Psychologist Evelyne Kharono Lufafa, says emotional abuse happens to people without them knowing it. “The abuse is gradual so the person is led to believe that what they are experiencing is a normal situation; this is called conditioning,” Lufafa explains.
Irene Kawanga, a 41-year-old mother of three, did not know she was living with an emotionally-abusive man for more than 20 years. “It started with him telling me what to do with my money. He insisted we open a joint account but in the end, he never deposited any money yet he had access to mine which he would spend.
Whenever I would ask why he was spending my money, he would accuse me of selfishness,” narrates Kawanga. As a result, she started resenting him and tried to get back control. The more she fought the harder he fought back.
“It went from the money to my time and consequently my phone. While he saw no problem with spending time on his phone and ignoring the entire family, whenever I received a call or text, he would question who the caller was and what they wanted. Don’t they know you are a married woman? He would question trying to make me feel guilty,” she narrates. He broke several of her phones and eventually banned her from using WhatsApp.
Lufafa says recognising what is happening is the first step. She cautions against ignoring the signs because it only leads to more abuse and worse may lead into stress and depression. Once you have identified these signs, she recommends that you put your own needs first even when the abuser tries to manipulate you and make you feel guilty. “Let them take care of their own needs for a change. Set firm boundaries and tell your abuser to stop his form of abuse. If they do not change, physically distance yourself from them until they understand that you will not tolerate any more abuse,” she advises.
Kwagala convinced her husband to go for a counselling session with her and that was the beginning of the healing of their relationship. The psychologist stresses that counselling is very important for both the abuser and their victim because it enables them to recognise the role each plays in perpetuating this dysfunction.