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The #Metoo cam­paign has become a ver­i­ta­ble move­ment against sex­u­al assault and harass­ment of women. But that’s not the only thing that’s caus­ing harm. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse or vio­lence is just as com­mon today in the every­day lives of women as well as men, who are 10% affect­ed. Although not phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal vio­lence leaves traces that are not vis­i­ble, but which also shape those affect­ed. In this way, it not only influ­ences pri­vate life, but also affects how those affect­ed treat their fel­low human beings. Psy­cho­log­i­cal vio­lence often presents itself as a har­bin­ger of phys­i­cal vio­lence. Both for the per­pe­tra­tors and for the victims.

A dan­ger­ous pat­tern emerges in which both devel­op a famil­iar­i­ty with psy­cho­log­i­cal vio­lence that blurs the bound­aries of right or wrong behavior.

But what is psy­cho­log­i­cal vio­lence and where does it begin?

Every­one has expe­ri­enced this kind of vio­lence, some have even grown up with it and learned it through their own par­ents. Oth­ers are still liv­ing with it or are bear­ing the con­se­quences of it for the long haul.

Men­tal vio­lence is a form of vio­lence in which one per­son tries to men­tal­ly weak­en anoth­er, often close per­son, sole­ly with words or manip­u­la­tive strate­gies. This works com­plete­ly with­out phys­i­cal vio­lence — usu­al­ly only with the threat of it. The goal is always to weak­en, unset­tle, desta­bilise the oth­er per­son and there­by try to become dependent.

Men­tal vio­lence can occur in a vari­ety of forms, such as e.g. through fear­ful acts, coer­cion, threats, harass­ment of any kind, ter­ror, insult, deval­u­a­tion, defama­tion and humil­i­a­tion. In the case of chil­dren, this can also be done by depri­va­tion of love, rejec­tion, abuse to sat­is­fy the nar­cis­sis­tic needs of par­ents (ex: the child is sup­posed to ful­fill wish­es and ideals or is used as a part­ner sub­sti­tute), guilt cre­ation, neglect or even bul­ly­ing among peers in the school envi­ron­ment or on the Internet.

Those affect­ed are usu­al­ly unaware that they are vic­tims of psy­cho­log­i­cal vio­lence. Even if this is not nec­es­sar­i­ly tied to a spe­cif­ic envi­ron­ment, these are often very famil­iar cir­cum­stances with inti­mate part­ners. In love rela­tion­ships, par­ent-child rela­tion­ships or very emo­tion­al­ly con­nect­ed rela­tion­ships, in which there is a lot of trust, love and in which the per­sons con­cerned do not ques­tion the cul­prit (the per­pe­tra­tor), they become the per­fect victim.
This usu­al­ly leads to an iso­la­tion of the per­sons con­cerned from the peo­ple who could help them and puts them in a dan­ger­ous rela­tion­ship of depen­dence with the perpetrator.

Psy­cho­log­i­cal vio­lence usu­al­ly begins par­tic­u­lar­ly creep­ing, because the per­pe­tra­tor has to weak­en his vic­tim first. This is done dis­creet­ly and unno­ticed. A lit­tle insult here, anoth­er humil­i­a­tion there and slow­ly the attacks are pil­ing up. Those affect­ed sub­con­scious­ly get used to it and do not defend them­selves after a cer­tain peri­od of time, as the feel­ing of shame has already set in.
The goal is that the per­pe­tra­tor can live out a sense of con­trol, pow­er and dom­i­nance in order to strength­en his own self-esteem.

And there­in lies the prob­lem: the per­pe­tra­tors are very often peo­ple who suf­fer from a weak self-esteem and only feel strong and good if they can sup­press and degrade their environment.

Thus, in real­i­ty, the object of vio­lence (the person(s) con­cerned) is the stronger per­son and the per­pe­tra­tor tries to con­ceal his own feel­ing of weak­ness by using force. For every per­son he can make docile serves as proof of his pow­er and supe­ri­or­i­ty and soothes his unsta­ble mind. The expla­na­tion often lies in child­hood, where he him­self was deprived of pow­er, gen­er­al­ly by his own par­ents. For exam­ple, by forc­ing the child into actions to realise the goals of one or both par­ents, and love was used as an instru­ment of manip­u­la­tion and was not uncon­di­tion­al­ly provided.

These par­ents show a manip­u­la­tiv­en nar­cis­sis­tic behav­ior, which they then pass on as a behav­iour­al struc­ture to their own chil­dren, who then feel, per­ceive and then repro­duce such behav­ior as nor­mal. The dif­fi­cul­ty lies in the fact that the child can’t help but feel what he or she is expe­ri­enc­ing as nor­mal — even if it is more like  a  per­ver­sion. This means you have to build up the expe­ri­ence of anoth­er, bet­ter nor­mal­i­ty in the child. And it must con­vey a bet­ter sense of secu­ri­ty than what was pre­vi­ous­ly known.

Oth­er­wise, the chil­dren learn from the begin­ning that strength can only be gained by exer­cis­ing con­trol and pow­er over oth­ers. The small­est trans­fer of pow­er makes them feel invin­ci­ble. How­ev­er, this is only secret­ly, because the actions of the per­pe­tra­tor are usu­al­ly not direct­ly addressed by the per­sons con­cerned. If one were aware of the use of force by the part­ner as a per­son con­cerned and went on a course of con­fronta­tion, the per­pe­tra­tor would already lose power.

But how can those affect­ed escape this situation?

To do so, those affect­ed must regain the rela­tion to nor­mal­i­ty and a strength­en­ing of their own self-esteem. Only then, can they see that the vio­lence used is not nor­mal and deserved and that they are capa­ble of escap­ing the mael­strom of manipulation.

The empti­ness felt, which caus­es an increased feel­ing of fear in the affect­ed per­sons and at the same time cre­ates and strength­ens an arti­fi­cial need for the per­pe­tra­tor, must be replaced by anoth­er nurs­ing and sooth­ing feel­ing. This is com­plete­ly indi­vid­ual and has to be found first. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is no mir­a­cle cure and the “fight against addic­tion” is par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult in the first few days.

This can be done with the help of the fam­i­ly (inso­far as they are not the prob­lem) or by inter­ven­ing and sup­port­ing close and famil­iar friends, but prefer­ably with pro­fes­sion­al help. This is now also pos­si­ble anony­mous­ly, even in com­pli­cat­ed sit­u­a­tions and in order to pro­tect the per­son seek­ing help.

Most impor­tant­ly, the vic­tims are not lost, they just have to regain their pow­er by not tac­it­ly accept­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal vio­lence, but talk­ing about what is being done to them and ask­ing for help.

To all those who think that they can no longer get out of such a sit­u­a­tion and no longer know: Don’t be ashamed of the fact that you have allowed it. It’s not your fault. You may be loved. You may be treat­ed with respect. You are strong. You are beau­ti­ful and you can get along with­out the oth­er per­son. Let NO ONE humil­i­ate you! No one has the right or the pow­er to do so unless you give it away.

Take it back now, dare to talk about it and reverse the situation.

Build­ing on the #Metoo cam­paign and to tes­ti­fy to sup­port against psy­cho­log­i­cal vio­lence, I encour­age peo­ple to join #psy­cho­log­i­calvi­o­lenceaware­ness!


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