You bet your therapy bills they can.
What is verbal abuse, and what ways can someone be abusive? They include:
- Withholding - not sharing one's thoughts and emotions, not listening, the silent treatment...
- Countering - whatever one says, or begins to say, the abuser jumps in to say it isn't so. Being told that your reality is wrong.
- Discounting - one may be told one is too sensitive, overreacting, taking things too seriously...
- Verbal abuse disguised as jokes - one can be the butt of a really nasty attack, and when one objects, then be accused of not having a sense of humor.
- Blocking and diverting - you may ask for information, and the abuser withholds it and changes the subject. "Do you have any plans for Friday night?" you ask cheerfully. The response: "Why are you asking? You've got plans, haven't you? You're always making plans without consulting me..."
- Accusing and blaming - one is blamed for the abuser's bad mood, for 'trying to pick a fight'
- Judging and criticizing - "Do you have any idea how fat/old/slutty you look in that dress?" "You're so stupid, you can't keep anything straight..."
- Trivializing - conveying that whatever you have done or said is insignificant. Turning up the TV or walking out of the room when you're mid-sentence.
- Undermining - squelching any enthusiasm or opinion one might dare to voice, sabotaging exercise or outside interests, friendships.
- Threatening - "Do what I want or I'll..."
- Name calling - my b-f decided to dub me "Lumpy" as a pet name. Nice, huh?
- Forgetting - either immediately forgetting something abusive that has just occurred, or forgetting a promise made to attend an event - "You never told me we had Back-to-School Night tonight."
- Ordering - as if the partner or child is a slave. "Get in here and ..."
- Denial - "I never said that, You're making it up, You must be crazy..."
- Abusive anger - there is no right way to be/speak to avert anger, when a partner wants to be angry. When an abuser who uses anger as his "go-to" emotion is feeling powerless and anxious, he WILL vent by blasting his partner (and then usually blame him/her.) As I've blogged before, anger can become addictive and it has a double pay-off. There's a release of tension, a flow of mood-boosting body chemicals after a blow-up, and the abuser usually cows the victim into doing his/her will.
Men are abusers - and they are also victims of abuse. Abuse is not acceptable, no matter who does it.
Physical violence has never yet been documented to happen without verbal violence preceding it. Emotional and verbal abusers don't get better if you "try harder." If you "give in more." If you "act nicer."
Emotional abusers may act as if they are the ones abused, if you tell them, "Stop. You're hurting me."
If you believe you are being abused, even if it's "just" emotionally or verbally, get help. Even if you're a man.
Nobody deserves to be abused. Not physically, not verbally, not emotionally. No children deserve to grow up in a home where one parent abuses another parent.
My A-Z theme is Issues related to Mental Health or Mental Illness.
Please note, this very incomplete list of resources are not just for physical violence, but can offer help to those suffering verbal and emotional abuse as well. Don't feel you have no "right" to ask for help because you've never been hit. Abuse includes emotional, verbal, and financial, and these resources are there for you, too.
National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) TTY- 1-800-787-3224
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (includes downloadable guides for helping women in abusive relationships)
National Alliance on Mental Illness, aka NAMI
National Clearinghouse on Family Violence - you will need to opt for English or French
Women's Aid - 0808 2000 247
Australia & New Zealand:
Domestic Violence Information Manual - phone numbers vary by territory
For Male Victims:
Why Men Stay in Abusive Relationships