A new law has come into force giving protection to women whose brains are being battered, even if their bodies are unscathed.
I’ve been researching emotional abuse – usually (but not always) by men who control and coerce women by chipping away at their self-confidence, isolating them from friends and family, intimidation of various sorts, verbal put-downs, and a range of other tactics – for my forthcoming novel And, Breathe.
Women being abused in this way report feeling they are falling apart – what they think and eat and wear has been the subject of such fierce scrutiny that everything feels fragmented and they can’t remember how it fits together. At the extreme end, they can lose of sense of who they are and what they think. Physical symptoms – headaches, stomach problems, losing their voice – have been going undiagnosed as doctors fail to find a cause.
I think most women have experienced some form of this abuse, whether through heightened scrutiny of what we wear, or being told we are sensitive as a way of denying the other’s role in a conflict situation. I was particularly struck by this excerpt used in Emotional Abuse by Marti Tamm Loring (p. 59).
“Men who assault… have done so, often for many years, with complete immunity. Most men who abuse their partners believe that it is justifiable and appropriate. Women brought up in the same atmosphere share these beliefs. Societally and culturally, abuse of women has been condoned and sanctioned as men abuse their power to control what they believe to be theirs.” (Frank & Golden, 1992, p5-6)
While I welcome this new law – and the training being give to GPs to recognise the often hard to spot signs of emotional abuse – I hope it won’t be too difficult to prove.