either it is my way or I lose interest in you and break up. I will be dominating, I am the man, and you aren’t, so you can’t be the one dominating me.”
She had later, when she was in a calmer state, realised that it was her questioning his non-responsive attitude towards her conversation that had hyped him up and angered him.
X says, “Everyone puts the nicer things in life on social media, so our relationship didn’t seem toxic at all to others. However, my significant other had temperamental issues. The issues were so bad that a simple, ‘Hey honey, why didn’t you call me back?’ would get him to start yelling and screaming.”
X had heard all these dominating and rude comments before and knew she was the one who had to apologise because he would definitely somehow convince her that it was all her fault. So she did; she apologised. But she was too late because the man that she had loved went on a huge social media platform and had informed everyone that X was delusional, toxic, and a shitty person, who is also emotionally abusive and manipulative — all the things he was.
We hear complaints of physical or sexual abuse and violence, but how many times have your friends or family members come to you with a complaints of emotional abuse?
What is emotional abuse?
Emotional or mental abuse is when someone controls someone else using emotions to embarrass, blame, shame, and just be generally manipulative; it can be one of the hardest forms of abuse to recognise. This form of abuse slowly strips away the victim’s confidence or self-esteem, and they more often than not begin to doubt their own realities.
Even if one can’t endure a relationship with the abuser any longer, they still feel too afraid or too in love to leave. This is an endless cycle until finally something is done.
Gaslighting, however, plays a huge part in this kind of abuse. It is also a form of psychological and emotional abuse, where the gaslighter avoids taking responsibility for their toxic behaviour and abuse by denying and lying, and making the victim question their every move — facts, memory, feelings. Gaslighting victims say that it makes them feel crazy and confused.
Why is it that we don’t recognise emotionally abusive behaviour until it starts making us feel crazy? Is it because we aren’t educated enough about this or because we are so manipulated that we truly never understand that we are being abused?
What gaslighting can sound like
- You are so sensitive
- Why are you so defensive?
- There you go again
- I didn’t do that, you did!
- You are over-reacting
- You are so pathetic
- You are so immature
- You remember what you said? You said ……
- I was kidding
- It was a joke, stop reacting
A post once said, “Unless we are committed to believing survivors, it is hard to spot an abusive person.” For an abuse victim, be it physical, sexual, mental, or emotional abuse, it is never easy to understand what is happening, let alone leave or run from the situation.
X’s abuser gaslighted her, and is now trying to gaslight everyone else into believing that she was the perpetrator, and this was actually what made her snap out of it and recognise everything that was happening to her.
If someone claims they are being emotionally abused, please do not dismiss them or joke about it. Try to help them. And the most important way of helping them is to not believe their abusers when they lie.
10 October was officially World Mental Health Day. But it should be Mental Health Day every day of the year.
Fabiha is a caffeine enthusiast and a professional over-thinker. She also sometimes likes to dwell in tapping away at the keyboard.