It is not okay for one spouse to hit another under any circumstances. Physical abuse is not hard to spot but in the past, many did not recognize it as abuse. Much progress has been made in this area as the experts and victims of abuse speak out. However, there is a type of abuse where the victims might not be sure they are being abused and so they are harder to reach. The abusers have so chipped away at their self-esteem that the victims may be confused and mistrustful of their own self. This is, in fact, the purpose of verbal abuse. In physical abuse, there is the evidence of bruises. But in verbal abuse, the bruises are internal and can be devastating. So, how do you know when you are being verbally abused? Here are some signs to look out for.
The abuser does not express himself in a normal voice but is shouting at you. Sometimes he does so right up in your face. The purpose of this is to frighten and intimidate you into submission. It may be difficult to think straight when someone is shouting at you. To make it worse, the words shouted may be unpleasant. The shouting may also be accompanied by swearing. This has the added effect of belittling you. Sometimes they blame you for their shouting by saying that if you behaved differently, then they would not have to shout. You may lose your feeling of safety and security when they are around and try to behave in a way so they do not shout.
Your parents gave you several names including a family name. So your husband has names by which to identify you. If he does not use one of these or a term of endearment to address you, then he may be abusing you. You have to be careful because sometimes even terms of endearment can be used in an unpleasant or sarcastic way. Name calling can be dehumanizing. This can chip away at your self-worth and identity.
The abuser uses words of shame or criticism to put you down. They make it worse by doing it in front of people. Sometimes they do it in the opposite way. Instead of calling you fat or skinny, they may moan that if only you would lose or gain weight. This is still a criticism. They blame you for having to shame you. You may feel ashamed when you have nothing to be ashamed about. This may make you doubt yourself and gives the abuser power over you.
The abuser uses threats to cause fear and intimidate you. Never take threats lightly even when made seemingly in jest. Fear allows the abuser to manipulate you. They may say, “If you do that, then I am forced to do this”. Again they make it your fault. They use threats to make you do things they want you to do or act in a way that may make you uncomfortable. The whole idea is for you to conform to their wishes even if they make you unhappy this is not in your best interest.
The abuser does not respect your views as they see your ideas as unimportant. They refuse to discuss your issues, because then they would have to take responsibility. They are dismissive of your feelings as if you are not a person. They belittle you into thinking you are not important. You may doubt your ability to make the right decisions or to have an opinion. You may lose your self-esteem a little bit at a time.
Some wives may choose to remain in a relationship with verbal abuse longer than in one with physical abuse. It could be that they do not see words as abuse. As it is so insidious, verbal abuse is sometimes more dangerous than physical abuse. The victim might not realize what is going on until it is too late. Victims can fall so much under the abuser’s control that they need to be rescued as they cannot get out by themselves. So if you can recognize these signs in someone’s relationship or your own, please seek help for yourself, you can reach out to us via email.