Verbal abuse runs rampant and is the most under reported act of Domestic Violence of them all. More often than not, young girls are raised that this is how we are expected to be treated. Several groups want to point out that it’s not true.
However, 62% of tweens (ages 11-14) report that they are aware of their friends being in verbally abusive relationships. 1 in 4 teenage girls, who are in relationships, report enduring repeat verbal abuse. Tweens and teens do not just automatically subject themselves to such relationships, it’s learned behavior that stays for a long time.
Verbal Abuse Is More Than Feeling Uneasy. It Dampens Our Spirits.
Entering into adulthood, this behavior continues. In some cases, it turns into physical and/or sexual violence. However violent the relationship can get, the verbal abuse is the most damaging to the psyche. Repeatedly exposing ourselves to verbal abuse can lead to:
- the feeling like you are constantly on guard
- loss of enthusiasm
- unsure of being able to communicate effectively (you can, your abuser will convince you otherwise)
- diagnosis of depression and/or anxiety
- suicidal thoughts
- trapped in the “what if” thoughts
- feeling uneasy or paranoid for no reason
Complete Catalogue on Various Abuse Tactics
There are very specific methods to abuse and these become your warning signs. If you are newly dating someone, take note of these tactics!
They don’t tell you everything and avoid sharing thoughts or feelings. Discussions become based only on facts with no real in-depth sharing.
There is a tendency to be argumentative. You enjoy a movie, your abuser must tell you why the movie was awful and convince you that you are wrong. I often said that if I told my ex-husband “the sky is blue” then he would go on a long winded rant on why the sky was really green and there was something wrong with my vision.
They are removing your rights to how you feel. You become “too” much of anything. You are too sensitive, too childish, or over-dramatic. This tactic tends to leave you feeling as if you are never quite good enough for your partner.
It’s Just a Joke
They are hiding the abuse behind the caveat “it’s just a joke”. My ex-husband would often spend plenty of time trying to shame me for something in front of other people and if I dared get upset he would say “it’s just a joke, your being too sensitive”.
Blocking and Diverting
They control all conversations. The abuser decides what you two talk about and if you change the subject, you are chastised for speaking out of turn.
Accusing or blaming
The victim is blamed for things going “wrong” in the abusers life that is out of control for the victim. A famous example is that your appearance is all wrong and cost the abuser a potential promotion. Of course it couldn’t possibly be because the abuser wasn’t right for the promotion!
Trivializing and Undermining
They minimize your successes or passions. You may really like a particular type of food and your abuser must tell you how unspectacular it is. If you get a promotion or a raise at work, they will try to lessen the good that it makes you feel.
This can be as simple as “if you don’t do this, I will leave you”. My ex-husband was quite subtle with his threats. His worst was when he told his friend in front of me “I am afraid of my temper. I think one day I may lose control and kill my wife”. He stared at me to see a response.
It is the most popular form in which the abuser must reduce your self-esteem by using vulgar and demeaning language to describe you. It often weakens the victim to a point in which she doesn’t feel good enough about herself to leave.
They forget date night, forget to call, forget your birthday or anniversary. It’s an act of controlling what happens in your day to day and controlling your emotions. Forgetting your birthday hurts.
The abuser changes events that have already happened. You will recall a series of events and your abuser will say something like “that is crazy, that never happened!”. Or worse, they will change the events and tell you that your memory is wrong. It’s not only an act of control, it’s meant to drive you crazy.
They pretend like you are using abuse tactics on them. Many abusers, when confronted with their acts of abuse, will try to flip the events and claim that the victim is actually the abuser. This is especially true for narcissistic abusers who can’t handle having their public image shattered.
Several Things to Do in Face of Verbal Abuse
If you find yourself in a situation with someone using verbal abuse, your instinct will be to rationally have a discussion. The fact is, you cannot reason with an abuser. Try as you might, it just won’t stop once they know how to get under your skin.
One way to combat the abuse is to call them out for their behavior every single time it happens. Avoid using you statements such as “you are gaslighting me!”. Rather be more direct with “stop abusing me!” or “stop blaming me for things I cannot control”. They will either learn from their behavior and stop or they will move on to another person to try and abuse.
Your other option is to set boundaries and not pursue relationships with folks who do abuse you. This can be very difficult if this is a close familial relationship.
Ultimately, you should not feel obligated to endure abuse for anyone at anytime. When you set the boundary to only allow healthy relationships, you are empowering yourself to expect better treatment.
It’s important to note that verbal abuse is an act of domestic violence. It doesn’t matter if someone never lays a hand on you, verbally abusing you is harmful and damaging. If you, or anyone you love, is enduring verbal abuse please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help, 1-800-799-7233