Social Question

Holden_Caulfield's avatar

Why is it that physical abuse is illegal, and emotional abuse is not?

Asked by Holden_Caulfield (1139points) January 12th, 2010

Considering physical abuse is illegal, at least in the United States among other countries, why do people allow emotional abuse to take place everywhere without any type of legal reprecussions? Emotional abuse can most certainly be considered at least as damaging as physical abuse, but yet it happens and is recognized, but goes unpunished, at least legally. It may very well be that emotional abuse is difficult to “prove”, or that it is subjective, but reality shows that it has long lasting and devastating effects on people. Sometimes for life. Should people be held accountable for inflicting emotional damage on someone else?

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36 Answers

filmfann's avatar

You said it. It’s difficult to prove, and difficult to disprove. Imagine the circus our courts would be.

Trillian's avatar

As you said, it is difficult to prove. And I can just hear some smartass defense lawyer now ripping a person to shreds in defense of his/her abusive client. The lawyer would probably cause more damage than the original abuser. I’m not sure what you mean by “it is recognized” Do you mean in the abstract? That there is such a thing? Because I think the thing more recognizable would be the after effects.
I know that there would be blatant cases that there would be numerous witnesses for the prosecution, but I think that there would be more murky cases than not. Then some other smartass would start up about freedom of speech and from there it would be on in court.

Shield_of_Achilles's avatar

Its easy to stop emotional abuse.

All you have to do is walk away.

jerv's avatar

@Shield_of_Achilles You’ve never been there then, have you?

Try walking away when you KNOW that you won’t ever make it on your own because you were never allowed to have a job or anything, or that you’ll be hunted like an animal and the police won’t (or can’t) help! I know someone who tried that. She was stabbed to death at a gas station in broad daylight.

Sorry if I sound a little snappy, but it isn’t always that easy. In fact, it usually isn’t. The stories my wife tells me about her childhood…. hell, even my own life until about age 5 when my mother finally kicked my dad out of the house at gunpoint

Shield_of_Achilles's avatar

I walked away from my parents. They were doing both.
And im doing just fine.

Don’t just assume you know peoples lives please.

You can always find people who will help. The world isnt that cold….

dpworkin's avatar

That’s actually not true. It is not legal, it’s just that it is tough to make a case. CPS takes kids away from their families all the time for non-physical abuse.

jerv's avatar

@Shield_of_Achilles Re-read my previous post; I edited it while you were typing. However, we had no help, nor did my wife. The people that tried to help her were constantly stonewalled by “Momster”, and as for my situation, let’s just leave it at this; the world can be cold, especially if you are also isolated from it and thus have no way of knowing your options and are not allowed to have friends.

laureth's avatar

@Shield_of_Achilles – first you say that it’s easy to stop emotional abuse simply by walking away, and then you tell us, “Don’t just assume you know peoples lives please.”

I would ask the same of you.

Shield_of_Achilles's avatar

@laureth @jerv I was 16 when I left home…. I know how cold and hard the world can be. Trust me.

I’m not assuming that I know what you are and are not going through. I never made assumptions on anything about either of you.
But I do know that every life can be changed, and that you can’t believe in no win situations. As soon as you give up, they win.

Trillian's avatar

I’m sorry @Shield_of_Achilles. I’ve enjoyed many of your posts on other threads. However, you can’t “just walk away” when you’re a child. I don’t even want to go there and repeat all I know about childhood emotional abuse. I also left home at 16, and I have to say that a lot of what is wrong with my life today stems from bad decisions that I made when I was younger. Decisions based on insufficient education, and then insufficient preparation to go out and face the world which was due to emotional abuse at home. All I wanted when I was young was to get OUT. That was all I thought about and had no concept of what would happen next. So even the option of walking away can have its own problems. Won’t you rethink your initial reaction? Or at least concede that walking away is not always an option?

dpworkin's avatar

I guess I agree. I left home very young, and life has been difficult for 45 years now. I am finally in college, but I don’t have that much time left in my life to do useful work. I wish I could change the past.

Trillian's avatar

yo @pdworkin. I’m working two jobs and going to school too. I’m at Kaplan online, been going two years in March, I’ll be finished in just over a year. Two classes at a time is my limit. Sucks, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel. !

dpworkin's avatar

By the time I can even apply for a decent, middle class job I will be 64. And social workers don’t make real money. I’ll be lucky if I can make $40,000 a year.

Trillian's avatar

@pdworkin, Oooo, you have a couple on me. I’m getting a BS in technical writing. Maybe I can write a Grant for you!

Holden_Caulfield's avatar

Wow! How did this topic get so off track?!? I have had so many experiences of emotional abuse thorughout my life… into adulthood. Is it really that acceptable? Emotional abuse, I mean. I appreciate all the responses and I do agree it is not ever easy to walk away from, no matter whether a child or adult. Some may say it is, but I disagree. If you consider some of the questions asked by everyone here, there is a hint of emotional abuse in many questions. Some are in denial; while others are aware. Regardless, it is an issue we all face because we are all positioned, whether or not we want to agree, to be a victim of it… no matter what our age.

Shield_of_Achilles's avatar

@Trillian @pdworkin Luckily my grandparents knew about everything and never told my parents that I ran away to their house. It took me 2 weeks to get up here from Georgia. My grandparents didn’t know I left until I knocked on their front door.

I’m sorry things didn’t work out for you like they did for me. I really wish I could help. But as I’ve always said, it’s never too late until you’re dead, and there is always a way to better your situation.

In the famous words of Joe Dirt, “you can’t have no in your heart”.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Shield_of_Achilles look, not to sound crude, but what does it matter what happened in your particular situation – we can’t build policy around your story alone.

Lorenita's avatar

As far as I know, many states have contemplated emotional abuse as a new legal matter, it’s called “mobbing” in labour law, and not just in the U.S, many other countries are developing laws against this, since it’s very very hard to prove, but it’s sooo real and detrimental to people.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

I don’t know why emotional abuse isn’t prosecuted more….I agree it would be hard to make a case….it would be (in domestic violence cases) a “he said, she said” or a “he said, he said” or “she said, she said”...and in the end, it would always be someone’s word against the other.

I say this because the abuser usually is quite good at hiding his tracks, his outbursts, his anger in front of any witnesses who might attest to the abuse. (I use “his”, but you get my drift.) I once knew someone who was absolutely horrific and I remember going to a party and the hostess (who knew nothing of him) commenting on “what a lovely man” he was and “he’s like a ray of sunshine!” she continued. He was amazingly deceptive and was extremely emotionally and verbally abusive.

Emotional abuse is, in my opinion also, extremely heinous. The pain of being beaten physically can usually be treated. But the scars of being verbally/emotionally beaten is something that stays much much longer..and some would say forever.

Shield_of_Achilles's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Never said you should. You guys always seem to miss my point.

All I’m saying is. There is always a way out. It may be very hard to find. But there is always a way.
You can never give up on yourself. In the end, you’re all you got.

jerv's avatar

@Shield_of_Achilles If the emotional abuser does their job “right”, there isn’t. I was lucky in that I had a mother that (eventually) grew a spine (I was 4 so I couldn’t stand up to him) and did what the law could/would not.

As for my wife, she is >35, officially diagnosed with PTSD, and lives in constant fear that her mother is somehow going to get her even though we haven’t seen momster in >5 years and now live on the opposite coast. My wife is still so conditioned that she cannot put her needs ahead of anyone elses and I practically have to force her to do nice things for herself. Hell, she won’t even buy herself clothes just in case I might want something that costs money; the happiness of others comes first.

Maybe her case is nearly unique, but I seriously doubt it. In fact, I know a few others who have their own “war stories”. I am sure that there are many others out there who have been scarred as deeply as my wife has.

I don’t mean to be confrontational here, but it sounds to me like you had it relatively easy. Shit, compared to here, I had a fucking walk in the park, especially since I was beaten unconscious enough that I don’t remember anything before I was 5.

So tell us, how much do you spend a month on meds/therapy? How much sleep do you lose to this day? When you were little, did you ever stay up all night scared that your own mother would come in and smother you with a pillow? How many scars do you have? Can you honestly say that you had it worse than every other human in history and therefore it’s as easy for them as it was for you? Shit, it’s easy to escape poverty too; just win the fucking lottery!

As for your last comment, my wife is still trying to figure out what “self” is. What if you have been abused to the point where you loses even that?

You may be a decent and intelligent person, but I gotta say that you stepped on a land-mine here.

Shield_of_Achilles's avatar

@jerv There is no such thing as a no win situation.

And yes, I was afraid of my mother killing me. But not with a pillow. She used to choke me out then kick me when I fell to the floor. My father was a drunk and hit me with empty bottles. Ive been stabbed, hit with bats, golf clubs, even set on fire once ( not as dramatic as its sounds. I pulled my shirt off and was fine). I dont spend anything on thero, or meds. Never talked to any social workers or councilors. Want to know why? Because I know there are people out there who have it worse than me and i dont feel like im worthy of the time to bitch and complain about my issues all the damn time.

Im sorry that you feel im trying to act high and mighty here, but im simply trying to pass on something that ive learned in hopes that other people will gain something from it.

I wake up from nightmares of my mother and father every night. But i dont complain. I turn on music and go back to sleep.
Im a horrible social person because im very distrusting. I have no one to talk to because i have no real friends.
I tried to drink myself to death just about every night last year. Obviously i failed.

Im sorry that your wife and you had it rough. But youre not the only ones.
Just because I dont complain or attempt to play the woh is me card, doesnt mean i dont understand.

This is why im becoming a criminal investigator. I want to stop this kind of thing from happening to others. That will be my healing, my medicine, my therapy.

Dont give up. In the end, the world will right itself. Just make sure youre around to see it, otherwise itll mean nothing.

Sorry for the grammar and spelling errors. But at this point, I really dont care.

dpworkin's avatar

Have you boys tired of comparing penis length yet, or should I stop following this thread?

jerv's avatar

@Shield_of_Achilles As long as you realize that you came across high-and-mighty, I am at least somewhat appeased. I just want you to realize that not all of us are as strong as you.

Personally, my wife and my mother both envy me because I don’t remember most of what happened to me, and not nearly as much as my wife remembers of her own past. (Of course, that may be because I escaped when I was 4 and she couldn’t get away (at least not totally) until she was 33.) Conversely, I envy them (especially my mother) for them remembering enough to have grown stronger through the adversity.

While you and I may be strong-willed (or just plain stubborn) enough to hang in there no matter what, there are many others who just can’t, just as not all of us are physically strong enough to bench-press 400+ pounds. The main motivation in my life is that I don’t want to give others the satisfaction of seeing me fail; not actual drive, but just pure spite. And yes, I’ve nearly pickled myself when I can afford to. The fact that I am typing with proper spelling right now should tell you what sort of tolerance I have built up.

I know where you are coming from (now) and I respect it, but I have to disagree merely because you make it sound so easy. It isn’t, and I think you actually know that, but you don’t come across like you do.

I wish you well in your career as a CI and I hope that your hands don’t get tied up in red tape like the social workers that tried to help my wife.

@pdworkin I think we’re done. At least I hope so….

daemonelson's avatar

It kinda is illegal. Emotional trauma, I believe it’s called.

lonelydragon's avatar

You effectively answered your own question. Emotional abuse is harder to quantify than physical abuse. Unlike physical trauma, the scars left by emotional abuse are invisible. Also, emotional abuse is subtle. An abusive parent, guardian, or spouse may insult the victim in such a way that no one else recognizes it, but the victim is fully aware.

laureth's avatar

If you are raised all your life to believe that you’re in a room that has no door, you’re not going to look for a door. It may not even occur to you that doors exist, even if there’s one right there. It’s just a decorative part of the wall.

Similarly, if you are raised all of your life to think that you’re helpless, you suck, no one will ever love or help you (except me, the one who hurts you) and that if you leave, it will be even worse, and frankly, there isn’t a way out anyway – it might not even occur to you to look for a way out, even if people would help you. You don’t know they’re there. You’ll “get in trouble” if you tell anyone.

Walking away very often is a feat of strength and imagination beyond the capability of the abused person. (That’s why, whenever you go to a Planned parenthood or a doctor’s office or sometimes even into a stall in a public restroom, there is a comment or sticker or question to the effect of, “Are you being abused? Is anyone hurting you? Here’s how to get help – quick! – while your abuser isn’t with you in the room.”)

jerv's avatar

@laureth +1GA, and I wish I could give you more

mindful's avatar

I am not sure about it being difficult to prove. You can use cameras and voice recoders covertly to capture the situation. Therapists and psychologists and such others might be bale to differe between an actual abused victim and a false one just like doctors can tell if you are lying about some desease etc. A Hail marry move would be to include lie detecting tests and hire people like Paul Ekman to distinguish between truth and lies.

I mean there has to be some ways with all the technology we have. But the part about the judicial system is a challenge. As it is, cases take forever to be heard in courts. we’d need a whole new system to make this into a reality.

jerv's avatar

@mindful It doesn’t take much to get such a recording chucked out of court if the other party is/was unaware of being recorded. Also, polygraphs are inaccurate enough to be inadmissable in many courts.

elspethe's avatar

I have thought for years it should be…and clearly spelled out in a law. Practical issue: the victim…and there IS an unwilling victim…must have evidence that is allowable in court in the form of witnesses, tape recordings, video, etc. and also have an alternative, safe place to live possibly! I believe stress kills, and to impose stress upon a person, to me, is a slow murder.
To demean a person, embarrass a person, name-call, etc. to me are examples of emotional abuse. The courts complain they are so busy, etc. with cases? Well, a lot of people need jobs…so let the hiring begin!

RanAway's avatar

Oh, people… I am just in the middle of working on a suit I am filing against my ex, and a lot of it based on emotional abuse. It is quite easy to prove in my case, since it escalated to physical abuse, however, it is definitely a difficult tool to use to obtain compensation for the damage caused.
I am very determined to go through with this, as after 8 months I am still getting messages from my ex (yes, I could have blocked his number, but he still would not let me get off the mortgage, that is partially why I am going to Court as well), where he says that I can’t do anything right, etc.
I want my life back and do not want to feel worthless anymore, therefore I will fight for it. In Canada they recognize emotional abuse, however, it takes a lot of work to make a more or less successful case out of it.
I am not using lawyer services, since it is expensive and it does only worsens things for the victim. I will be representing myself.
Just to let you know that even a simple text message saying : “if you not going to let me stay late with my friends, I will drop you like a bad habit” is something that is considered in court.
Been there.
Good Luck to all and I will keep you posted on what is happening with my case.

flo's avatar

The tatoo Chris Brown’s neck
psychological abuse or no?

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