What is verbal abuse?
Verbal abuse is just as common, if not more so, than physical. However, it is not as obvious, making it much harder on the individual being victimized to prove their stance. Especially in the case of children being verbally abused, it may seem nearly impossible to find help because there is no evidence, besides the way that person feels.
The definition of verbal abuse is to assail with contemptuous, coarse, or insulting words (1). It could involve any of the following:
This is not a complete list, however, because verbal abuse can be any number of stated insults.
There are several categories in which verbal abuse can be categorized:
- Withholding: This involves a lack of empathy, especially in intimate relationships, such as marriages, where one partner holds back feelings, thoughts, or opinions. Of course, every time a partner is not speaking about everything going on in his or her life, it is not necessarily abuse. When it gets to a point of absolute lack of communication, it is considered abusive. Withholding also includes refusal to listen.
- Countering: Countering is contradicting the thoughts and opinions of another. It becomes a problem when one person refuses to even listen to differing views on a subject, and cuts off the speaker when he or she doesn’t agree. This often involves the attacker “correcting” the other party’s words if he or she does not concur.
- Discounting: Discounting is when one person reduces the feelings of another and says, for instance, that their emotions are unjustified. It takes away the validity and importance of one’s perspective and labels it as incorrect.
- Joking/Teasing: Teasing is common in younger children and teenagers, but is not limited to this age group. Joking is not an issue in itself, but it can be used as ammunition to cut someone down. It crosses the line of verbal abuse when a person “makes fun” of someone else at their expense, and the person being teased is not finding it amusing. Joking can be used inappropriately when a person brings up painful or sensitive subjects knowingly, intending to hurt the other individual.
- Blocking/Diverting: This is a complete lack of correspondence, and is often used as a way of avoiding conflict and conflict resolution. A person who uses diversion as a defense refuses to solve relationship problems, and as a result the difficulties only increase.
- Accusing/Blaming: Accusations are used to avert the conversation from the matters at hand. Someone may reproach their significant other although they know that the acts they are blaming the other for are false, because it gives them a feeling of having the upper hand in the relationship. Blaming puts the other person on defensive, constantly wondering if they did something wrong.
- Judging/Criticizing: The verbal abuser may point out flaws in his or her partner/child/friend in a critical way. When confronted, he may justify his actions by saying he was simply offering “constructive criticism” when in reality, he is voicing his lack of acceptance of the other party (2). Some of the effects of verbal abuse include low self-esteem, trust issues, a sense of feeling confined and devoid of options, poor self-care, and power of choice becomes eroded. Verbal abuse can even cause more serious side effects on its victims, such as clinical depression, chemical dependency, denial, and extreme codependency (3). Verbal abuse is not restricted to any particular group of people or type of relationship. This form of abuse is common in parent/child, husband/wife, friend/friend relationships, and is even used by complete strangers. Verbal abuse can be as subtle as eye rolling or as overt as name-calling. This form of abuse constitutes for approximately 17% of all abuse cases, but is usually present in physical and sexual abuse as well.
What is Verbal Abuse Sources: