Verbal abuse, while being very common, is difficult to spot. Often, a person doesn’t realize that they are being verbally abused. It can be very subtle. It can be passive aggressive comments. It can be constant sarcastic remarks.
- Molly and Jess have been married for a number of years. They have two children. He constantly makes comments about her weight. In fact, when she is nursing their first child, he wants her to go on a diet to lose the “baby weight” so she stops nursing to diet. She loses all the weight but he still calls her “fatso,” “chubs,” “baby whale,” and other names. When they go out to dinner, he waits until the food comes and she has the first bite on her fork ready to go in her mouth then he says “Are you sure you should be eating that?” Every single time. When they’re out in public, he won’t walk near her. He walks in front of her or behind her. When he sees someone who is very obese, he tells her that’s what she looks like, even though she is only five or six pounds overweight. He tells their kids to look at their fat mom. He tells her she has no will power and won’t ever lose the weight.
- Sharon and Bob have been in a relationship for six years. He constantly calls her “stupid” and “dumb” and “idiot.” Anything he sees as a mistake he blames on her and says it’s because she’s stupid. He laughs at her and jokes in front of their friends that she was too stupid to get in line when brains were handed out. He stalls when the subject of marriage comes up and tells her he’ll marry her when she loses her “stupidness.”
- Barbara and Henry have two pre-teen children. He verbally abuses her constantly. She puts up with it because of the kids. She doesn’t want to uproot them or make life difficult for them. So she stays. Recently, Henry has begun to call their 12 year old daughter “stupid.” He tells her she’s gaining weight and is going to be a “fat stupid pig” like her mother. He tells her she can’t do anything right and maybe if she weren’t so stupid she could figure out how to do things right. He calls her a “fat slob.”
- Tim is fifteen years old. His father is constantly criticizing everything he does. His school grades are not good enough. He doesn’t do his chores right. He’s too slow getting ready for school. He is not responsible. He can’t be trusted. He’s too dumb to be sent on errands. When he is sent on errands, his dad always finds something wrong with the results.
Why is verbal abuse so bad? It’s not just words. It is a constant undermining. It is a constant barrage of criticism. It is meant to make the person feel inferior to the one abusing. It causes low self-esteem. The person being verbally abused begins to believe the abusive words. They stop trying because they feel they won’t ever “get it right.”
Verbal abuse is often more destructive than physical abuse and always harder to spot.
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