What's Emotional Abuse Look Like?


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    Think you might be suffering emotional abuse? Or maybe you're wondering if you might be a perpetrator of emotional abuse.

    Sometimes it can be hard to know for sure, especially when the abuse is emotional. After all, there’s usually nothing visible afterwards, like a black eye or bruises. And even what you hear can often just sound like a typical couple fighting. Unfortunately, emotional abuse has a way of sneaking into some relationships and overtime just feeling normal.


    So, what's emotional abuse look like? Take a look below and see if any of this sounds familiar.

    Emotional Abuse Examples

    Emotional abuse occurs in all kinds of relationships, including those of celebrities. One of the best known and most public is that of Mel Gibson and his former girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva.

    To see clear examples of emotional abuse, read over these excerpts of transcripts from Mel speaking to Oksana (Mel Gibson Rant) and see if you recognize the forms of abuse.


    And as you read, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions:

    • How does Mel try to control her?
    • Does he threaten her? How many times? In what ways?
    • Does he want her to be submissive to him? What does this look like?
    • What does he blame her for? Are these things she really is responsible for?
    • In what ways does he humiliate her?

    Mel Gibson (MG):

    Who the f--- cares? We agreed nothing. You agreed. You just f------ expect s---. Go to the g--damn jacuzzi yourself, go down to the f------ jacuzzi. You have no f------ soul! My soul is screaming because you don't have one to join mine. You have no f------ soul. I left my wife because we had no spiritual common ground. You and I have none. Zero. You won't even f------ try. (huffing again) You don't care. You don't care.

    Oksana Grigorieva (OG): You just enjoy insulting me. That's all.

    MG: F--- you, I so f------ do. Because you've hurt me so bad. You insult me with every look, every breath, every heartbeat.

    OG: I did not do anything. I apologize for nothing.

    MG: What? What? You apologize for nothing? Well then you're a dishonest c---! Because you need to apologize for a reason.

    OG: I wanted to have peace. You are unbalanced.

    MG: Instinctively, I feel that. And I will not be patronized by you.

    OG: You're unbalanced. You need medication.

    MG: If you will not f------ admit that, then get the f--- out. I will make your g--damn life miserable. Alright?

    OG: You need medication.

    MG: What? What?

    OG: You need medication.

    MG: I need a woman, not a f------ little girl with a f----- dysfunctional c---. I need a f------ woman. I don't need medication. You need a f------ bat to the side of the head. All right? How about that? You need a f------ doctor. You need a f------ brain transplant. You need a f------ … you need a f------ soul. I need medication? I need someone who f------ treats me like a man, like a human being. With kindness, who understands what gratitude is because I f------ bend over backwards with my balls in a knot. and she gives me s--- with a f------ sour look and says I'm mean. What the f--- is that? This is mean! Get it! You get it now? What mean is? Get it? (huffing) You f------ don't care about me. I'm having a hard time and you f------ yank the rug, you bitch. You f------, selfish bitch. Don't you dare hang up on me.

    OG: I can't listen to this anymore.

    MG: You hang up, I'm coming over there.

    OG: I'll call the police.

    MG: What?

    OG: I'll call the police.

    MG: You f------ c---. I'm coming to my house. You're in my house, honey.

    (Section cut out due to space constraints. For the full transcript, read Mel Gibson Rant)

    OG: Because I'm saving my life and my daughter's life. That's what I'm doing. I don't give a damn about my music. And I don't give a damn about you spending another penny. I'm saving her life. You almost killed us, did you forget?

    MG: The last three years have been a f------ gravy train for you.

    OG: You were hitting a woman with a child in her hands. You! What kind of a man is that, hitting a woman when she's holding a child in her hands? Breaking her teeth, twice, in the face. What kind of man is that?

    MG: Oooh, you're all angry now! You know what, you f------ deserved it.

    OG: You're gonna answer, one day, boy, you're gonna answer.

    MG: Huh? What? Are you threatening me?

    OG: Nothing, nothing. I'm not the one to threaten.

    MG: I'm threatening you? I'll put you in a f------ rose garden, you c---. You understand that? Because I'm capable of it. You understand that? Get a f------ restraining order. For what? What are you gonna get a restraining order for? For me being drunk and disorderly? For hitting you? For what?

    How To Identify Emotional Abuse

    How many signs of emotional abuse do you see?

    • Control?
    • Threaten?
    • Make submissive?
    • Blame?
    • Humiliate?

    I found all of the above. And these elements are what abuse that’s emotional looks like.


    Often what makes emotional abuse different from other abuse is how subtle it can be. For instance, Mel doesn’t just threaten Oksana, he wants to make her submissive to him. So, there are also elements of control and power in his threats. Another example is that he doesn’t just attack her verbally, which is verbal abuse, he also blames and humiliates her, which makes the abuse emotional in addition to verbal.

    What To Do If You’re Dealing With Emotional Abuse

    Let’s be clear – emotional abuse is not the way we treat someone we love, and a healthy, loving relationship does not include abuse of any kind. So, if you think you might be suffering emotional abuse, or have possibly become an abuser, it’s time to make changes.


    Where do you start?

    Get help. Sounds pretty obvious, but in actuality it can be hard to do. Yet the smartest thing you can do when you’re struggling with abuse is to get professional help. Marriage counseling or couples counseling can be an invaluable resource when you feel trapped and don't know how to get things to change.

    What will you learn?

    • How to say ‘no’ in a way that works.
    • How to recognize abuse when it’s happening and how to respond.
    • How to get yourself back since with abuse that’s emotional in particular you lose yourself because of how it changes and diminishes you.

    Just know that emotional abuse can stop, but it will take your actions to make it so.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published July 25, 2010 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


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