Stories of Emotional Abuse

In 2004 I began corresponding with a dear woman (let’s call her June) who helps victims of domestic violence. She gently prodded me to have more to say here on about the emotional battering that victims sometimes endure. As she put it, “the emotional abuse is even harder to take than the actual physical battering. There are no outward bruises to show a policeman, and often the victim cannot truly understand or explain how she is made to feel, except worthless.”

At my request, June shared with me stories of some of the victims with whom she has worked. Where she works isn’t important, because these stories could have happened anywhere. Here are some of June’s stories, as well as others later submitted by readers. Please share your story, and I’ll put it here too.

Lisa and Don

Patty and her Dad

Harry and Marie

Sandra and Joe

Susan and Ralph


Jenny and Ben




Mandy, Shirlane, and Bess

Karen, Tom, and Mrs. Graham




Lisa and Don

For several months Lisa had looked forward to the “Social” to be held at her church. She had discussed it several times with Don, her husband of 15 years. On the day of the event, Don informed her that she couldn’t go to the church as he had made plans to be at his Mother’s for dinner several days ago and they were going there. To keep the peace, Lisa gave in, although she had really looked forward to being with her friends.

Patty and Her Dad

Patty was in her 30’s when she related this:

She was never close to her father and never quite knew how to win his affections as he seemed to be distant from her. Her older sister was the favored one and received the praise for her handwriting, demeanor, and other attributes.

Patty had a haircut one day when she was about 10 and she thought she looked really nice as she had neat bangs with longer hair on the sides. She preened before her father expecting a bit of attention. When she asked him if he liked her hair, he turned on her and said she looked like a street walker. Patty didn’t know what a street walker was but recognized the anger in her father’s voice. She felt crushed.

Harry and Marie

Married 20 years, 5 children between us-2 girls, 32 & 30 from Harry’s 1st marriage, and 2 boys, 32 & 26, from mine, and a girl, 19 “joint effort”. I had been physically abused in my first marriage, but had some counseling afterward.

Harry & I were married after I got pregnant for our daughter; we both had been divorced about 5 years. I knew Harry had a rough divorce, so I allowed too much bad behavior, and tried to expect little from him at first. I was sure with love, faith, openness, etc., he would see life could be good. Meanwhile, he farmed full-time, with a loss every year, while I worked full-time, making it possible to get loans.

After initially promising to love my children as his own, he soon began treating them as farm labor, almost slaves. As I do not accept the “step” term, I choose to love Harry’s daughters as my own. Well, it never got better. My Pastor once told me, “water dripping on a rock eventually changes the rock”; I thought the rock was Harry. It was me.

I filed for divorce 3 years ago, (I’m still living there), and am now finalizing it, but my gut still is in knots most of the time. I have large credit card debt, because his farming has steadily gotten smaller, and I don’t know how else to pay for things. I hope I can help someone else to wake up before 20 years have gone by…

Sandra and Joe

Sandra and Joe had been married for about 10 years. Sandra was not happy in the marriage. At that time they had 3 children and Joe was working hard but unprofitably in a retail store. There wasn’t much money.

One day Sandra and Joe went shopping for a badly needed mattress. Joe seemed amenable to the plan and a mattress was chosen and was to be delivered in a few days. When the delivery man arrived, Joe told him that Sandra was crazy and that they didn’t need the mattress and to take it back. The delivery man complied.

Sandra had developed a case of “Baby Blues” immediately after the last baby’s birth. Her father had died after she had taken care of him for some time in their small home. During the 4th month of this last pregnancy, Sandra developed appendicitis and had to be operated on. The baby was not injured, and in fact, arrived a month late and at birth Sandra claimed the baby was beautiful and pink as a one month old.

It was a miracle that Sandra had any children at all since her husband abstained from making any sexual advances and it was only with Sandra’s persistence that the couple engaged in sex. (Probably another way to inflict emotional abuse.) This is only one example as Sandra had an endless repertoire of emotional abuse.

Sandra ‘s husband finally had to see a psychiatrist who diagnosed him as passive aggressive and depressive and Sandra immediately recognized the pattern of emotional abuse over the years.

She had seen lawyers several times over the years, trying to release herself from the situation but Joe always managed to convince the lawyers that his wife was crazy.

Susan and Ralph (submitted by Susan)

He got off at 4:30, drove right past our child’s baby sitter, never bothering to pick her up. I got home at 7:00, started dinner and paced back and forth in front of window, biting my nails and chewing my lip, just waiting for him to come home and start in on me with the verbal and emotional abuse. I finally had enough and left him behind. I have never regretted it. Life is good with the right person.


I am in a situation like this, my fiancee gets $1200 a week and i get $280 a fortnight from the government which i have to use to buy groceries and supplies to last our kids for 2 weeks (until i get paid next) i only have 2 pairs of pants 2 singlets and 2 shirts and a couple of jumper all which i brough from vinnies as i hate to spend the money i get each fornight on me when my kids need food and stuff.

 my 7 month old goes through 3 tins of formula, and 2 bags of nappies a fortnight and my daughter is constantly eating. i can’t even get a health care card from centrelink because my fiancee earns too much so i have to pay the difference at the doctor and pay full price for their medication.

I have some issues like major depression anxiety and social phobia and so on, my medication costs me around $30 a month for the generic brand but i cant purchase it because i cant afford it as i reckon our kids come first.
I said to him the other day that i need to put off getting my medication for another 2 weeks and he was just like “yeah” meanwhile he had just spent $170 on a tent to go camping (but its the middle of winter)then he was looking at eskys to buy and other stuff to buy.

He has 2 houses and a new car and he does’nt give me any money at all and im scared to ask him for stuff because he says no or you dont need it. he even gets grumbly if he needs to get baby milk for our son. and if i do ask him for money he won’t lend it to me unless i tell him i’ll pay him back the next time i get paid. i cant even go to work even though he tells me too because he earns so much i would’nt be able to get daycare rebate and would be paying about $350 in childcare, so say the average pay is $535 after paying daycare i would be left with $135 for groceries and i know he would make me pay all the bills too. so i cant work.

He has never brought chrissy presents or birthday present for our daughter and son i have brought them all and i feel so down around their birthdays (both within a month before xmas) so the only thing i can afford is stuff from $2 shops and stuff and he asks me to get him all these things for his birthday and i do it but when it comes to me or his 2 kids we mean nothing.

 he also gave his dad $200 gift voucher for his birthday this year and my dads birthday was a few days before his dads and i had no money so i could’nt buy him anything so i got a photo blown up and framed, it was’nt much but he loved it. him and my stepmum have helped me out so much but they should’nt be the ones who have to help wih money when it should be my fiancee.

Another thing i am paying for everything for the wedding (and he is the one who wants to get married and if i cancel the date etc one more time his mums gonna lose her nut)my dad is paying for the venue etc. but i am paying for the honeymoon and everything needed for the wedding. and when i asked him if he was gonna help pay for it he said “i have to pay for the trip there and a motel on the way” he worked it out to be like $1200 all together (there and back) where i have to pay like $2200 for everything else and i really cant afford it. i have been not buying food for me to make up for what i have to pay for, for the wedding.

He is a chef so he works in a kitchen all day and eats gourmet food all day meanwhile i am starving and scrabbling things together for my daughter a few days before i get paid as we always almost run out.

he also tells me that being a mum is’nt a job and if it were it would be the easiest one there is so i should’nt be paid for it he also said that if someone offered him like $500 to sleep with me he would let them. and he never wants sex with me and im tired of buying things for him just so he would say “Aww Thank You Baby” or cuddle me and make me feel loved for a few minutes. he isnt physically abusive though just financially. i can’t keep on top of the house wrok because i feel worthless like a slave.

My last relationship was every kind of abuse you could think of and i grew up being abused by my mum all the time and now someone i love (again) is financially abusing me. I love him but i dont want to marry him but i have already brought the dress and stuff.

have been think for the last 6 months about finding a girlfriend.

I just wish i could find a guy that would treat me right


Jenny and Ben

Jenny forgot her key and knocked on the door. Ben was home and he opened it. Jenny tripped over the sill and fell in front of Ben, not hurt much but a bit stunned. Ben stood holding the door, didn’t help her up, and said, “Stupid!”


We have been married for 18 years and have 2 great kids. There were several years of physical abuse, but jail & concealing seem to help that. Since he can’t control us with physical abuse he switched to emotional. There is no way I could tell all of the hurtful and demeaning things that he does, but here is a start.

He hasn’t worked in 4 years now he just sleeps for 4-7 days at a time. He slams doors and yells if we don’t have something that he wants like any ice-cream, He will then insist that I to go right then to get him some so he can feel better.

 When he tells us to do something and we ask him a question about how he wants it done he yells and calls us dumb-asses, of course if we don’t ask and we do it wrong were stupid for not asking. Lately he calls our 16 year old son that if he doesn’t know the answer to some random trivia question that he asks him.

Once when I told him that I was taking the kids and leaving, he stood over me and made me pack a suit case, while he would say things to the kids like “Mom is leaving us because she doesn’t love us any more,” or ask them if they thought he was treating me bad.

He uses a routine of pity, guilt, and then full blown angry yelling with very hurtful ugly comments to get us to do what he wants.

He expects me to be fully responsible for EVERYTHING that it takes to keep a house and family going yet I am not allowed to express my opinions (he says they are a waste of his time). He expects everyone, even his parents to take care of him and give him anything he wants, and gets angry when we can’t.

Over the years he has burdened me with so many extra bills that now the monthly bills are more then I bring home. I have come to the conclusion that he has put me in this financial situation so I could not save any money so I wouldn’t ever have enough money to move out with.

The good news is that I have come to my senses and I am finding my independence again. I have friends that have reminded me that I am a wonderful person and that I do deserve to be treated better.

I came up with a plan and with in the next 30 days the kids and I are out of here. Not only did I come up the money to move out with, I also will have enough to pay off a few bills (since they are all in my name) and I will have about $400.00 extra a month. I know I will be OK.


Story 1: It was  Christmas eve and we had three children under 10.  My husband and son were cooking a traditional family dinner for us to share together when my husband noticed that the light bulbs in our window candles were not all the same — some had pointed tops and some had smooth tops.  He immediately demanded that I drive into town and buy the proper light bulbs before we ate.  No amount of arguing would dissuade him and he grew angrier and angrier as all of us argued that we didn’t care what sort of light bulbs we had, we just wanted to have Christmas eve together.  I ended up driving to town only to discover that all the stores were closed.  I was afraid to return without the light bulbs so I called a friend and borrowed some of hers.

 Story 2:  Last week we received a fake email from PayPal.  Before I knew it was fake, I had accidentally given my credit card number to a scammer.  I immediately called PayPal and the Discover card people and had the card frozen.  Discover said they would overnight me a new credit card.  When I told my husband about this situation, he got extremely angry and began to slam doors and shout at me that “no one should ever, ever give their credit card out like that… how could you fall for that?”, etc.  I left the room, he followed me to apologize for his anger and then demanded that I call Discover and get the account number back.  When I told him  this was impossible, he became angry again, slammed doors and withdrew.  Later in the day he called Discover and, upon learning that he could not get this number back, he said he would cut up the new cards.  He then said that we would cut up all our credit cards because he felt that like account number was an “old friend” and we didn’t need to use credit anyway.  I have my own credit cards (secretly) and bank account so this is not a big deal to me but the anger, withdrawal and irrationality of it all are emotionally draining and scary.


I am divorced from an emotionally abusive man.  However, the emotional abuse continues.  Since I’ve known him for 5 years, it has been 5 years of slowly breaking me down.  He wants to have an active role in our 3 year old daughters life, so I cannot escape his abuse.  Outside of locking me out of our home because he couldn’t find me (I was staying with a friend because of the arguing and fighting during our seperation), using two suicide “attempts” as a way to guilt and control me, and other spiteful tactics, he has consistently demeaned and denigrated just about everything I do.
When we were still married, my daughter was about 3 months old.  We were visiting friends and was one of the first times out of the house with the baby.  I forgot to pack an extra outfit for her and she had a diaper accident.  I borrowed a sleeper from the friend whose house we were at and tried to hide the fact from my husband.  He discovered that I forgot to pack extra clothes, and in front of everyone said loudly “What kind of mother are you?”  Then later, he interrupted my conversation with my friends and demanded that we leave immediately.  I was beyond embarrassed but had completely forgottent about the incident until a friend who witnessed it brought it up a couple of years later.  Repression.
During our seperation (but still living in the same house), he would go out on dates and then tell me I made him look for other women.  He told me it was my job as his wife to help him get himself together, and stand by him no matter what he does to me.  He’s tried to turn my family and friends against me.  When my daughter had a severe allergic reaction to fish (we did not know she had this allergy before) he told me it was my fault that she was in the hospital and that I was a horrible mother who didn’t pay attention to my child.  He’s told me that my daughter likes to be with him and his girlfriend more than she likes to be with me.  If I try to give him information regarding our daughter, he tells me he’s capable of handling situations on his own and doesn’t need to deal with me.  If I don’t give him information, I’m a bad mother and keeping him from his child. 
It was bad when we were married.  It has continued and gotten worse since we’ve divorced.

Mandy, Shirlane, and Bess

Mandy was in her eighties with two daughters. Mandy had always been neatly dressed. She had lived with the older one, Shirlane, for a few years. The younger daughter, Bess, who was single, visited often, and took her mother shopping and for drives and outings, as well as paying her share of the extra food, and clothing as Shirlane had other family members to take care of. Bess noticed that her mother was looking shabby, with worn shoes and dragging hems and mentioned it to Shirlane.

Shirlane’s excuse? “Why bother? She’s going to die soon anyway, and who cares what she wears?”

Karen, Tom and Mrs. Graham

Mrs. Graham, who was in her late 70’s, had been visiting her daughter, Karen, and son-in-law, Tom, for a very short visit. Mrs. Graham lived almost a full day’s drive away and seldom visited the couple.

One evening, after returning from work, Tom, as usual, plopped himself in front of the TV and started drinking. One of his favorite shows was Survivor and by the time it came on, Tom was feeling no pain and explaining why a certain member of the group was being discarded. Somehow an argument started about the fact that the program was not a valid reproduction of surviving and that the producers were pretty much in control of what went on in the show. Mrs. Graham and Karen took the side that it was controlled and Tom, getting angrier and more upset, was defending his position. Tom was not in control and Karen and Mrs. Graham left the room and Mrs. Graham began to giggle nervously at the uproar. Just then, Tom came into the room and, seeing Mrs. Graham with a smile on her face told her that he didn’t like her laughing at him and asked her to leave. She tried to tell him that she wasn’t laughing at him but laughing nervously at the situation.

Mrs. Graham didn’t leave and later, Tom said she didn’t have to be afraid of him.

In the morning, Mrs. Graham left a note by the coffeepot stating, “I’m not afraid of you, I’m afraid for you. Mrs. Graham departed when she had planned to leave a day or so later but concerned about the atmosphere she had left.


I am married to a man who was very controlling. He counted my mileage on the car and only allowed me two gallons of gas at a time.  He controlled whom I talked to and cut me off from all contact with  people. He made me quit my job and help him with his, and then he complained that I did not contribute to our household. One day we went on a floor job and worked all night just in time for me to get my daughter off to school.

As I stood in the hallway shaking (I had just had a hysterectomy a month earlier), he told me to cook him breakfast while he sat in his recliner dozing off. My daughter looked at me and said nothing, but the look on her face was a reality check for me. I was teaching my daughter that this is the way love works, and I don’t believe it is.

I left with a rest raining order and now I am saving for a divorce. I have a little apartment and a job, and no one yells or demands anything. I get scared and jumpy at times, and the road hasn’t been easy. After two years my friends that turned away from me still think Ill go back. I still look over my shoulder. But now I laugh and I smile.

Everyone says “he never hit you.” He did a few times, but I hid it or excused it away. Through it all, though, the emotional abuse left scars I don’t think will ever heal.


My boyfriend and I have a 5 month old daughter and we just recently bought a house together. Whenever we get into arguments, he calls me crazy and worthless. Later, I have to be the one to act like nothing happened in order for things to be better, and I have to apologize or it won’t change, Sometimes he just acts like nothing has happened and gets “peachy” about everything and wonder why I have such an attitude.

I can’t talk to certain people, and he won’t let me visit my family who lives out of town. I want to leave but I really cannot afford anything on my own. If I were to leave, He and his mother would try their hardest to get custody of my child; his mother is the last person I want raising my child.

Everyone says “he never hit you.” He did a few times, but I hid it or excused it away. Through it all, though, the emotional abuse left scars I don’t think will ever heal.


Wow…after living 15yrs in a marriage with emotional abuse that ended up in a terrible case of shingles and permanent nerve damage causing pain for the past 3 yrs now…and leaving him 3 years ago praying that he would see his ways, change and realize what he was giving up…I have many stories to tell.

Even in the past 3yrs that I’ve been gone I have been victim of his abuse.  I don’t call him daily…therefore (according to him) our marriage isn’t a priority to me…making me the cause of the marital problems.

Just this past memorial weekend we tried to get a family gathering planned….remember we are separated.  I tried and tried to get things to work out for the family to get together but things kept falling through.  We ended up just planning to go to his house memorial day and cook out with the kids (which I have)  I called him that morning.  I had a 9am meeting to talk to a friend in need.  I was pretty sure that i had told him about this…but he said I didn’t…proceeded to call me a “bold faced liar” and that I put my friends before him.  Now, this meeting only lasted til 11:45…I was going to his house at arnd 1 or 2 anyways…but when I called to tell him I was on the way he had a terrible attitude and plans got cancelled..the next day I received letters stating that I neglect the marriage and never spend time with him.  I can never do anything right in his eyes.  I have given him everything…begged him to look at the issues…And today, I’m looking into what help I can get financially so I can get an attorney…3 years of waiting is enough.  And during that 3 yrs he had an affair…I realize there nothing else i can do.  After 17yrs…I am giving up.  I give it to God and start recovering for all the damage in my heart and soul.  No woman deserves this…no man does either.

I could write a large book of the hell I’ve been through…but I don’t have time.  I just pray that every woman can recognize what emotional abuse is…the damage it can cause…and when all else fails…walk away no matter how hard it is….