You may have heard disparaging comments directed at someone, or maybe even yourself: in the girls’ locker room, on the bus, at work, but when someone faces them on a regular basis, it cracks their self-esteem and erodes their self-confidence. They feel hurt, lonely and maybe even afraid.
Verbal abuse is “the excessive use of (negative) language to undermine someone’s dignity and security through insults or humiliation in a sudden or repeated manner”. It does not get better after a time, it only gets worse.
According to statistics, 1 in 5 college women have been verbally abused by a partner.
The first verbal attack will take you off guard. You may even think you heard it wrong, they were joking, or more than likely, misunderstood them. But then you may notice these incidents more and more.
Common Forms of Verbal Abuse
- Name calling
- Crude remarks
- Sarcasm & mockery
- Spreading rumors
- Yelling & screaming
Lesser Known Forms of Verbal Abuse
These lesser known forms of verbal abuse often go over-looked, as they happen in relationships and often privately.
Blocking & diverting
You try to have a conversation with your partner and they switch gears mid-conversation and redirect the subject away from what you intended. Other times they refuse to discuss the subject point blank.
Everything that goes wrong seems to be your fault. They can’t find their wallet- you must have moved it (you didn’t). They forgot their dentist appointment- it’s your fault you didn’t remind them. It doesn’t matter what the issue- they could hit you and still tell you it’s your fault! They refuse to take responsibility themselves.
They deny everything. No, they didn’t eat that last piece of cake. No, they aren’t having an affair. You may even catch them doing something and yet they will still deny it.
They let you know that everything you ever do in life is wrong. Your cooking is all wrong. Your choice in clothing is atrocious. You wonder how you ever survived all these years making such bad choices! It’s not you- it’s them. You will never live up to their imaginary standards- no one could.
Treating you like a servant
They expect you to drop what you are doing and tend to their needs- now, as if they are the most important person in the world and you are their lowly servant. They think your own jobs should be put on a back burner when they are around. They believe they are king of the castle, and will make you feel miserable if you don’t bend to their wishes.
You have dreams and goals, and they set out to make them collapse under you. If you plan a weekend away, they suddenly have an important meeting that came up at the office and they need the car. Any shining light towards a free life of your own they will hunt down and snuff out. They don’t want you to be free or chase your own dreams, as they don’t want to lose their power over you.
Telling you that you are crazy
You know what happened the other night, but they twist the scenario around to suit them and tell you that you must be going crazy. It sounds insane that you could even fall for it, yet when it happens over and over, they are conditioning- or brainwashing you. Eventually you will begin to doubt yourself and your perspective. You may even believe you might be crazy. You aren’t.
Making you feel like you are with a Jekyll-Hyde
One moment they are charming and lovable and the next they are an unbelievable terrifying monster. You live a stressful life around them as you are never sure which version you are going to face. You tip-toe around certain trigger topics just to avoid Mr. Hyde from rearing his ugly head.
The Negative Influences of Verbal Abuse
Verbal abuse takes it’s toll on victims mentally and physically.
Verbal Abuse Affects You Mentally
- Low self-esteem
- Memory issues
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome)
- Eating disorders
- Sleeping issues
- Alcohol & drug abuse
- Becoming an abuser yourself
Verbal Abuse Affects You Physically
- Chronic pain
- Migraines & frequent headaches
- Gastric issues
- Stress-related heart conditions
Why Abusers Act Like That
Verbal abuse steals lives. How can someone choose to torment and manipulate another human being? Many abusers are known to be charming and powerful figures in public, some even pillars of their communities. But their victims witness their other side in private. What are the reasons that causes their abuses?
Power & Control
They feel the need to be in control, and by bending you to their will, they have power over you. Everything else in their life may be going haywire, but if you are trapped under their spell, they have control over something.
Low personal self-esteem
Abusers often suffer from low self-esteem. Instead of trying to raise their own self-confidence, they choose to bring everyone else down to their level and push them under.
Some abusers suffer from psychological disorders, like narcissism or psychosis. They may even suffer from brain damage. They exhibit little or no empathy. In their eyes, you are not a person. You are an object, their possession, to be manipulated and used by them.
They were abused themselves or grew up watching abuse in their household
Some abusers were abused as children or they witnessed an abusive relationship in their youth. If they were not privy to healthy relationships, they may even mistakenly believe that is how the dynamics work in relationships.
The Psychology That Causes Victims to Stay in an Abusive Relation
A verbal abuser sees you as their target. They are not going to stop. The solution is transparent to someone viewing from the outside of the relationship, but when you are trapped inside, caught up and manipulated by your abuser, it can be difficult to see or even think clearly.
Some abusive relationships are cut and dry- bad from the beginning, but others can go through cycles of good and bad that confuses the victim into thinking each incident is a one-off situation .
Also the victim may fear repercussions from leaving the abuser- physical violence, stalking, kidnapping of their children and even homicide.
The Cycle of Abuse
Your relationship starts out good, then an ‘incident’ happens. The abuser may feel bad, and even apologize profusely and you both go back to as before.
However, the next incident or series of incidents arise. Afterwards, there’s more apologies, maybe flowers this time. Then all is well until the next incident of abuse.
You may forgive and forget, but by doing so, you are accepting their deplorable behavior and also conditioning yourself tolerate it. This becomes a vicious cycle that escalates. You start wondering if it’s something you did, or tell yourself it must be alcohol or drug-related. Eventually those episodes become more frequent with less happy times sandwiched in between.
Then one day you wake up and find yourself trapped in a nightmare situation, with no self-confidence, questioning your own sanity, and wondering how on earth it all happened. You believe you are truly alone. But you aren’t, not really- that is just what your abuser wants you to think.
The Solutions to Verbal Abuses
You may choose to cut all ties with your abuser. However, for whatever personal reason you have, if you decide to stay, there are ways to help you deal with verbal abuse.
Arm yourself with knowledge
Giving a name to what you are facing can lessen the power of your abuser. When you know you are being baited or recognize the senseless blaming for what it is, you are more able to control your own reactions to the situation. Read up online about verbal abuse. Arm yourself with knowledge.
Stop reacting to their baiting
Once you stop reacting to their baiting the way they expect, you take their power (over you) away from them. Tell then to “Stop it.” Name their game and step away from the situation.
Set boundaries in your relationship and have consequences if they are crossed. Carry out those consequences.
If only to maintain your sanity, tell a close friend or family member what is going on and keep an outside perspective on the situation. Whereas you may get sucked into the lulling stages of the abuse cycle, someone outside of that circle may be able to call it out for what it is. Set up a safe word you can text them or say over the phone if you need rescuing from a situation, or for them to call the police.
Seek professional counselling
Sometimes you need professional help. You may be in a long-term relationship or have children- something you can not see yourself easily extracting from. Seek help. Not all counselors are trained to deal with abuse issues, so look for a domestic abuse counselor.
Find community resources to help you
Contact social services or your local domestic violence agency. You can also seek support from others who know exactly what you are facing at Domestic Violence Meetings.
Remove yourself from the situation
You may be able to walk out of the room and away from the craziness, but what if you can’t? Verbal abuse can quickly spiral into physical violence. If you feel physically threatened, leave immediately. Call 911 when you are safe. There are some situations that may require you to get out fast and far away. There are safe places you can go .
Call the authorities
If you are threatened with violence or someone wanting to hurt themselves if you leave them, call the police (911) immediately.
It is High Time to Leave the Abuse
If you make the decision to leave your abuser, the Woman’s Law website has detailed advice on everything you need – from personal effects to legal documents to make planned and emergency escapes.
Plan an exit strategy and keep yourself safe. Do not place yourself in a volatile situation.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
You are not alone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
|||^||Prevention-violence.com: Prevent Violence at Work|
|||^||TheHotline.org: Abuse Statistics|
|||^||Verbalabusejournals.com: Types of Verbal Abuse|
|||^||Healthyplace.com: Effects of Verbal Abuse on Children, Women & Men|
|||^||Mentalhealth.net:Why Do People Abuse|
|||^||Healthyplace.com: How Do I Stop Verbal Abuse-Part 1|
|||^||Domesticviolence.org: Cycle of Violence|
|||^||StopAbuse.Umich.edu: About Domestic Violence: Barriers to Leaving|
|||^||Healthyplace.com: 5 Ways of Dealing with Verbally Abusive relationships|