#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou Exposes Non-Violent Domestic Abuse, Which Is Every Bit As Real And Destructive

The word “abuse” often brings to mind the image of battered women with black eyes and bruised thighs. There are, however, multiple types of abuse, and only some leave visible scars. One brave woman started the hashtag #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou to highlight nonviolent abuse and the toll emotional, verbal, and financial abuse can take on victims. Because the bruises aren’t visible to the outside world, it usually isn’t taken as seriously as physical abuse, though it can cause just as much damage and is far more common. As women on Twitter shared their experiences, the dangers of strictly classifying abuse as physical harm became abundantly clear (at least, it became clear to those people for whom the reality of abuse in all its forms wasn’t already very much known).

Writer and artist Zahira Kelly started the movement May 1, tweeting scenarios that clearly signify abusive behavior, even though the man in question didn’t lay a finger on her. “#maybeHeDoesntHitYou but threw a huuuge raging weeks long miserable fit coz u cut your hair ‘without his permission,” Kelly tweeted.

Just like physical abuse, emotional abuse functions to control, demean, and punish the victim. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) defines psychological abuse as “trauma to the victim caused by verbal abuse, acts, threats of acts, or coercive tactics.” Common signs include isolating a woman from her family and friends, acting jealous and possessive over her, constantly criticizing her, undermining her authority as a mother, controlling her money, and harassing, threatening, or verbally intimidating her.

“Abuse is often seen as very cut and dry, and only physical,” Kelly told Daily Dot’s Jaya Saxena over e-mail. “For several years now on social media, on a daily basis I talk about many different forms of abuse and what they look like. I write from my own experience and that of women around me.”

Because emotional abuse is such a personal issue and can go largely undetected by people outside the relationship for years (or forever), it’s often not reported. However, the statistics we do have show that it’s much more common than physical abuse, as nearly 50 percent of American women will experience at least one psychologically aggressive behavior by an intimate partner in their lifetime, compared to one in three who will be violently hurt by a partner, according to the NCADV.

It’s also exceedingly common among young people: One in three teenagers experiences some form of abuse in a romantic relationship. A 2013 study published in the Violence and Victims journal found that emotional abuse is more common in young adults, and young women are more likely to be isolated and have their personal property damaged by their partners. “Younger women may be more vulnerable to isolation within their relationships because due to a complex amalgam of social, cultural, and economic factors, younger women may put a higher value on emotional connectivity than independence,” the study speculated. “And younger women may value a romantic partnership more than the benefits of life as a single person.”

The hashtag #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou is helping raise awareness about the widespread problem and showing women that they aren’t alone — others have and continue to be in similarly abusive situations.

If you’re currently dealing with any type of partner abuse, you can always call NCADV for anonymous help at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or  1-800-787-3224 (TTY).