People often have the belief that words do not hurt — however, they can and do. Verbal abuse is more difficult to identify than any other type of abuse.
Someone who is physically abused will have bruises, but verbal abuse leaves no visible signs of injury. You may have difficulty recognizing what actually is going on in the relationship due to being yelled at or called names. Verbal abuse causes a type of injury that doesn’t leave any visible evidence, but can cause a great deal of emotional trauma and scarring. It can create both emotional and mental distress.
Verbal abusers tend to tell people what they should think, feel and do. They often yell, call the other person names, blame the other person and may even threaten them.
The person receiving the verbal abuse often may find themselves defending or trying to explain their thoughts, feelings or behaviors to the person verbally abusing them. They may explain themselves because they believe they can rationalize with the person abusing them. The person being abused may feel that by taking responsibility for their abuser’s behaviors that the relationship will get better, but it rarely does.
Some signs of verbal abuse include:
• Being yelled at, cursed at, called names and make insulting comments about you and/or to you.
• Constantly put you down or criticize you in a demeaning way.
• Lie to you or deliberately withhold information from you that you may need.
• Constantly remind you of your past mistakes or weaknesses.
• Consistently tells you what you should think, feel or do without any regard for what you want.
If you are experiencing verbal abuse you may begin to see yourself and your needs as unimportant, or irrelevant. However, this is far from the truth. Here are some ways to cope with verbal abuse:
• Keep your emotions under control. Let the person who is abusing you know how hurtful their words are and discuss with them the fact that it is unacceptable to you. Set boundaries on what you will and will not accept.
• Do not try to explain or defend your thoughts, feelings or behaviors to the person abusing you. If your spouse becomes angry, stay calm and walk away.
• Model good behavior. Do not try to fight back with the person abusing you by yelling, cursing or demeaning them. Instead let them know how their words hurt you and that their behavior is unacceptable.
• Set limits. If the person who is verbally abusing you continues to abuse you and refuses to listen to what you have to say, then you have to make a decision as to whether you will stay in the relationship or leave.