Author: Gemke Wijgergangs

Everyone reading this can probably recall the last time they read something about Intimate Partner Violence in a newspaper or heard about it on the news. The typical takeaway from such a story is usually the fact that heavy physical violence occurred. This makes sense, if every form of abuse would reach the daily news, we would probably never be done reading about them. However, when trying to recall the last time I read about emotional abuse, it took me some time to realise I had never read about such an incident in a newspaper. Obviously, the police cannot file a report on ‘stolen self-esteem’ or ‘battered psyche,’ but does this mean we should ignore it all together (Sims 2008)? This post explores the role of newspapers in the common ignorance of emotional abuse throughout society. 

 “Violence between intimate partners accounts for 20% of all violent crime against women, and nearly one third of all female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner” (Sims 2008). However, these statistics do not form a representative image of the severity of the problem, given the fact that they ignore a large component of Intimate Partner Violence (Sims 2008). This statistic namely ignores emotional abuse. “Emotional abuse is a form of violence that is “an ongoing process in which one individual systematically diminishes and destroys the inner self of another” through belittling and denigrating the victim’s ideas, feelings, perceptions, and personality to such an extent that these aspects of the victim’s self erode or disappear” (Sims 2008). If emotional abuse is often misunderstood or not recognised as such, it is sensible that we (as a society) often disregard/ignore it (Rees 2010). Moreover, recognising emotional abuse can be a challenge in itself as it lacks the “physical manifestations” that are usually an indicator of abuse (Rees 2010). “Recognition and management of emotional abuse depend on detailed observation, lateral thinking, initiative and adequate freedom to work creatively, whereas regulation tends to narrow the focus. Measurable targets may be poor proxies for the overall picture, yet divert resources disproportionately: key outcomes are often difficult to measure, and manifest only years later. If time and funding are inadequate, check-lists determined by regulation and pulled by targets readily become ends in themselves” (Rees 2010).

 Furthermore, the recognition and documentation on emotional abuse are the cause for another problem. If a person suffering emotional abuse is not aware what they are experiencing is actually abuse, the abuse can carry on much longer and cause more damage (Sims 2008). Realising that one is in an abusive relationship might be the hardest part in the process of putting a stop to emotionally abusive relationships, especially since as a result of the absence of emotional abuse in the news victims do not recognise themselves as victims of abuse and thus do not put a stop to it (Sims 2008). “Without discussion of emotional abuse in a form accessible to victims of coercive, controlling, and emotionally abusive relationships, women trapped in these relationships are less likely to realize that what they are experiencing is an abusive relationship” (Sims 2008).


Rees, C.A. (2010). “Understanding Emotional Abuse.” Archives of Disease in Childhood 95(1): 59-67.

Sims, C. L. (2008).  “Invisible Wounds, Invisible Abuse: The Exclusion of Emotional Abuse in Newspaper Articles.” Journal of Emotional Abuse 8(4): 375-40.

How Does the Invisibility of Emotional Abuse Contribute to IPV?

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