Non-Physical Domestic Abuse

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Non-Physical Domestic Abuse

Kyria Williams

Prof. Walker

IDS 101


Non-Physical Domestic Abuse

The Neflix series ‘Maid’ captured the hearts of the nation and brought to light a very controversial subject, that of non-physical abuse. In the show, a woman flees what she claims is an abusive relationship and takes their child, but her boyfriend never laid a hand on her. His argument? That he never touched her so he could never have abused her. She argues that he controls her by taking her phone, her car, breaking things near her and keeping her away from her family and friends. Does non-physical abuse such as intimidation and control count as domestic abuse? Should it be punished as such? Acts of non-physical abuse such as intimidation and control are acts of domestic abuse and should be punished as such because the can affect the physical, mental and reproductive health of a woman.

This paper will discuss how non-physical domestic abuse by a partner can affect a woman mentally, physically and even the reproductive health of a woman. I will use different articles to show that non-physical abuse is still abuse and I will show that the effects of these are so detrimental to a woman’s health that the consequences of these actions should face the same consequences as physical abuse because they both carry scars. Whether seen or unseen, any type of abuse can scar a woman. Although this topic does not pertain to me particularly, I think it is important to raise awareness on the subject. There are people who are suffering silently or who may not be getting the justice they deserve because this is not considered a crime. I beg to differ.

One way a partner can control another is by economic abuse. This can mean depriving the person of their livelihood or means of earning and maintaining an income. The person then becomes dependent on their abuser for food, shelter and all their needs. “In addition to creating financial dependence, economic abuse creates a hostile environment where the abused woman is continually psychological distressed and anxious about financial issues.” (Diddy 2) Studies have shown a strong correlation between domestic partner violence and suicidal behaviors in women and the attempts to do so increase with the severity of the abuse. If a woman in an abusive relationship has to go to her partner for food, water, sanitary napkins and other necessities, she could feel trapped and become depressed. Especially if she is used to working and providing for herself. Taking away her independence is constricting and controlling and a form of abuse. “Serious psychological distress is reported to be highest (15.4%) among women exposed

to lifetime physical and sexual intimate partner violence compared to those not exposed to among those with no lifetime experience of intimate partner violence.” (Diddy 2)

Humiliating a woman, controlling what she can and can’t do, isolating her from her family and friends, stalking her and convincing her that she is crazy are all types of psychological abuse that can affect a woman mentally. When a man psychologically abuses a woman it can lead to depression, post- traumatic stress a host of mental ailments. The National Coalition against Domestic Violence posted an article on the website entitled Facts about Domestic Violence and Psychological Abuse and their research shows that “48.4% of women and 48.8% of men have experienced at least one psychologically aggressive behavior by an intimate partner. 4 in 10 women and 4 in 10 men have experienced at least one form of coercive control by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 17.9% of women have experienced a situation where an intimate partner tried to keep them from seeing family and friends, 18.7% of women have experienced threats of physical harm by an intimate partner. 95% of men who physically abuse their intimate partners also psychologically abuse them.” For a man to cause a woman to suffer like this is unacceptable and should be punishable.

“Violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence – is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights,” says the World Health Organization. It goes on to define intimate partner violence as “any behavior by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors.” Shouldn’t these face the same consequences as physical abuse if it warrants such notice? During the pandemic, many women were trapped at home with their abusers not having access to their usual escape. Some places of employment closed, malls closed, hairdressers, nail salons, massage parlors and we were told to isolate ourselves with our household and socially distance. This caused a lot of women to have to stay locked up with their abusive mates. Being in such a violent unsafe lead to health consequences such as sleep disorders, eating disorders and attempts at taking their own life. Imagine how hard it must have been to be trapped with your abuser for months! Some of the other health consequences of this type of abuse are headaches, chronic pain syndromes, GI tract disorders and poor health overall. All this damage inflicted on another person should come with severe consequences.

Women are at greater risk for this type of violence during their reproductive years. Women can be abused at any age or stage of the lives, however, the risk is different when a woman is able to produce a child. Research shows that non-violent abuse often is a precursor to physical abuse. This can lead to non-consensual sex whether in a committed relationship or not. A woman has the right to say no. This type of abuse can lead to unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and stress. If a woman does become pregnant and has to deal with the abuse during the pregnancy the outcome could be devastating. . The November/December issue of the Guttemacher Institute article, volume 31 issue 6 says that “about 156,000-332,000 pregnant women in the United States are subjected to violence during their pregnancies each year. If such estimates are accurate, this would mean that violence is a more common experience during pregnancy than preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and placenta previa.” Imagine the amount of stress that puts on the woman’s body, her hormones and the development of the unborn fetus. This is why women who are pregnant are asked such seemingly invasive questions at obstetrician/gynecological visits. I remember being asked if I felt safe at home and if I ever felt as if my life or the life of my baby were at risk. I remember thinking “why would they ask me that? Can’t they see my supportive husband next to me?” But watching the show Maid, helped to emphasize that one can act completely normal even for a long period of time and still flip a switch from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.

Although some might acknowledge this is a serious problem, they fail to understand the severity of it and might say that if he doesn’t touch her or hurt her physically it should not be considered abuse because abuse is physical. They might also add that she chooses to stay instead of leaving when she has the free will to do so. In the journal article Stay/Leave Decision-Making in Violent and Non-Violent Relationships, a study was conducted that showed that when it comes to the role of violence in a woman’s decision to stay or leave the relationship, “violence was neither significantly related to relationship termination. Additional analyses were performed to test for a threshold effect of relationship violence.” The results showed that the level of relationship violence was not significantly related to reason that the relationship ended. Some might use this point to say that if it were that bad she would leave, or that she enjoys it and ends up leaving when she’s ready. Copp says that “While it is true that physical and psychological forms of abuse are related, they are not perfectly correlated with one another. Failure to distinguish between types of abuse may result in misattribution of their adverse effects.” Some might use this to provide a counterargument and say there is no correlation at all.

While I do acknowledge that some women do choose to stay in these relationships, most of them do so because of a lack of support to leave, being financially dependent on the abuser who provides for all their necessities or because they have children with them and don’t want their children growing up in a divided home. The state of Connecticut penal code regarding this states that “Family violence means an incident resulting in physical harm, bodily injury or assault, or an act of threatened violence that constitutes fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, including, but not limited to, stalking or a pattern of threatening, between family or household members. Verbal abuse or argument shall not constitute family violence unless there is present danger and the likelihood that physical violence will occur.” This clearly rules out non-violent forms of abuse. Why does one have to wait to be actually physically abused for action to be taken? Often times it is too late for these women. Assault, sexual assault, threatening, stalking and strangulation all carry a charge in this state because of the damage they can cause. . In that same article Copp writes “researchers consistently have found evidence of emotional abuse in conjunction with physical abuse (e.g., Arias & Pape, 1999; Campbell, 2002; Coker et al., 2002), and reviews of the literature have suggested that ridicule, put-downs and excessive control may be more detrimental to mental health than some acts of physical violence.” If this is the case, there has to be a reason that there is no law against non-violent acts of abuse. These types of cases need to be brought before a judge and jury after analysis from trained psychologists. The abusers should not get away with this any longer. Those in the medical field who treat the women who have these internal scars need to be able to detect when they need help. There needs to be better systems in place to provide protection to those who choose to leave and help them gain their own financial independence. There should be better ways for women to obtain new copies of their documents that their mates might be holding over their heads. Maybe then these women will feel the support of society behind them and find the strength to leave. There needs to be real consequences for the abusers so they can realize the severity of their actions. There needs to be counseling and therapy available to these men so they can learn the right and wrong way to behave in a relationship. And the same therapies need to be available to the women so they can learn how they should be treated in a relationship and when to walk away.

In summary, this article was able to show the different effects non-physical abuse such as intimidation and economic control are acts of domestic abuse and should be punished as such because the can affect the physical, mental and reproductive health of a woman. Some researchers even show that they can have an even more harmful effect on a woman than actual physical abuse. These acts can lead women to be depressed, develop eating disorders, and even attempt to take their own life. This needs to be taken more seriously and not swept under the rug. Laws need to be re-evaluated since there is more research and a deeper understanding of the topic and there needs to be consequences and more education for all involved, especially women of reproductive age. I hope that the reader of this article learns something that they may be able to share with someone who may need it.

Annotated Bibliography

Antai, Diddy, et al. “The Effect of Economic, Physical and Psychological Abuse on Mental Health: A Population Based Study  of Women in the Phillipines.” Hindiwi Publishing Corporation, vol. 2014, p. 11.

The Authors explore intimate partner abuse and their effect on the mental health of an abused woman. They bring out economic abuse and control and its association with depression which is a mental health issue. It will help to prove that this form of abuse can negatively affect a person to the point of suicide and thus should carry the same penalty as physical violence. Diddy Antai is a researcher from the Center for Public Health Research and School of Sciences, City University London and the other three authors along with Diddy are from the Division of Global Health and Inequalities.

CCADV :: CT Domestic Violence Laws. . Accessed 19 Nov. 2021.

This website is managed by the Connecticut Coalition against Domestic Violence. It outlines the different charges that one can face if accused of domestic or family violence. It defines domestic violence in the state of Connecticut and shows that according to this statute verbal abuse does not constitute family violence. This will help to support the counterargument that non-physical violence does not count as domestic abuse. It supports the other sources in that it discusses other forms of non-violent abuse such as stalking and the consequences for that crime.

Copp, Jennifer E., et al. “STAY/LEAVE DECISION-MAKING IN NON-VIOLENT AND VIOLENT DATING RELATIONSHIPS.” Violence and Victims, vol. 30, no. 4, 2015, pp. 581–99. PubMed Central,

This author examines the factors associated with staying or leaving abusive intimate partner relationships. Married women and women with children in these relationships have a harder time leaving. Unmarried women and women without children may not be dependent on the abusers and are freer than others to leave. Copp says that “While it is true that physical and psychological forms of abuse are related, they are not perfectly correlated with one another. Failure to distinguish between types of abuse may result in misattribution of their adverse effects.” Some might use this to provide a counterargument and say there is no correlation at all. Copp is from the Department of Sociology, Bowling Green State University and this article was published on the website for the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Kaur, Ravneet, and Suneela Garg. “Addressing Domestic Violence against Women: An Unfinished Agenda.” Indian Journal of Community Medicine : Official Publication of Indian Association of Preventive & Social Medicine, vol. 33, no. 2, Apr. 2008, pp. 73–76. PubMed Central,

The source discusses domestic violence and what leads to it. It also discusses more about the impact of domestic violence and the reproductive health of a woman. It ties in with the other articles as they all working in harmony to show that they are detrimental to the health of the recipient. The source describes the effect on the children who witness the violence of the women and ties in nicely with Copp’s article regarding why women stay in abusive relationships. The author is from the Department of Community Medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India and this qualifies him to write on the topic.

NCADV | National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Accessed 18 Nov. 2021.

This author describes psychological abuse, its effects and why it is important to know these facts. The article goes on to provide statistics on domestic abuse, rape and other acts of violence. It ties in with the effect of economic and financial abuse, proving that non-violent partner abuse comes in many forms. A specific author is not listed for this website and articles but the information is on the website of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and their sources are the CDC, Bureau of Justice Statics and other reputable sources. This source supports the others by providing comparable information.

“Reproductive Health and Intimate Partner Violence.” Guttmacher Institute, 17 Feb. 2005,

This article documents the association between intimate partner violence and the reproductive health of an abused woman. It could lead to poor health for the woman and more importantly her unborn child. There are also indirect relationships to the outcome of the health of the child that can affect their development. This article further shows how intimate partner violence affects the mental, physical and reproductive health of an abused woman. This study ties in with the other sources to show that all domestic abuse has a negative effect. The author is Melissa Moore who is the daughter of an infamous serial killer. Moore is qualified to speak on the topic because she experienced domestic and dating abuse.

Violence against Women. Accessed 18 Nov. 2021.This article is written by The World Health Organization which is a reputable source. It discusses the health consequences of partner abuse and discusses the scope of the problem. It goes over the possible preventative methods and what those in the health sector can do to help. It ties in with the other sources in that they all prove that intimate partner abuse is a serious problem that often goes unnoticed and should be addressed more carefully. It is global problem that poses an international problem.

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