by Marina Sbrochi, for GaItime.com
Verbal abuse sneaks into countless relationships. It is something that millions of women and men endure on a daily basis. One in four teenage girls in a relationship report that they've been repeatedly verbally abused. Another poll reveals that 33 million American adults are victims of domestic violence (repeated focus groups of women show that 3 out of 4 females count regular insults and name-calling as domestic violence). A third of all adults in this country have been called names and 20% have been humiliated in public by their partner.
Verbal abuse is as damaging as physical abuse. Because verbal abuse sufferers don’t carry the outside scars and bruises, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish if your loved is suffering. Or perhaps you are the victim and because the damage isn’t physical, you may wonder if what you are experiencing is indeed abuse.
I was unlucky enough to find myself in a verbally abusive relationship in my mid-twenties. Thankfully, I got away.
Warning: this tiger does not change its stripes. The National Coalition Against Domestic VIolence offers this helpful checklist called "Am I Being Abused?". This outline of what counts as emotional abuse may also guide those who are concerned about their own relationship and includes an empowering Relationship Bill of Rights we all should keep handy.
Here are some signs I've gathered as a survivor that you may be in a verbally abusive relationship:
1. The Word Watcher - Do you think before you speak? Not in the “I’m thinking before I’m speaking” kind of think, but the I have to THINK because if I say the wrong thing I will get in trouble or be screamed at. Are you being called names like victim, sensitive, cry baby or any other derogatory pet name?
2. The Bad Times - Your friends are always talking about the good times with their mate. You can’t remember the last time you had a good time. All the times that seem to happen in your house are bad times. Yelling, fighting, arguing, name calling. In fact, you don’t even like to go out anymore because you know exactly how the night will end --- badly.
3. Flip the Script - Do you find when you are upset at your partner or call your partner out on the abuse, he/she flips the story and by the time they have finished, you have become the bad guy? The abuser is so manipulative with their words, you can start a conversation with one intention and your words are twisted and turned until you end up in tears.
4. That Little Voice -- Does that little voice inside your head tell you to run in the other direction? Does that voice tell you that you are being treated unkind? Does that voice tell you that something is wrong even if you can’t quite put your finger on it? That little voice is right. It’s your guardian angel - your inner voice. Listen to her, she’s right.
5. Passive Aggressive Sneak - This abuser thinks he’s clever and can always fall back on the, “I’m just joking!” line. You hear things like, “Why are you getting so upset?” and often find yourself confused for someone with “your past” even though he’s “sorry you feel that way.”
I want to give you a mantra to say until you understand that verbal abuse is wrong: “It’s not me, it’s YOU!”
Say this over and over again until it sinks into your brain. Never ever sacrifice your self-esteem or self -worth for someone who doesn’t respect you and treat you kindly. If you are being verbally or physically abused, seek help right away. Contact THE HOTLINE at 1-800-799-7233 and seek legal resources and help at WomensLaw.org.