The COVID-19 pandemic has spread to most of the countries and territories of the
world by now and has caused a number of the strictest lockdowns in the affected
nations. With our entire attention on this pandemic and the extra ordinary
global public health emergency it has caused, there are some vital issues that
are slipping through the cracks. In a survey conducted, results show that 15% of
the people are not even familiar with the terms verbal abuse and emotional abuse
while 35% of people are not aware of the risk and the symptoms it possesses.
Thus, Verbal abuse and emotional abuse might just become one among these issues
that would slip through the cracks if immediate attention and awareness isn't
established about it. The objective of this research is to spread awareness
regarding the rise in verbally and emotionally abused victims.
The method of
inquiry was through in-depth survey passed down to adults who have been a part
of or known a person who has been a part of verbal abuse and emotional abuse.
Variety of external factors was identified by the interviewees except the
non-abusing parent. Family members, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles,
Friends, teachers and other professionals provided support to the interviewees.
The implications of those findings for intervention are discussed.
Verbal abuse is a kind of interpersonal violence that's used to exert power, or
show dominance and control over victims. It's manipulative and unpredictable in
nature and is often obvious and demonstrated with anger outbursts and expressed
with feigned concern that sends mixed meanings to victims. Verbal abuse is
typically meant to hurt and unnerve the victim verbally which can at a later
stage be followed by domestic abuse or emotional abuse.
Many children, men,
ladies, or for the fact even LGBTQ people suffer from verbal abuse on daily
basis, which is not any less destructive than domestic abuse. Unfortunately,
verbal and emotional abuse is usually minimized or overlooked, even by the
person experiencing it.
Emotional abuse also known as the silent killer, is usually when a person
resorts to forcefully subject or expose another person to a behaviour which can
cause a psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or
post-traumatic stress disorder or in other words a pattern of behaviour where
one person deliberately and repeatedly subjects another to nonphysical acts that
are misleading to behavioural and affective functioning and overall mental
It's deliberate in nature and a way to portray dominance over the
victim. Generally verbal abuse like yelling, teasing, blaming or shaming can be
followed by emotional abuse including Isolation, intimidation, daunting and
controlling behaviour by the abuser. Emotional abuse is under-researched, unrecognised and unreported despite being the foremost prevalent sort of child
and adolescent abuse and like other forms of abuse, emotional abuse is as
important and can be even more damaging for the victims.
With ever increasing cases of abuse in lockdown, what makes complex trauma such
a lot more damaging than other sorts of trauma is the incontrovertible fact that
nobody ever validates the experience as traumatic or difficult.
Neurobiologically, emotional and verbal abuse elicits an equivalent trauma
response within the brain as physical events, but the social response to
psychological abuse is probably going to be drastically different.
As a society,
we prioritise physical health over mental well-being, despite the very fact that
they're inextricably linked. The violation of our physical boundaries (sexual
abuse, physical abuse) is taken into account and considered more problematic
than violation of our emotions. The scars of verbal abuse and emotional abuse
are very real and that they run deep but since they're tangible, it leaves no
scars and thus there are not any strict social taboos against the abusers who
shame, ridicule, scream at their partners, children or loved one's making them
feel worthless and unloved.
Research shows that childhood trauma arising from
verbal and emotional abuse can cause long term consequences and are as bad, if
not worse than those experienced by victims of physical and/or sexual assault.
The aim of verbal and emotional abuse is to scrap away your feelings of
self-worth and independence; leaving you feeling worthless or powerless or that
without your abusive partner, you've got nothing.
Cycle Of Abuse:
Like other abuse, verbal abuse and emotional abuse also occur step by step.
- Tension -Building phase:
Stress is an outcome of daily life pressures namely conflict over children,
marital affairs or sexual tension, misunderstandings between partners, or
other family conflicts which later results to illness, legal or financial
problems, unemployment, or catastrophic events, rape etc. In this period of
lockdown, the abuser feels ignored, threatened, annoyed, frustrated or
powerless to act as the alpha and as an attempt to reduce the strain and to
maintain the power the abuser is provoked and has the urge to abuse.
The abuser lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or hurtful words.
Usually, the abuse is a power play to remind the victim "who is the boss."
After abusing, the abuser can feel guilty, but not over their actions. The
abuser gets more worried about the possibility of getting caught and facing
consequences for the abusive behaviour.
The abuser rationalizes what he or she has done with the fear of losing the
victim and thus, the person may come up with a string of excuses or blame
the victim for the abusive behaviour or anything to avoid taking
- Normal behaviour:
The abuser does everything he can to regain control and keep the victim
within the relationship. So as to not lose the victim, the abuser may act as
if nothing has happened, or may resort on showing charm. This is called as
honeymoon phase and the aim of this phase is to give the victim hope that
the abuser has really changed this time.
- Fantasy and planning:
The abuser begin to dream about abusing the victim again and thus spends a
lot of time finding loopholes in the victim's work so that the abuser can
make the victim pay and plots a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into
The above phase, is just a way of creating a situation where the abuser can
justify the actions of abusing the victim
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the danger of intimate partner
violence is probably going to rise, as distancing measures are put in place and
other people are encouraged to remain at home or hostels locked with their
abusers. In India, the data provided by the National Commission of women (NCW)
in mid-April suggested that there's almost 100% increase in violence and abuse
during the lockdown.
In 25 days between March 23 and April 16, the NCW received
587 complaints in total. This is often almost double the amount of complaints
(396) received during the previous 25 days, from February 27 to March 22. The
reason for the sudden rise in times of a lockdown is because of the quarantine
guidelines related to Covid-19. The other contributory factors regarding the
uprising issue of the abuse is stress and associated risk factors such as
unemployment, frustration, reduced income, limited resources, alcohol abuse and
limited social support are likely to be further compounded.
The issue of verbal
and emotional abuse is not only restricted to India but is perpetrated all over
the world as a follow up to the lockdown mandate. The women and children who
live under such abuse have no escape from their abusers during quarantine.
Incidents of abuse are escalating around the world during the COVID-19 lockdown.
A report pointed out cases have increased exponentially across the world at an
alarming pace in countries like United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US) among
others. and steeped across jurisdictions from Brazil to Germany and Italy to
Recently, five seniors of a medical college in Bengaluru were arrested for
alleged abusing of a fresher belonging to a Dalit background. They were sent to
judicial custody on the idea of a complaint lodged by the victim at the local
police headquarters. According to the complaint, the five final-year students
entered the 19-year-old's room at the school hostel on the night of December 24.
They verbally abused him, after which one among the accused slapped him. later
on, the abusers took him to the terrace of the hostel and continued to abuse
him. Police stated that the accused, hailing from north India, were drunk. The
accusers are charged under various sections of the SC/ST Prevention of
Atrocities Act and the Karnataka Education Act-1983. a number of these are non-bailable
In this period of lockdown, the cases of abuse and violence have rose up to
triple the amount of the abuse round the year. Our Survey shows that 65% of
women, 20% of children. 9% of men and 7% of queer people are exposed to verbal
abuse and emotional abuse. 57.7% of the people think that risk factors for being
verbally and emotionally abused during the times of pandemic can be an outcome
of frustration and annoyance on the abuser's part because of the lockdown period
while other people think that the risk of losing job or recession in
occupational sector, might hurt the ego of the abuser causing the abuser mental
stress, fear of losing dominance, aggression, anger and thus resorting to verbal
abuse as a means to project his anger. Self- obsession, dominance, desire to
show superiority, insecurity, substance abuse, anger management issues, power
and control issues, sexual tension, jealousy, fear of feeling left out, low
self-esteem are some of the risk factors for being an abuser.
Verbal abuse and emotional abuse are not considered to have a great impact on
people letting it slip away. Generally, people that are in abusive relationships
are scared of their partners, have very low self-esteem, and are withdrawn,
depressed, or anxious. Adults who were emotionally abused as children are more
likely to possess difficulty establishing relationships, misinterpret social
cues. behaviours, and knowledge psychological state problems.
decide to make their victims feel humiliated by making fun of them publicly,
demeaning or disregarding victims' needs, belittling their accomplishments,
bringing attention to victims' mistakes, or using manipulative tactics (sulk,
withdraw, rebuff, communication, facial expressions, play victim) to punish
victims or force them to comply.
People that are in abusive relationships also
conform to whatever their partners want, let their partners know their every
move, are contacted frequently by their partners once they are out with them,
discuss their partners' jealousy and temper, have imposed restrictions regarding
contact with family and friends, have restricted access to transportation and
money, experience very low self-worth, and are withdrawn, depressed, anxious, or
Childhood maltreatment is shown to possess future effects on a child; this may
include executive function. Executive functions main function is to help command
and control from within the brain; a vital role is played by executive function
in a study that was conducted by Becerra-Garcia in 2014. The purpose of the
study was to understand “the inﬂuence of childhood abuse on adulthood executive
functioning in offenders.
Not only were they trying to understand this inﬂuence
on executive functioning but also trying to determine “whether executive
performance is affected differentially by different abusive events
able to conclude that offenders who had a history of abuse, whether it had been
verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual, all seem to portray poor cognitive ﬂexibilities
and that “the emotionally abused participants face deceits in executive control
and set-switching abilities.” Since these participants showed lack of executive
controls, a possibility stands that homicidal tendencies and ideations to creep
into the minds of the individuals can be formed among the ones who were
emotionally abused or maltreated during their childhood.
During an identical study, researchers sought to ﬁgure out if children who were
exposed to mal-treatment, neglection, or were verbally and emotionally abused
during their childhood, would they be more crime prone later in life?
study they found that:
“the impulsive trait of urgency may play a signiﬁcant role
in linking emotional abuse to crime in young adulthood
By ﬁnding this
connection, they could understand that children with emotional abuse in their
history have a tendency to commit criminal offenses because of certain
distresses. These distresses could be psychological but also that:
neglect is claimed to neurological deﬁcits. Several studies have indicated that
maltreatment is claimed to alter brain development in regions that are involved
in cognitive functioning. This altering brain development also connects with
Becerra-Garcia's study that shows which crimes are most likely to be committed
because the victims of emotional maltreatment grow old without having the power
to plan out various outcomes, in different situations, in their brain.
having the guidance or the power to make and understand their decisions. what
exactly is true and false, is not potentially known by them. An example of this
could be a child that has a father who screams in their face every single day
over the tiniest issues.
This child is consistently living in fear that they are
going to be screamed at or slapped across the face and this later successively
grows into that fear-stricken child who then develops an urge to do exactly
those same actions to their children. Thus, leading to a never-ending cycle of
abuse and violence.
Coping Up From The Abuse:
Being abused isn't something that should ever be taken lightly, and there are
aspects of abuse which will be incredibly difficult to get over. A victim who
has been in abusive relationship most certainly needs help. Contacting an
enforcement official or psychological state professional is a way but there are
somethings that the victim can cope up alone or with the help of the community
for recovering from abuse.
This is considered as coping skills. Coping skills
don't necessarily solve the issues of abuse, but they make it possible for
victims of abuse to move on with life and find value in what their lives need to
offer. Acknowledging the abuse is the first and foremost step to deal with the
abuse. Make yourself a priority, establish boundaries, stop blaming yourself,
realize you cannot fix the abuser, avoid engaging, build a Support Network, work
on an Exit Plan are some of the options to cope up. The following pie chart
comprises of the responses collected through a survey regarding the coping
methods from the abuse.
Legal interventions are thought by many to play an important role with regard to
abuse but a less reliable option that people choose and one main reason is that
the legal interventions, which include both the criminal and civil justice
systems, are mainly focused on: identifying cases to bring abusers, procedural
and evidentiary problems during criminal prosecutions, forming of arrest
policies, civil orders regarding security, and admissibility of evidence rather
than the availability of direct services to victims.
However, evaluations of the
effectiveness of legal interventions suffer from problems almost like those
within the areas of social service and health care: small study samples, ethical
and legal issue with respect to implementation of experimental designs and reporting's of discovered abuse, rigid confidentiality statutes, coincidental
effects caused by the research project , and thus the complications of
independent variables in multiple and overlapping interventions.
In the survey
conducted, the responses observed state that only 20% of people would actually
resort to legal measures. However, under Indian legal system, verbal and mental
abuse is unlawful under the India penal code (IPC) Act, Dowry prohibition act,
and IT act.
- Section 509 in The Indian Penal Code:
Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a lady. Whoever,
meaning to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound
or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall
be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or
intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple
imprisonment for a term which can reach one year, or with fine, or with
- Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code:
Fine or imprisonment for obscene acts or words uttered in any public place.
- Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code:
Deals with matrimonial Cruelty in India and is recognized as a cognizable,
non-bailable and non-compoundable
- Section 66 An of the IT Act:
Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service,
electronic form etc.
- Build strong advocacy and awareness about increased abuse against women
and children during COVID-19.
- Proactively challenge sexism and harmful masculinity displays,
accentuated under COVID-19 circumstances with targeted messages for such men
so as to encourage healthy ways of dealing with stressful situations.
- Provide information, including through public service announcements, to
survivors of violence, for instance, on service referrals, or the way to
safely continue employment, using accessible formats for various groups.
- Engage with media outlets to raise the visibility of increased abuse
against queer people demonstrating how the danger factors that drive abuse
are exacerbated within the context of COVID-19.
- Allocate additional resources and include evidence-based measures to
deal with abuse against men, women, children and others in COVID-19 national
- Engage with media outlets to raise the visibility of increased abuse
against queer people demonstrating how the danger factors that drive abuse
are exacerbated within the context of COVID-19.
- Strengthen services for victims who experience abuse during COVID-19.
- Strengthen services, including shelters, through capacity rapid
assessments, and through design of risk assessments, safety planning and
case management, adapted to the crisis context, to make sure survivors' access to
- Expand the capacity of shelters, including re-purposing other spaces,
like empty hotels, or education institutions, to accommodate the victims as
per quarantine needs.
- Sensitize and communicate with the private sector using available global
guidance on the way to prevent and answer violence against men, including
male employees who work from home during COVID-19 and knowledge violence.
- Ensure psycho-social support for queers, men, ladies and children who
experienced abuse and frontline health and social support.
- Strengthen helplines, including protection from sexual exploitation and
abuse (PSEA), online counselling and technology-based solutions like SMS, online
tools, and social support networks. Build capacity of key services to stop
impunity and improve quality of response.
- Raise awareness to police and judiciary about the rise of abuse against
women during COVID-19 and supply training on the way to respond, protect and
refer victims and survivors to appropriate services.
- Train responders on psycho-social support, including doctors,
enforcement and court officials, emergency shelter and counselling staff
still operating during the crisis.
- Provide training for education and child services for safety and
referral information for youngsters who could also be experiencing abuse
reception or who could also be susceptible to online predators.
- Ensure support from women's rights organizations, especially people who
provide essential services to hard-to-reach, remote and vulnerable populations.
- Ensure women's organizations and women's community organizations
participate within the decision-making processes with respect to needs and
concern, prevention and responses to abuse against women and girls.
- Consider the role of women's organizations in recovery plans and
formulate long-term solutions to address the rise of abuse and violence against
women and girls during COVID-19.
- Ensure sex-disaggregated data is collected to know the impact of
COVID-19 on abuse against men and women and inform the response.
- Collect data regarding the requirements and capacity of services in
order with the increased demand of abuse within the context of COVID-19.
- Ensure any data collection efforts doesn't place the victims at greater
risk of abuse and distress.
- Make sure that local and regional authorities make public spaces safe
for victims throughout different stages of the pandemic.
Without any interference, frequency and severity of abuse usually increase over
time. Abuse resulting from family dysfunction may strengthen from access to
significant community services like nurse and social worker home visits to
provide assistance to alter behaviour or to put a stop to abuse in high-risk
families. Abuse resulting from mental disease, drug abuse, or physical
disabilities may enjoy social services and professional psychological state
Separating victims and their abusers is a very important step for ensuring
victims' well-being. Leaving the environment becomes mandatory if there is any
indication that abuse is intensifying or violence may follow. Counselling for
both abusers and victims of abuse can provide a medium for discussion and
mitigating solutions to cease the cycle of violence. Splitting from an abusive
relationship can be difficult and dangerous and therefore, having a place to go
for protection, help, and support is important. Generally, such places are with
family or friends but at times they are the ones who play the role of abusers,
thus local shelters or other organizations that provide assistance for safely
should be sought leaving behind the abusive relationship.