Spotting the signs of non-physical domestic abuse

Emotional abuse is ‘absolutely as impactful as physical violence’

Domestic abuse is not always physical

ROANOKE, Va. – You might not be able to see the scars, but victims of domestic abuse feel those scars long after they’ve escaped an abusive relationship.

Domestic abuse isn’t always physical.

“That emotional trauma really runs deep. Those scars are long-lasting,” said Jamie Starkey, the chief program officer with family service of Roanoke Valley. “That is what emotional abuse does, is it leaves us with emotional scars and trauma.”

Starkey provides counseling to survivors and perpetrators and said emotional abuse is often dismissed as relationship problems or arguments.

“Emotional abuse is absolutely as impactful as physical violence,” said Starkey. “It may not be life-threatening, but it’s definitely life-impacting.”

Abuse can be emotional, psychological, sexual, financial, medical, and even technological.

“Controlling someone through their social media, who they’re contacting, monitoring, not allowing people maybe to get on the internet,” said Lauren Reckling, a licensed professional counselor at Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare in Roanoke.

Reckling said abuse is all about control and victims can fall into an abusive relationship without realizing it.

“It does start gradually. It starts off great and then over time, things typically, the abuse really starts to increase,” said Reckling.

These counselors said there are red flags to look out for:

  • Gaslighting;
  • Isolating the victim;
  • Extreme jealousy;
  • Controlling or manipulative behavior;
  • Not respecting boundaries;
  • Invading privacy;
  • Dismissing feelings;
  • Blaming the victim;
  • Being possessive;
  • Being hypercritical.

They warn that these patterns of behavior could indicate future abuse.

“Emotional abuse often leads to physical violence,” said Starkey. “It’s important to recognize that emotional abuse as a red flag or an indicator of what could potentially happen.”

“For those in an abusive situation, there is hope. There are people that want to help you get out. There is healing,” said Reckling.

There are several local organizations that are ready and willing to help people get out of an abusive situation, whether you’re a woman, a man, or a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Below is a list of resources for victims of domestic abuse:

About the Author:

You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!