Our guest blog has been co-written with Relate.
The impact of emotional abuse can be just as detrimental as physical abuse. Although we are making great progress in identifying and supporting victims of emotional abuse across the Civil Service, there is still a lot of work to be done.
That's why we continue to reach out to the most vulnerable within our community. We help people like Joe, whose abusive marriage led to debt, depression and a lack of self-worth:
“I’ve learnt to open up; sometimes you need to talk. If you need help, ask for it. The Charity saved me financially and they saved me mentally. They saved my life.”
We provided Joe with financial and emotional support so he could make a fresh start just before lockdown. To help serving and former civil servants identify this type of abuse, we work with a variety of charitable organisations. If you’re feeling confused or uncertain about whether you're a victim, our partner organisation, Relate, have put together some useful guidance:
How do I know if I’m being emotionally abused?
Emotional abuse takes a variety of forms. These include, but are not limited to:
- Intimidation and threats: shouting at someone, threats of violence or other ‘consequences’, and making someone feel inferior and unable to stand up for themselves.
- Criticism: name-calling, sarcasm and unpleasant comments around appearance and worth that lower self-confidence.
- Undermining: this could be dismissing someone’s opinions or making them feel like they’re being over sensitive and discounting their version of events. This can make a person doubt themselves, their memories and their judgement, impacting on their mental health and wellbeing – known as ‘gaslighting’.
- Emotional blackmailing: usually this is in the form of guilt-tripping a partner for making the abuser ‘feel bad’ about themselves. It could involve withdrawal and sulking or even threats of suicide and other emotional outbursts.
- Economic abuse: withholding money, or preventing a partner from getting a job is a way for an abuser to control a person, making them financially reliant.
- Controlling your actions: coercive control is at the core of all domestic abuse. Sometimes this behaviour can be as explicit as telling a person who they can and can’t see, what they can and can’t wear and what they are ‘allowed’ to eat.
However, even with these descriptions, it still might not feel clear whether your situation amounts to abuse. So, it’s important to consider ‘how does the situation make me feel?’ Your partner may not be a ‘monster’ and fit an image you might have in your mind of a domestic abuser but, if you’re being controlled, intimidated or belittled, that is abuse.
What should I do if I’m being abused?
One of the most important parts of getting out of an abusive relationship is to talk to someone outside the situation. Getting an outside perspective will help clarify the facts and empower you to take the next steps. If you’re a serving or former civil servant, get in touch with the Charity.
What if I need to leave?
Remember: the Government's household isolation instructions do not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.
Leaving an abusive relationship, and the period afterwards, can be a dangerous time for a victim. Don’t take unnecessary risks and, if you can, get help to leave as safely as possible. Keep your phone charged and essential items (such as your passport) in a safe place. Don't tell your partner you’re leaving and move to a safe place before doing so.
You may want to stay with a trusted friend or family member, or you can contact:
- Refuge on 0800 200 0247 (open 24/7, 365 days a year). Refuge can provide emergency accommodation and support for women and children experiencing domestic abuse.
- Women's Aid on 0808 2000 247 (24-hour helpline). A support worker can search for current accommodation vacancies for you.
I fear I'm in immediate danger - what do I do?
If you’re in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police. When calling from a mobile, you can press 55 to make yourself heard. This will transfer your call to the police, who will assist you without you having to speak. Pressing 55 only works on mobiles and does not allow the police to track your location.
How can the Charity help?
We don't just help with one problem – we work holistically with you to make sure you have everything you need for the best route out of your situation. Read more stories, listen to our webinars and podcasts, and share our content across the team, because you never know what people are going through behind closed doors.
We know there are people who need our help, but don’t know about us. You can make the difference. Know that we’re here for you.