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  • Rachana

Controlling behavior does not equal love - it's emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is a type of violence experiences in abusive relationships. It can happen in all forms of relationship including parent-child relationship, friendship, employer-employee relationship, and intimate partner relationship.

Unfortunately, our society has not put the emphasis on emotional abuse that we should. Perhaps we think it is less serious due to the lack of physical scars on the survivors. It has not been taught in school, nor discussed extensively at the household and institutional level. But emotional abuse is a serious issue that can have traumatic effects on individuals and their loved ones, and these effects can be just as serious as those experienced as a result of other forms of violence. Survivors of emotional abuse may experience trouble sleeping, feelings of anger, fear and insecurity, and even anxiety and depression.


Emotional abuse is difficult to recognize and might not be obvious at first. It comes in many forms, and to varying degrees. Emotional abuse can happen indiscriminately to anyone from all walks of life. Below are a number of tactics generally used by an emotional abuser in order to manipulate and control their intimate partners. It is not an exhaustive list, but it provides a starting point for anyone to observe and assess whether or not she/he is in emotionally abusive relationship:

  1. He makes you fear his presence and/or absences;

  2. He tries to isolate you from your family and friends in order to cut off your social support network;

  3. He acts cold and withholds feelings and emotions;

  4. He prevents from you from seeking employment in order to make you become economically dependent on him;

  5. He degrades you by finding faults in your appearance, or your intelligence, etc.;

  6. He applies a rigid sex-role, and/or withholds sex;

  7. He has psychological instability (runs hot and cold)

  8. He contingently expresses his love (there's always a 'catch')

  9. He 'gaslights' you. This means that he manipulates you by making you question your own sense of reality. When someone lies constantly and tells you you're 'crazy' or 'unstable' when you call them out on their lies, this is a form of gaslighting.

If you have experienced or are experiencing one or all of the above treatments in your intimate relationship, you could be in an emotionally abusive intimate partner relationship. But do not worry, there are many steps you can take to address this.

  • First off, you might want to get yourself informed about the issue - you're not alone and there is a lot of information out there on emotional abuse and what action you can take! For example, there is a great deal of information available online once you start searching.

  • Forums and closed social media groups can provide a safe space to discuss your experiences with other survivors. You might want to explore some books, stories, or even academic journals, or TED talks.

  • If it's safe to do so and you feel ready, it can be very powerful and aid your journey to recovery if you speak up and 'break the silence.' You can talk to 'someone who understands abusive and violent relationships. This particular someone can be your trusted friends, close relatives, and/or certified counselors. They will guide you through a process which helps you to decide what need to happen so that you can remove yourself from this toxic and emotional abusive relationship whether through an establishment of boundary and ground rules and set expectations, etc.

  • Lastly, if you are still in a relationship with the person you suspect may be emotionally abusive, you need to decide if this is a relationship that is ultimately good and healthy for you and is worth continuing. If you want to try and reform the relationship, and you feel safe doing so, you could try having an open conversation about the things he says or does that make you feel anxious, unhappy or afraid. Explain how they make you feel and how you need the behaviour to change. Remember, you are not to blame and eb sure to watch out for 'gaslighting' in your partner's response.

  • If the behaviour does not change or gets worse, it is up to you to decide when enough is enough and it's time to move on from the relationship. If and when this happens, make sure you reach out to your support network of understanding friends and family, and invest in a lot of self-care. Do the things that you love and make you feel happiest. Do the things you didn't feel you could do while you were in an emotionally abusive or problematic relationship. Remember, you're not alone and you are deserving of love whether or not you're in a relationship. Reaching out to others when you need to is a sign of strength, courage, and readiness to challenge and change the status quo.

Some services are available below. If you or your organisation offers services you think should be included on this list please let us know.


Counselling: Bamboo Psychological Centre, Toul Tom Poung 012 208 318 admin@thebamboocentre.com


Emergency Shelter Accommodation: Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre,

023 987 158 HOadmin@cwcc.org.kh


Counselling and treatment: Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO)

General Inquiries: 023 63 66 992 – admin@tpocambodia.org / Treatment Center (clinic): 023 63 66 991 & 016 222 597