Mental abuse is a scar that remains unseen in any abusive relationship. When people hear the word “abuse” it is assumed it is a physical act of violence. Mental abuse encompasses many things such as name calling, putting down your partner, threats of desertion, and the calling of INS to start.
One of the most common names during name calling is the word, “stupid.” It can make a person feel both worthless and inept at the same time. As abuse is about power and control, this puts the survivor in a position of being unsure of themselves and can cause them to constantly defer to the abuser, looking for both approval and consent.
Mental abuse can also include withholding money for food, limiting food intake, requiring a partner to be on a strict time schedule, and keeping track of the car mileage. An example of this would be giving someone the exact money needed for groceries, a time limit to get to the store and back, and
knowing the mileage to the store and back. This tight hold keeps the survivor on edge, and within the perimeters the abuser sets for them, without ever laying a hand on them.
For undocumented survivors of abuse, reporting it and receiving help may feel a million miles away. Often times when one partner is in the country legally and the other isn’t, the lack of documentation becomes a tool of abuse. It is important for people to know that your partner cannot call INS, who
quickly come and deport you. There is no Mr. INS to call.
There are also options available for undocumented survivors such as a U-Visa, which helps survivors of
abuse become legal citizens. It allows them to stay in the country, and away from their abusers until the Visa goes through. Some non profit law firms will even assist you in getting a divorce, and help you stay in the country despite it.
Mental abuse is extremely hard to prove in court. Luckily, courts are becoming more aware of it, and have been incorporating it into the Orders of Protections. Originally, only those who are married, divorced or have a child in common were able to go to Family Court. A bill was passed recently that
allows for all intimate partners to go to Family Court.
Many survivors stay in abusive relationships because it is costly to obtain a divorce. Also, many women are afraid that they will be unable to support themselves on their own, or that their spouse will not allow them to take their children when they leave. Though this is a realistic possibility, if a person feels that their children are in danger, they should be added to the Order of Protection ensuring they can be kept safe. There are also lawyers who work specifically with domestic abuse
cases. They can direct you with the legal aspects of visitations with the abusive spouse.
Help for those in a mentally abusive marriage is just a phone call away. You can simply call 311 for information, telling them you are in an abusive relationship and are in need of assistance. The service will be able to provide you with a phone number in your area, or region where you may receive