Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence

11 minute read

For the avoidance of doubt, let’s clear something up. Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence.

A central challenge in recovering from Narcissistic Abuse is overcoming the denial of your reality.

You have used denial as a survival mechanism which is a function of the abuse. This can be recognised in the eternal minimising and self-invalidating ruminations that sound like: ‘it’s not that bad’, or ‘maybe I’m overstating things’, or ‘perhaps it didn’t even happen the way I think it did’.

These thoughts are your attempt to win the war on cognitive dissonance because concurrently you also have a voice inside you that says: ‘there is something very wrong here’.

To quieten this voice because of the trauma of confronting this truth, many reject the fact of being caught in a domestically violent relationship.

And then of course, there are the countless number who do not identify their situation as Domestic Violence because they have not experienced physical harm.

It’s time to confront the hard truth.

Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence.

This piece exposes how serious your situation is if you are in a relationship with a pathological narcissist and are experiencing abuse, gorgeous one.

The purpose is to spur you into action to set yourself free by acknowledging your reality.

The time to reclaim your life, must be now.

Trigger warning: this article contains data relating to deaths and suicides caused by Domestic Violence.

Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence - Love Shouldn't Hurt

Defining Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence is perpetrated through patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour to maintain power within a relationship.

This includes (and is not limited to) all acts of abuse that are sexual, physical, psychological, emotional, verbal, financial, legal, and spiritual, that result in harm or suffering.

Controlling behaviours are ‘acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour’ (ONS, 2018).

Coercive behaviours are ‘acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten’ a victim (ONS, 2018).

Domestic Violence encompasses intimate partner relationships, as well as those within family systems. For example, within families-of-origin and partner-families, from parents and siblings; and more broadly in extended families in many cultures (ONS, 2018; Rackovec-Felser, 2014; The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2015).

Defining Intimate Partner Violence

Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence are often used interchangeably, although the terms do differ in that the latter is narrower regarding relationship scope limiting the abuse as ‘behaviour by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours’ (WHO, 2017).

Scope of Affected Relationships & Affected Populations in Narcissistic Abuse

Given the scope of Narcissistic Abuse is a significant problem beyond Intimate Partner Relationships, particularly with the known scars caused by narcissistic parenting through into adulthood, the term Domestic Violence is more appropriate (Forward, 2002; McBryde, 2008).

For clarity, neither Domestic Violence nor Intimate Partner Violence is specific to gender, gender-identity, or sexual-orientation.

Much of the work in this space targets violence against women within the male/female intimate partner relationship due to the quantifiable significance of this issue for women.

Having said this, we must raise awareness that the horror of this reality is just as dark for every single soul it touches and is non-discriminatory in its reach.

We must work to break down any stigmas or stereotyping that contributes to maintaining victim silence.

Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence & It Can Affect Anyone

Mapping Narcissistic Abuse to Domestic Violence

Emotional and psychological abuse

Having read the definitions above, it should be evident that Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence.

Even if you are in denial gorgeous one. Points will resonate.

If you’ve experienced Narcissistic Abuse you have lived and breathed the pathological narcissist exercising coercion and control to exert power over you, only a daily basis.

Let’s look at defining Narcissistic Abuse.

This one isn’t so cut and dry. For the simple fact that the world of mental health professionals and academics are yet to identify Narcissistic Abuse as a specific type of Domestic Violence.

This impacts in several ways, including there being a gap in terms of data and definitions. As an emerging field of study, there is much to work to be done in recognising how Narcissistic Abuse differs to other types of abuse, and importantly how this relates to the symptom profiles of victims for the purpose of treatment.

You and I know that there is overwhelming of anecdotal data that resoundingly supports the case for Narcissistic Abuse as a type of abuse specific to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), arising from the pervasive behavioural patterns in relationships.

We can use this information to map emotional and psychological abuse as defined in Domestic Violence, as it is experienced via Narcissistically Abusive tactics.

These are the coercive and controlling behaviours you know so well: gaslighting; withholding; neglect; isolating; lying and broader deception; smear campaigns; boundary violations; objectification; exploitation; sabotage; threats and blackmail; verbal abuse; belittling; constant competition and the need to be right; monitoring of whereabouts and interactions…and the list continues.

Every single one of these is 100% about using coercive and controlling behaviours to maintain power over you (a list of articles providing greater detail on coercion, control and power in Narcissistic Abuse).

Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence.

Physical abuse

Emotional and psychological abuse are discussed as the hallmarks of Narcissistic Abuse in the recovery community.

This is not to say that sexual, physical, financial, legal and spiritual abuse are any less present in Narcissistic Abuse.

They all are, to lesser or greater degrees and are all referenced by victims and survivors.

Where less research and statistical data is available on emotional and psychological violence (this too being a gap for Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence) this is not so for physical violence.

It is established that Cluster-B Personality Disorders are linked to Domestic Violence (see Glossary for term refreshers).

Studies have determined that NPD, Anti-Social Personality Disorder (APD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are prevalent in Domestic Violence offender populations, using all forms of abuse cited, up to and including severe physical violence (Hart, Dutton & Newlove, 1993; Lowenstein, Purvis & Rose, 2016; Spidel, Greeves, Nicholls, Goldenson & Dutton, 2013).

In studies conducted in a female prison population, whilst no findings for predictive relationships between general Cluster-B personality disorders (APD and BPD) and violence were substantiated, a strong relationship was established for NPD as a predictor of physical violence including murder (Warren, Burnette, South, Chauhan, Bale & Friend, 2002).

These findings were associated with those high in entitlement, grandiosity, exploitativeness, and lack of empathy (Lowenstein et al., 2016; Warren et al., 2002).

Of course, with narcissistic traits existing on a spectrum, Narcissistic Abuse is not a given for all who display traits, nor of all those diagnosed with NPD. Equally, of those that are abusive, forms of abuse employed will also vary. Please keep this in mind as you read this.

Emotional and psychological abuse can exist without physical violence and may never escalate to this point. However, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse early in a relationship are known predictors for subsequent escalations to physical abuse (Follingstad, Rutledge, Berg, Hause & Polek, 1990; Karakurt & Silver, 2013).

Any way you slice it. Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence.

Acknowledging Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence is Critical

1.     Domestic Violence Kills

Homicides

  • 1 in 7 homicides globally, crossing both genders, is as a result of Intimate Partner Violence.
  • It is estimated that half the women who died of homicide globally in 2012, died as a result of Domestic Violence.
  • In 2008 in the US, 45% of female homicides and 5% of male homicides were committed by intimate partners.
  • In Australia, on average 1 woman a week is murdered due to Domestic Violence.
  • In the UK, on average 2 women a week are murdered, and 30 men per year due to Domestic Violence (LWA, n.d.).
  • In South Africa, between 1999 and 2009, 50% of female homicides were committed by intimate partners.
  • In Zimbabwe, a study found over 60% of female homicide cases brought before the High Court were due to Domestic Violence.
  • Almost 60% of all female homicides in South East Asia, 41.2% in North & South America, and 40.1% across Africa, are as a result of Intimate Partner Violence.

(Bamiwuye & Odimegqu, 2014; Bryant & Bicknall, 2017; LWA, n.d; Stockl, Devries, Rotstein, Abrahams, Campbell, Watts, & Moreno, 2013; UN, 2018; UNODC, 2014)

Suicides

  • In the US, 23% of Domestic Violence survivors have attempted suicide.
  • In the UK, 30 women per day attempt suicide due to Domestic Violence.
  • In Australia, 40% of all suicides in a recent study were known to police due to Domestic Violence. Of the female suicides, 69% were known to police as victims of Domestic Violence.
  • It is estimated that on average globally Domestic Violence survivors are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide than those in non-abusive relationships.
  • Over 60% of suicides globally occur in Asia, with 40% of female suicides in India linked to Domestic Violence.

(Black Dog Institute, 2018; Clay, 2014; Nguyen, 2017; Sabri, Sanchez & Campbell, 2014; Stark & Flitcraft, 1988; Watkins, 2017; WHO, 2017)

A Note on the Data

These figures are shocking. But, as you look at them, consider the fact that they are not ACTUAL numbers, they only represent a snippet of insight on the magnitude of this epidemic.

Figures are grossly under-reported due to:

  • the complexities of power imbalances inherent in cultures relating to gender inequalities, religion, politics, sociocultural & socioeconomic factors;
  • the psychological aspects of fear, stigma and of not identifying with the concept of Domestic Violence;
  • and reporting practices of police, mortuaries and governments.

Additionally, none of the statistics on suicides with Domestic Violence causality are captured in any figures illustrating the total loss of life directly related to Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence.

Furthermore, studies linking the prevalence of deaths by suicide as a result of exposure to Domestic Violence is another area of study where there are significant gaps.

What I can share with you, is that the single most clicked external link on narcwise.com is to the International Association for Suicide Prevention referral site to access crisis services when at risk of suicide or self-harm*.

We will never know how many lives have already been lost. We must lose no more.

Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence.

2.     Are you at Risk?

Still not sure if Narcissistic Abuse IS that bad?

Still arguing with yourself that if there is no physical violence, there is no danger to your safety?

Silence your truth no more

Gorgeous one. I get it.

I would in fact be surprised if the effects of the pathological narcissist’s gaslighting which has trained you to diminish the impact of their abuse has been eradicated at this point.

So let’s take a closer look at the impact on you of the emotional and psychological abuse.

Studies have established in groups of women who have experienced emotional violence, physical violence, and a combination of both; that many consider the harm of emotional and psychological abuse to be more painful than physical violence. Specifically, the impact of long-term fear, degradation and humiliation and the psychological injuries that consequently arise (Walker, 2017).

In one such study, 72% identified emotional abuse as having a more damaging impact on them than physical abuse (Follingstad et al., 1990).

This is significant don’t you think?

The trouble with this ‘impact’ is that when in the thick of Narcissistic Abuse identifying the costs to your mental health can be hard to gauge. This in itself is a symptom of the abuse.

Do any of these fit for you?

Hypervigilance, anxiety, depression, difficult regulating emotion, paranoia, insomnia, suicidal ideation, self-harm, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviours, rumination distorted sense of self-blame and responsibility, perfectionism, numbness, dissociation, loss of sense of identity, nausea, weight loss or weight gain, fear, rage, muscle aches, intrusive thoughts, mistrust, night terrors, flashbacks, confusion, physical responses to trauma triggers, avoidance of people & places, restlessness, social isolation, difficulty concentrating…(APA, 2013; Rackovec-Felser, 2014; Walker, 2017).

If ‘yes’, please seek help now (see below for links to resources*).

If you are impacted in this way, you are being harmed. Your mental health is at risk. Moreover, these are known risks factors for safety in terms of self-harm and suicidality (Watkins, 2017; WHO, 2012). Reach out for help now.

Gorgeous one, you are far too precious to be at risk any longer!

3.     The Power of Validation in Breaking the Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse

By recognising that Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence you are empowering yourself to break the cycle of abuse.

Underpinning Narcissistic Abuse is the pathological narcissist’s continuous invalidation of you, your truth, and your reality (read Invalidation and narcissism: Why they slowly erase you for more on this).

Hence why the single mightiest step in healing and setting yourself free is the act of being validated.

With the most powerful validation coming from your own sweet self.

And that is what this piece is about. Self-validation.

Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence

I know you, gorgeous one.

If you have been targeted by a pathological narcissist, you are soul made of empathy and compassion. 100%. I know it.

So, when you consider Domestic Violence, and the devastation this causes globally to an unquantifiable number of victims and their loved ones, your sorrow is great.

You would do anything to help any one of these people. Right?

Simultaneously, if you suffer Narcissistic Abuse, denial of your reality is also at play.

So, whilst your heart bleeds for victims of Domestic Violence, you cannot allow this to extend to you. You tell yourself it isn’t relevant.

But most precious, gorgeous one…there is nothing more relevant for you in in your life right now.

Narcissistic Abuse IS Domestic Violence.

Reclaim your life. Set yourself free. Now.

YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO THIS ALONE.

*Resources to Reach Out for Help

Threat of Imminent Danger to Safety

If at any point you fear that you or anyone else is in imminent danger, contact your local emergency services immediately.

Suicide Support Services

For support with self-harm or suicidality, please contact your local suicide prevention service. For services near you please refer to the resources provided by the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

As per previous point, contact your local emergency services immediately if you or anyone else is in imminent danger.

Domestic Violence Services

There are Domestic Violence services available globally at both national and local levels. These provide you with immediate services and referrals to help you with matters including (but not limited to) physical and mental health, safety, housing, financial, legal matters.

Google to find your local service. These links also provide listings for many countries:

For more tools & knowledge building pieces on Narcissistic Abuse read:

As always, please share your thoughts, experiences, and insights on the issues in this article in the comments below. The more we share, the more we teach & help one another in reclaiming our freedom.

With gratitude,

Maggie x

bir4d

References

American Psychiatric Association [APA]. (2013).  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed.). Arlington, US: American Psychiatric Publishing. 

Bamiwuye, S. O., & Odimegwu, C. (2014). Spousal violence in sub-Saharan Africa: Does household poverty-wealth matter? Reproductive Health, 11, 1-10. doi: 10.1186/1742-4755-11-45

Black Dog Institute. (2018). Facts about suicide in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/clinical-resources/suicide-self-harm/facts-about-suicide-in-australia

Bryant, W. & Bricknall, S. (2017). Homicide in Australia 2012-2014: National Homicide Monitoring Program report. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. Retrieved from https://aic.gov.au/publications/sr/sr002

Clay, R. (2014). Suicide and Intimate Partner Violence. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/11/suicide-violence.aspx

Follingstad, D.R., Rutledge, L.L., Berg, B.J., Hause, E.S., & Polek, D.S. (1990). The role of emotional abuse in physically abusive relationships. Journal of family violence, 5(2), 107-120.

Forward, S. (2002). Toxic parents: Overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life. New York, US: Bantam, USA.

Hart, S.D., Dutton, D.G, Newlove, T. (1993). The prevalence of personality disorder among wife assaulters. Journal of Personality Disorders, 7(4), 329-341.

Karakurt, G., & Silver, K.E. (2013). Emotional abuse in intimate relationships: The role of gender and age. Violence and Victims, 28(5), 804-821.

Living Without Abuse [LWA]. (n.d.). Understanding abuse: Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.lwa.org.uk/understanding-abuse/statistics.htm

Lowenstein, Purvis & Rose. (2016). A systematic review on the relationship between antisocial, borderline and narcissistic personality disorder diagnostic traits and risk of violence to others in a clinical and forensic sample. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation, 3(14), 1-12.

McBryde, K. (2008). Will I ever be good enough? Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers. New York, US: Atria.

Nguyen, B. (2017). Suicide and domestic violence: How you can help. Retrieved from https://www.breakthesilencedv.org/suicide-domestic-violence-can-help/

Watkins, N. (2017). Domestic abuse & suicide, links and how to help. Retrieved from http://www.nspa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Domestic-Abuse-and-Suicide.pdf

Office for National Statistics [ONS]. (2018). Domestic Abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2018. Retrieved from https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2018#understanding-domestic-abuse

Rackovec-Felser, A. (2014). Domestic violence and abuse in intimate relationship from public health perspective. Health Psychology Research, 2(1821), 62-67.

Sabri, B., Sanchez, M.V., & Campbell, J.C. (2014). Motives and characteristics of Domestic Violence homicides and suicides among women in India. Health Care for Women International, 1- 16. doi: 10.1080/07399332.2014.971954

Spidel, A., Greeves, C., Nicholls, T.L., Goldenson, J. & Dutton, D.G. (2013). Personality disorders, types of violence, and stress responses in females who perpetrate Intimate Partner Violence. PSYCH, 4(9B), 5-11. doi: 10.4236/psych.2013.49A1002

Stark, E., & Flitcraft, A. (1988). Violence among intimiates. In Van Hasselt, V.B., Morrison, R.L., Bellack, A.S., & Hersen, M. (eds). Handbook of Family Violence. Boston, M.A.: Springer.

Stockl, H., Devries, K., Rotstein, A., Abrahams, N., Campbell, J. C., Watts, C., & Moreno, C. G. (2013). The global prevalence of intimate partner homicide: A systematic review. The Lancet, 382(9895), 859–865.

United Nations [UN]. (2018). Facts and figures: Ending violence against women. Retrieved from http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures

United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime [UNODC]. (2014). Some 437,000 people murdered worldwide in 2012, according to new UNODC study. Retrieved from https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/press/releases/2014/April/some-437000-people-murdered-worldwide-in-2012-according-to-new-unodc-study.html

Walker, L.E. (2017). The Battered Woman Syndrome (4th ed.). New York: Springer Publishing Co.

Warren, J., Burnette, M., South, S.C., Chauhan, P., Bale, R., & Friend, R. (2002). Personality disorders and violence among female prison inmates. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 30(4), 502-509.

World Health Organization [WHO]. (2017). Violence Against Women. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women

World Health Organization [WHO]. (2012). Intimate Partner Violence. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/violence/vaw_series/en/

3 thoughts

  1. Thank you for an amazing article. When i read the stats i was reminded of Chris Watts and how many women who had not been physically abused so there was no visible bruises, no stats, no help but she ended up dead. It is obvious he’s a narcissist who emotionally abused her. All invisible before her death. Thank you for what you do. If you have an article on how to defend against the narc in court – can i expose his manipulations on the kids and describe the impact on my children in a way for the court to get it. Again thanks.

    1. Dear Tammy. Thank you for reading this piece which is so very close to my heart. Truly, thank you. It is such an important topic that as a society we must recognise in all ways, to prevent the devastation that is at times lethal. This includes legislative frameworks, globally, that safeguard those who are at risk & protect basic human rights.
      Dear heart, whilst I don’t have anything as yet on what you are looking for, you could prepare by finding measurable data that objectively quantifies the impact on your children. Do you have assessments or views of medical professionals, teachers, social workers etc. of any indication of negative impact? For example: anxiety; depression; variations in social or educational engagement; disparity in developmental milestones in comparison to their peers? And what do your children express? Note this down.
      Objectivity is the key. You will use your voice. Your subjective view will be presented. Bolster this with the views of others who are well placed to speak to the impact on your children. Remember the narcissist & undoubtedly their legal representation will know 100% how to dismantle your arguments. The narc has indeed spent years honing this capacity with you. Not so easy for them to do this with a raft of information & views that are unknown. And with those who are better qualified to speak to the topic than they are, i.e. professionals & your children themselves.
      Tammy, I am sending you so much strength, courage, and measured pacing as you make your way through this. And you WILL make your way through this. You’ve GOT this gorgeous one. You’ve GOT your children. Sending you all the energy you need in support of you, as you walk through this. Light, love, & much protection to you and your children Tammy. Maggie x

  2. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this note. I have an appointment with my family doctor because only through her, can I get the children to see a therapist as my ex-narc will not consent to therapy – of course not. But if I get a note from the pediatrician (where I live) he has to comply or take it with the court and judges apparently do not look well upon someone who goes against doctor’s advice.
    I am noting everything they say and I mentioned Chris Watts because it is my son who compared his father to him – saying at least dad did not kill us all (out of the blue after hockey!!) The children do well otherwise as I spend much time helping them with homework but emotionally they are a mess.
    My daughter has taken on my former role of “appeasing his moods”, being responsible that all goes well; she has complained of being neglected at his place and having to raise her younger brother and she is sick of it. My son has cognitive dissonance – he is uncomfortable with the falsehoods his dad forces him to accept, and has a strong fear of abandonment. That’s just scratching the surface. It is all in the comments they make – their reaction. My daughter crying after I dropped her off at her dad’s place to pick up something, only to come back in the car sobbing as her dad had gone through her bedroom and through all her stuff and thrown it on the floor because she had failed to keep it clean the way he wanted (she said she had tidied it up) – he crossed her boundaries as a 15 year old teen. He should not be going through her stuff. When he divorced me one of the things he said complaining was that I wouldn’t even let him go through my drawers – too ridiculous. I am not sure any of this will resonate with the court though I have many stories. I will follow your advice about obtaining objective medical assessments – evaluations.

    Thank you so much again,
    Tammy

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.