(Last Updated On: March 24, 2022)

Psychological & Emotional Abuse During A Romance Scam

Manipulation & Control Often Include Abuse!

SCARS Advocacy

A Romance Scam Is A Form Of Violence

There Is Also True Psychological & Emotional Abuse!

As any scam victim can tell you, their scam left them profoundly changed. Sometimes they are in denial and simply cannot face it. Sometimes they lose themselves in their anger and rage. But almost all come out for he experience traumatized, and trauma is not just a psychological problem it manifests in physical effects to the victim.

The purpose of this article is to explore the Abusive Side of Romance Scams and their effects on Victims

SCARS Recommends to all scam victims that they should talk to a local trauma counselor as soon as possible. Even if you do not believe that you were traumatized, you are not an expert in trauma. Make an appointment with a qualified trauma counselor and find out for sure! To find a trauma counselor or therapist near you, go here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/trauma-and-ptsd

Effects Of Trauma

Trauma often manifests physically as well as emotionally. Some common physical signs of trauma include paleness, lethargy, fatigue, poor concentration, and a racing heartbeat. The victim may have anxiety or panic attacks and be unable to cope in certain circumstances. The physical symptoms of trauma can be as real and alarming as those of physical injury or illness, and care should be taken to manage stress levels after a traumatic event.

All effects of trauma can take place either over a short period of time or over the course of weeks or even years. Any effects of trauma should be addressed immediately to prevent permanence. The sooner the trauma is addressed, the better chance a victim has of recovering successfully and fully.

Short-term and long-term effects of trauma can be similar, but long-term effects are generally more severe. Short-term mood changes are fairly normal after trauma, but if the shifts in mood last for longer than a few weeks, a long-term effect can occur.

Men vs. Women

The scam experience is quite different for men and women.

Men are triggered, groomed and manipulated to play the role of protector more often than not. As a result, they have a different experience from women. What happens to men most often does not apply to the experience of women.

Men do suffer from emotional abuse during a scam through manipulation, but it is most often of a different type. Rather than overt psychological abuse, it is covert, hidden in subtle controls based more on threats of withdrawal of the relationship (though this happens in both cases). Men more often come away from the romance scam with feelings of anger and rage, and this, in turn, makes it very difficult to support them through their recovery. They often will refuse to recognize any trauma and not be interested in emotional support, they tend to only want “Justice” (aka revenge.)

A Woman’s Scam Experience

Traditionally, women play a different role in the family from men, and in scams, this role – in the views of third-world scammers – is substantially reinforced.

As long as the victim is doing what the scammer wants there is very little over abuse, though there will almost always be gaslighting, which is used to isolate the victim.

However, a woman will experience (typically) much more emotional and psychological abuse during a long scam relationship. Partly this is for control, but it also reflects the scammer’s views of women in general. African & Asian male scammers are especially abusive at times during the scam relationship.

Is Emotional Abuse The Same As Psychological Abuse?

There is no clear agreement among experts in the field whether there is a meaningful difference between emotional and psychological abuse. There is some research that suggests that there are slight differences between the two. Emotional abuse is believed to be broader and so psychological abuse is often considered to be one form of emotional abuse. Also, psychological abuse involves the use of verbal and social tactics to control someone’s way of thinking, such as “gaslighting,” which is not necessarily the same as other forms of emotional abuse.

However, for the purposes of the following, we will group the terms together since the behaviors described by both concepts are similar enough that there isn’t a real difference when considering the victims of these behaviors.

What Is Emotional And Psychological Abuse?

Abuse comes in many different forms. Even when there is no physical violence, abusive language can be very damaging to almost anyone.

Emotional and psychological abuse includes mostly non-physical behaviors that the abuser uses to control, isolate, or frighten their victims. Often, the abuser uses it to break down the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth in order to create a psychological dependency on him/her (the abuser.) This is true of most types of crimes where such abuse occurs but especially true of romance or relationship scams.

Emotional and psychological abuse is hard to easily recognize because the abuse is spread throughout the victim’s interactions with the abuser. Unlike physical abuse, there are often no isolated incidents or clear physical evidence to identify. However, in hindsight, it is often very clear, especially in the case where much of the interaction is in writing, such as in romance scams.

See The National Domestic Violence Hotline on What is Emotional Abuse!

What Are The Signs Of Emotional And Psychological Abuse?

Emotional and psychological abuse is a normal part of the relationship scam. It is an active part of the scammer’s manipulation and control mechanisms.

The level of abuse depends on the victim but there is almost always some. It may begin suddenly or it may slowly start to enter into the scam relationship.

Some abusers behave like a good partner in the beginning and start the abuse after the relationship is established and the scam is nearing the point where there will be an ask for money. When this shift in behavior occurs, it can leave the victim feeling shocked, confused, and even embarrassed. However, abuse is never the victim’s fault even if the abuser tells them it is or if family or friends blame the victim for “allowing” the scam and the abuse.

It is often difficult to decide whether or not certain behaviors are emotionally or psychologically abusive, especially if someone grew up witnessing abuse. However, as with all other types of abuse, such as domestic violence, the behavior is intended to gain and keep power and control over someone.

In the case of a romance scam, signs of abuse include:

  • Putting the victim down for their beliefs, practices, or habits
  • Condemning their doubts about the sincerity or honesty of the scammer
  • Ridiculing the victim when they have doubts about some action the scammer wants the victim to perform
  • Threatening to end the relationship
  • Creating fear that others will not understand or will interfere in the relationship
  • Threats against the victim at the end of the fake relationship

In other kinds of abusing relationships there may be different signs that someone is being emotionally and psychologically abused:

  • Humiliating you in front of others;
  • Calling you insulting names, such as “stupid,” “disgusting,” or “worthless”;
  • Getting angry in a way that is frightening to you;
  • Threatening to hurt you, people you care about, or pets;
  • the abuser threatening to harm him/herself when upset with you;
  • Saying things like, “If I can’t have you, then no one can;”
  • Deciding things for you that you should decide, like what you wear or eat;
  • Acting jealous, including constantly accusing you of cheating;
  • Continually pretending to not to understand what you are saying, making you feel stupid, or refusing to listen to your thoughts and opinions;
  • Questioning your memory of events or denying that an event happened the way you said it did, even when the abuser knows that you are right;
  • Changing the subject whenever you try to start conversations with the abuser and others and questioning your thoughts in a way that makes you feel unworthy; and
  • Making your needs or feelings seem unimportant or less important than those of the abuser.

See U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, Emotional and Verbal Abuse page

What Are The Effects Of Emotional And Psychological Abuse?

Emotional and psychological abuse can have severe short- and long-term effects.

This type of abuse can affect both your physical and your mental health. You may experience feelings of confusion, anxiety, shame, guilt, frequent crying, over-compliance, powerlessness, and more.

In a normal relationship, a person might stay in the relationship and try to bargain with the abuser or try to change the abuser’s behavior, often placing blame on themself, even though they are not at fault. In a romance scam, it is much the same – the victim tries to extend the relationship even as awareness begins to dawn that something is wrong.

After dealing with the potentially severe emotional abuse that can take place during and at the end of a relationship scam, it’s possible for a victim to lose their entire sense of self and begin to doubt their self-worth or their abilities, which may make it even harder to recover after the scam relationship ends. This emotional abuse can also result in several health problems, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, chronic pain, and more. It’s important to get emotional support to help you deal with the trauma of emotional and psychological abuse.

As said before, SCARS recommends trauma counseling or therapy for any scam victim that has suffered any ill effects from their scam.

What Can I Do If I Am A Victim Of A Scam?

If You Suffered From Emotional And Psychological Abuse:

If you are the victim of emotional and psychological abuse during a romance scam, you may be hesitant to seek help or tell your friends and family because you fear they will not believe you or take you seriously, or even worse blame and judge you for allowing it to happen.

You may feel shame or confusion as to what happened, how it happened, and why. However, seeking help and support is essential to recovering from this emotionally or psychologically abusive relationship.

The effects of the abuse, control, and manipulation during a romance scam are serious and it is common for there to be emotional and psychological damage.

SCARS provides free resources here and on social media to help scam victims to better understand what, how, and why these scams happen, but just as important is to understand their potentially lasting effects.

As always, we recommend talking with a trauma counselor or therapist. You may also be able to obtain assistance from your local domestic violence organization, look in Google for one near you. Local domestic violence programs often offer free counseling, support groups, and the advocates in these organizations could point you to other local help and support options – while these are not about scams, they effects are very similar to domestic abuse.

Of course, SCARS also offers its own Professionally Managed Support Groups just for Scam Victims in both English and Spanish Languages. Here are links to a SCARS English and a Spanish Support Group:

SCARS Publishing Self-Help Recovery Books Available At shop.AgainstScams.org

Scam Victim Self-Help Do-It-Yourself Recovery Books

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Each is based on our SCARS Team’s 32-plus years of experience.

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