Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber practically grew up before our eyes. They were our favorite on-again-off-again couple, who we rooted for even throughout their breakups and public quarrels. This week, Selena dropped a bombshell on fans, however, revealing that she suffered emotional abuse during her relationship with Justin. I, a woman who’s experienced the same and who’s been told (several times) that emotional abuse isn’t an actual thing, thought it might help to explain what the term means. While it isn’t physical or sexual, emotional abuse can have a very real, and lasting, impact on the person living through it.
Emotional abuse can range from verbal put-downs to bullying and intimidation, and more. “If you feel scared or confused around your partner, or doubt yourself when you’re talking with them, you may be experiencing emotional abuse. An emotional abuser’s goal is to undermine another person’s feelings of self-worth and independence. In an emotionally abusive relationship, you may feel that there is no way out or that without your partner you’ll have nothing. Emotional abuse is a form of domestic and family violence,” ReachOut.com explains. As for specific examples of what it entails, here is what the mental health organization classifies as emotional abuse:
- Verbal abuse: yelling at you, insulting you or swearing at you.
- Rejection: Constantly rejecting your thoughts, ideas and opinions.
- Gaslighting: making you doubt your own feelings and thoughts, and even your sanity, by manipulating the truth. For more information on how gaslighting works, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
- Put-downs: calling you names or telling you that you’re stupid, publicly embarrassing you, blaming you for everything. Public humiliation is also a form of social abuse.
- Causing fear: making you feel afraid, intimidated or threatened.
- Isolation: limiting your freedom of movement, stopping you from contacting other people (such as friends or family). It may also include stopping you from doing the things you normally do – social activities, sports, school or work. Isolating someone overlaps with social abuse.
- Financial abuse: controlling or withholding your money, preventing you from working or studying, stealing from you. Financial abuse is another form of domestic violence.
- Bullying and intimidation: purposely and repeatedly saying or doing things that are intended to hurt you.
“Physical violence is often seen as being more serious than emotional abuse, but this simply isn’t true. The scars of emotional abuse are real and long-lasting,” ReachOut.com goes on to say. “As well as having a negative impact on your self-esteem and confidence, emotional abuse can leave you feeling depressed, anxious or even suicidal.”
If you find yourself needing support, visit the site to get informed and click HERE for services that provide someone to talk to.
In case you missed it, here are Selena’s NPR comments:
“Lose You To Love Me” is your first No. 1 song off this album — tell me about this song.
I’m very proud of it. It has a different meaning to me now from when I wrote it. I felt I didn’t get a respectful closure, and I had accepted that, but I know I needed some way to just say a few things that I wish I had said. It’s not a hateful song; it’s a song that is saying — I had something beautiful and I would never deny that it wasn’t that. It was very difficult and I’m happy it’s over. And I felt like this was a great way to just say, you know, it’s done, and I understand that, and I respect that, and now here I am stepping into a whole other chapter.
Saying goodbye to Justin Bieber, who I’m assuming you’re speaking about.
You had to get the name in, I get it.
Do you look back on that time, and when you think about the parts of your life that were painful, that you’ve kind of moved on from, is that one of the harder parts?
No, because I’ve found the strength in it. It’s dangerous to stay in a victim mentality. And I’m not being disrespectful, I do feel I was a victim to certain abuse —
You mean emotional abuse?
Yes, and I think that it’s something that — I had to find a way to understand it as an adult. And I had to understand the choices I was making. As much as I definitely don’t want to spend the rest of my life talking about this, I am really proud that I can say I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt and I’ve found a way to just walk through it with as much grace as possible. [Editor’s note: NPR has reached out to Justin Bieber for comment.]