Emotional Abuse in Relationships in Nigeria

Keywords: Emotional abuse, relationships, neglectful tactics, deliberate tactics, Nigeria.


Emotional Abuse in Relationships in Nigeria. What is emotional abuse? Types of emotional abuse. In what relationships can emotional abuse occur? Who are the perpetrators of emotional abuse? What are the complications of emotional abuse? How to overcome the effects of emotional abuse.

When it comes to abuse in a relationship, most people are usually aware when they are being physically abused. This is because physical abuse involves being hit, slapped, kicked, etc.

Many who have experienced sexual abuse, especially the type that involves physical contact, are aware of the abuse. This is more where penetration is involved.

Unfortunately, most people in emotional abusive relationships are not aware that they are being abused. But they do know that something is wrong somewhere.

And because these people in emotional abusive relationships are not aware of the abuse, they suffer lifelong challenges. These lifelong challenges include physical, psychological and psychiatric effects. There are also social and economic effects. Thus the need to educate people on this topic of emotional abuse in relationships in Nigeria.

What is emotional abuse?

When someone does something with the intension of hurting someone this is an abuse. And unlike other forms of abuse, emotional abuse does not involve physical contact.

Emotional abuse is a non physical behavior from a perpetrator, which is intended to cause harm to the victim. The abuse could be in the form of criticism or humiliation. It is aimed at causing fear, punish or isolate the victim. What the perpetrator seeks is to have control or exercise power over the victim.

Emotional abuse conveys to the victim that he or she is worthless, unloved or endangered. It also conveys to the victim that he or she is only valued when the victim meets the perpetrator’s needs.

Emotional abuse doesn’t have to be a regular occurrence. It can occur just once or happen severally.       

Types of emotional abuse.   

Neglectful type:

The neglectful type of emotional abuse involves withholding normal human interactions from the victim. This means that the perpetrator is being unwilling to meet the victim’s physical or emotional needs. 

 Neglecting –

A perpetrator will fail to provide a needed care to the victim or interact with the victim in a detached manner. The perpetrator may also interact with the victim only when it is necessary. And even when the victim attempts to interact with the perpetrator he or she will ignore the victim.

When a perpetrator refuses to keep promises and agreements it is a neglectful type of emotional abuse. And this is normally very painful to children.

Dismissing –

In this subtype, the perpetrator engages in devaluing the victim’s imputes. The perpetrator may refuse to give credence to the victim’s point of view. Or the perpetrator may refuse to acknowledge the values or contribution of the victim.

The perpetrator may deny out right that any abuse ever took place. He may be little or trivialize the abuse. Denying an abuse is usually very painful to the victim and trivializing it makes the victim feel that he or she is over reacting.

Shaming –

Here, the perpetrator makes the victim feel useless, inferior and ashamed. For example, a child who is treated differently from other children or siblings around him can feel inferior. A cheating husband may insist that his legitimate wife should apologize to side chic for offending her. This will make the legitimate wife feel useless and ashamed.

Deliberate tactics:

The perpetrator puts in more aggressive control on the victim.

Bating and blaming –

Such a perpetrator will purposely taunt the victim just to get the victim angry so that an argument can start.  Once the argument starts, the perpetrator then turns around to blame the victim.  So he uses the anger of the victim to accuse the victim of being mentally unstable.  And he blames the victim for causing the instability in their relationship.

From this show, the perpetrator attracts sympathy to himself and is seen as a hero by the unsuspected public.

Apart from blaming the victim for his irrational behaviour, he also blames the victim for someone else’s behaviour.

Accusing –

The perpetrator can accuse the victim falsely. For example, he can accuse his wife of infidelity, where actually exists.

He can make the victim feel guilty for her actions, no matter how innocent it is.

Verbal berating –

A perpetrator of emotional abuse is fond of verbal attacks and yelling on his victim.

So there could be verbal assaults such as calling someone good for nothing, useless, dumb head, olodo, coconut head, etc.

Bullying and spreading false rumours are forms of emotional abuse.

Criticizing –

The victim is usually under frequent non constructive criticisms, no matter what the victim does.

Humiliating and Ridiculing –

A perpetrator of emotional abuse enjoys humiliating the victim in public. For example, the perpetrator may call out his teenage daughter before his friends and tell her make some embarrassing statements.

He can also ridicule his victim by making sarcastic jokes about her in public or in private.

Privacy deprivation –

The perpetrator out of jealousy can deprive the victim from talking or associating with the opposite gender. He will demand access to knowing where his victim is at all times. And he will want to know who the victim is with at all times.

Isolation and abandonment –

Many people, who are denied access to their family members, do not know that they are being emotionally abused. So some women in an intimate relationship can be denied seeing or visiting their family members.

Some elderly people in the family can be abandoned, not visited nor shown to love to. Even a child can be threatened with abandonment. The child can be told that he or she will be thrown out of the house.

In what relationships can emotional abuse occur?

Emotional abuse in relationships in Nigeria can be found in all relationships. It can be happen in family relationships, intimate partner relationships and even in casual relationships.

 It can also be seen to happen in the work place. Actually, the work place is a perfect breeding ground for emotional abuse because of jealousy, envy, competitiveness and insecurity.

Also emotional abuse can happen in schools. Some teachers combine emotional abuse with other forms of abuse to exert control over their students. Even some sports coached use insults and degradations.

In a research published in 2012, students in public secondary schools in Edo state suffered emotional abuse from their teachers. These students suffered from different types of emotional abuse such as discriminating, rejecting, verbal assaults, isolation, etc.  

One of the most common forms of intimate partner violence in Nigeria is emotional abuse. And in a study in Northern Nigeria, 35.8% of the women studied, were emotionally abused by their partner.

 In one study in Nasarawa State in Nigeria, 75.8% of the elderly people interviewed, reported being emotionally abused. Then the prevalence of emotional abuse in one study in a tertiary health facility in Enugu was 49.7%.

Who are the perpetrators of emotional abuse?

Those with personality disorders are more likely to perpetrate emotional abuse. These include those with narcissistic, borderline, antisocial, personality disorders, etc.

Others most likely to perpetrate emotional abuse are those who abuse substances like cannabis, alcohol, etc. People with mental illness such as depression, psychosis, etc. are at risk of being perpetrators of psychological abuse.

People affected by poverty, unemployed and who lack community support can perpetrate emotional abuse. Being educated or uneducated can predispose one to being a perpetrator. Those having little education are more of a risk.

Why do they perpetrate abuse?

Emotional abuse does not happen by accident, it is planned. Abusers chose who they will abuse because they do not threaten or abuse everyone they see.  In public, they keep their abusive behaviour in check. So abuses are done privately and it stops when it is beneficial to the perpetrator.

So why should anyone want to be the perpetrator of emotional abuse? Research has it that it is the desire for the perpetrator to exert control over other individuals and destroy their sense of self esteem.

These people feel insecure, so they use jealousy, control or threats to avoid abandonment. People who had insecure attachment at infancy and those who were abused in childhood are more likely to be perpetrators. This is because they have felt powerless and insecure all their lives.

Emotional abuse cycle in an intimate partner abuse:

Psychological or emotional abuse can happen in a cycle, especially for those in intimate relationships.

The tension building phase  –

Here, having planned the abuse, the perpetrator will push his victim to a tight corner to enable the abuse occur. So he easily gets annoyed out of a non significant matter. This is targeted to get the victim afraid and annoyed.

Violent phase –

Having gotten his victim angry, he then charges at his victim with unprintable words. This is aimed at reducing her self esteem and getting her angrier so that she can react with angry words. When this happens, he is happy because he has gotten her where he wants her to be.

Then he picks the words said by his victim and uses it against her. And he lets the others believe that the victim is the cause of the problems they have in the relationship.

The honeymoon phase –

After some days or weeks, the perpetrator or husband comes to the victim apologizing. He promises that such a behaviour from him will never happen again. Then he buys his partner all manners of gifts just to pacify her.

This is aimed at getting the victim confused so that she can feel guilty, believing that she is the problem. So she goes ahead and forgives him.

Unfortunately, the emotional abuse will reoccur on a later date. This is the reason it is called a cycle of abuse. It is different from normal relationship misunderstandings.

What are the complications of emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse is the worst form of abuse. This is because it has been linked to all forms of abuse, being physical abuse or neglect or even sexual abuse.

Actually, when other forms of abuse heal, the details are forgotten.  But emotional abuse does not heal and affects the victim for the rest of his or her life.

Emotional abuse is seen in all other forms of abuse.  And what actually makes an abuse so terrible is the emotional undertone. 

So, emotional abuse can predispose one to psychological and psychiatric problems. These include low self esteem, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder and even suicide. There could also be relationship issues in life. Unemployment and underemployment can be an aftermath.

 It can also predispose to physical illnesses such as hypertension, heart diseases, etc. Death from these can occur.

In children it can delay language development, cause failure to thrive, bed wetting, delinquency and affect academics. Children can also run away from home and become street children, have unwanted pregnancy, etc. The children can get involved with cultism and crime.

How to overcome the effects of emotional abuse.          

Addressing emotional abuse requires a multi sectarian approach. The abusive behaviour should be detected early and handled early enough.

Parents and teachers should be educated on these issues. This can be done via training and retraining. And good parenting methods used.

 It is also important that the victim and the perpetrator receive treatment. This can be done with the help of a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist.

The government can help by having a stable economy. They should also provide jobs.

Emotional Abuse in Relationships in Nigeria.


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