A wounded body speaks. It screams all the pain and despair of abuse. More often, however, they are invisible wounds, those inflicted in a sneaky and ferocious way that risk silencing (and silencing) forever. But how do you recognize violence when it is “psychological”? And how to bring to light the often devastating effects?
Elise Caponetti, legal psychologist and psychotherapist, has encountered many stories of violence. The most emblematic ones you have told in the book Victims of violence: stories of ordinary everyday life. Not only physical abuse but also psychological. Particularly insidious forms of abuse because they are too often overlooked or not adequately recognised. “Psychological violence can present itself in different forms, most of which are not visible, for this reason more weight is given to the physical one”. underlines Caponetti. “There is great difficulty in recognizing psychological violence, which is generally perpetrated through offenses and lack of respect, criticism and demeaning behaviour, control of personal freedom and blackmail”.
What is psychological violence
When we talk about psychological violence we are talking about a more subtle and less demonstrable mechanism than physical violence and mistreatment. In any case, it is a question of a behavior that tends to overwhelm and which, in the victim, undermines self-esteem, self-confidence, dignity and identity.
«Sometimes it is thought that psychological violence is less dangerous than physical violence, but simply because it is less visible: it is always about behaviors aimed at harming the other, making him weaker and exercising control over him. Almost always, then, psychological violence precedes physical violence», specifies the psychotherapist.
The signs to recognize it
Psychological violence implies the desire for systematic control over the other through actions aimed at belittling him and at reinforcing one’s power. «It is generally determined by the behaviors associated with one excessive jealousy and al contemptthe demeaning criticismthe humiliationsthe threats and the intimidationthe economic control», explains Elisa Caponetti. “Even the same emotional indifference if the other makes explicit requests it is a form of violence, as well as various forms of refusal or offensive expressions of the type “you are worth nothing”, “you are stupid” and other ways of belittling a woman in her femininity, sexuality, physical appearance. The point is always and in any case exploit his weaknesses It is on sense of inadequacywhile promoting theisolation from family and friendships.
All of this, of course, takes place within pathological emotional relationships. “In a healthy relationship this way of acting would be stopped immediately,” clarifies the expert. «It can instead manifest itself within pathological affective relationships that are in some way based on a exaggerated desire for possessionon sick forms of jealousy, continuous methods of control and, in general, on constant manipulation ».
Women who don’t recognize her
Those who suffer are often unable to recognize this kind of violence. “There is really a difficulty in acknowledging certain episodes because one thinks that violence is only the physical one or the extreme one that one is used to hearing every day in the case of feminicides”, explains the psychotherapist. «We therefore tend to underestimate the most subtle actions, perhaps even to justify them, repeating phrases such as: “If he’s so jealous maybe it’s because he cares about me so much”or, with respect to the deprivation of the friendship-social sphere, “It’s because he wants me all to himself.” In practice, we erroneously tend to perceive these signals as a demonstration of interest on the part of the other; distortions of reality that frequently occur within pathological relationships, where women often tend to justify even physical violence, with “But I deserved it”, “I provoked it”, “I didn’t have to do this”… There is just a profound distortion of reality».
Who is at risk of violence?
«The moment an emotional relationship is established, each of us can be at risk to a certain extent. The violent person, both physically and psychologically, does not immediately show himself because otherwise no woman would agree to remain in a similar situation. At the beginning, there is often a different behavior, he shows himself as a person who is particularly attentive to the relationship and it is when the bond is built that the first maltreating behaviors emerge, often characterized by various phases which also include apologies, forgiveness, he who temporarily ceases these behaviors but which then return. Also for this reason it is really difficult to recognize violence, because the phenomenon is complex, non-linear, there are different configurations of violence and not all forms are the same and have the same impact. But it is clear that somehow they are always there. We should have the strength to immediately break off the relationship without attaching ourselves to false expectations and without repeating the most dangerous phrase: “He will change”.
Is it unthinkable that these men change?
«In reality, in addition to the numerous interventions and programs on women, others are also being activated on recovery of the perpetrators themselves. However, it is obvious that these are complex and long journeys. There is also an important cultural element to consider and that is that if women themselves already have difficulty recognizing this violence, men find it even more difficult to recognize their actions and the era in which we are living in this sense does not help: everything seems to be allowed, we witness all forms of violence as if we were already addicted, as if certain behaviors were “normal”. And it is clear that television, as well as social media, radio and newspapers can be an important help, but only on condition that the information is reported in the right way, also paying close attention to those wrong messages that are often passed on».
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Source: Vanity Fair
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