When Emotional Abuse Turns Physical. How Can a Victim Prepare?


October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Many will speak out this month against what UNICEF calls, “one of the most pervasive human rights violations in the world today.”  Let me add my voice. The more who speak up, the better.

Many people do not understand the impact emotional abuse has on its victims. Often the media focuses on physical abuse, because it is easier to identify. For a description of what emotional abuse is, and how it feels to the victim, click here

Surprisingly, an abuse victim may not even recognize when she* is being physically abused. Her abuser may have moved from emotional to physical abuse without leaving any marks on her. Yet, he is becoming more and more dangerous. The following is an excerpt from my book, A Journey through Emotional Abuse: from Bondage to Freedom.

“Though you may not have bruises on your body, he may already be doing things many experts and law enforcement authorities consider physically abusive. Take a look at the following list. Ask yourself if he is:

  • Making threats to physically hurt you, lunging toward you as if to physically hurt you.
  • Scaring you by driving recklessly.
  • Destroying objects you care about.
  • Damaging property when angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, ripping telephones out of the wall, and similar actions).
  • Throwing things toward you (even if they don’t hit you).
  • Holding you so you cannot leave a room, trapping you in your home, or locking you out of your home.
  • Abandoning you in a dangerous or unfamiliar place.
  • Using a weapon to threaten you.
  • Hurting children or pets.
  • Using physical force in sexual situations.
  • Preventing you from accessing a telephone to call the police.

If he is doing any of these things, he is already physically abusive. Tweet This

Prepare for the Worst

Of course, you have no way to predict whether an emotional abuser will become physically abusive. Your abuser may remain emotionally abusive toward you for the rest of his life, and never become physically abusive. However, if not confronted, abuse tends to worsen over time. Being prepared for the chance he may one day become physically violent toward you, your children, or your pets is wise.

If and when that day comes, most likely, you will be caught off guard and in shock. You will not know how to react. That moment is not the best time to come up with a plan of action. Even though this may seem frightening to consider, be wise and think about some of the following questions before a situation occurs:          

  1. What would be the best way to react so he will not continue hurting you at that moment? What physical posture should you take to protect yourself? What (if anything) should you say?
  2. What would you do if your children witnessed him physically hurting you? Would you rather remain quiet, or tell them to go somewhere safe?
  3. Would you want to involve the police? What if someone else calls the police, even if you don’t want them to?

Getting the police involved may be very helpful, or it may not be, depending on how prepared you are to talk with them.

What Can You Expect If You or Someone Else Calls the Police?

Police response to domestic violence calls varies greatly, depending on the state and police district where you live. The best thing you can do is educate yourself. First, you can educate yourself by calling your local domestic violence hotline and asking them to describe what happens when police come to a domestic violence call in your area. Then, call the non-emergency line of your local police department and ask to speak to a domestic violence or victim’s advocate. If they don’t have one, ask to speak to an officer. Then, confirm the information given you by the domestic violence hotline. You may decide making one or both of these calls from a phone number that cannot be traced back to you is prudent.

Here is a list of the some questions you might want to ask:

  1. How many officers usually answer a domestic violence call?
  2. If they determine probable cause a crime has been committed, do they have a mandatory arrest policy in your area? In other words, are they instructed to arrest someone if they suspect domestic violence, even without anyone pressing charges?
  3. Does your police department have a domestic violence advocate available twenty-four hours per day? When would they be called? Could you request they come to the scene?
  4. Do the officers interview the abuser and the victim  in the same room, or do they interview them separately, giving the victim privacy to speak openly?
  5. Do the officers generally investigate to determine which of you is the usual aggressor, or do they arrest whoever has the fewest wounds? In other words, do they try to figure out which person is controlling the other in the relationship? He may have more wounds on him, if you were acting in self-defense.
  6. If they can’t determine who is at fault, how often do they arrest both the abuser and the victim? Do they often arrest the victim only? What would happen to the children in these cases?
  7. If no one is arrested, would they give you time to pack some things, and would they be willing to take you to a safe place? Would you be able to take your children?
  8. If your abuser were arrested, what would happen next?
  9. Would the court automatically issue a mandatory restraining order against him for you?
  10. How much time would he spend in jail?
  11. If charged, would he be forced to enroll in a domestic violence treatment program for offenders?

You may not think you need to look into this because you don’t plan to ever call the police. However, a neighbor may call them if they hear arguing, and the police may suddenly end up on your doorstep. Your children, or even your abuser, might call them.

No matter who calls the police, you might be the one arrested and taken to jail.” Tweet This

It is hard to believe a victim of domestic violence may by the one arrested if police are called. Sadly, this happens far too often. The better prepared you are, the less likely this will happen to you.

In my next blog, I will describe some scenarios that might occur if someone does call the police and they arrive at your house when your abuser turns physically violent.

Let’s look at some wisdom from Proverbs:

Proverbs 22:3

The prudent see danger and take refuge,
    but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

Proverbs 15:22

Plans fail for lack of counsel,
    but with many advisers they succeed.

Proverbs 2:12 – 15:

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
    from men whose words are perverse,
who have left the straight paths
    to walk in dark ways,
who delight in doing wrong
    and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
whose paths are crooked
    and who are devious in their ways.

Question: Have the police ever come to your home? If so, what happened?

If you are in a relationship that is abusive, whether emotionally, physically, or any other kind, there is hope for you, and many people ready to help you. Click here for a list of phone numbers, websites and books that can help you. You are not alone. God loves you, and He has placed many people here on earth for your protection. May He bless you today.


* In this article, I identify the victim as female, and the abuser as male. Please note victims and abusers can be male or female, or of the same gender.


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