This Is What Verbal Abuse Really Is, Because It’s Not Just Yelling

Abuse takes on many forms. The most recognizable is physical abuse, but abuse can manifest itself in actions, and even more discreetly, but terribly painful: words, or verbal abuse.

verbal abuse, abusive relationships, emotional abuse
Ben Blennerhassett

Verbal abuse is direct. It’s a partner, a person sayings words to your face. It’s attacks from someone’s mouth rather than hands. It’s sentences spoken in anger. It’s lashing out in the moment, regardless of the situation or whether or not you have control. It’s purposeful, intentional. It’s often things said or shared without remorse.

Verbal abuse is indirect. It’s comments made when you aren’t around. It’s mumblings under someone’s breath. It’s backhanded compliments that leave a heaviness in your heart that you can’t easily rid yourself of. It’s words spoken through another, a confrontation that takes place outside of face-to-face.

Verbal abuse is comments about your worth. Comments that break you down, piece by piece. Comments that make you regret your decisions, want to change a certain part of yourself to make someone happy, to make them care for you more. Comments that tell you, over and over, that you are nothing. And will never be anything.

Verbal abuse is attacks on your person. On your character. On your being. On the way you carry yourself. On the living, breathing human you are, so much so, that you forget how to function.

Verbal abuse is loud. Slammed doors and angry voices. Arguments that shake the house and fill your heart with defeat. It’s someone’s face so close to yours you feel the spit from their lips hit your cheeks. It’s balled fists that never hit, but threaten to.

Verbal abuse is silent. Sometimes it’s the words the person doesn’t say. Sometimes it’s their quiet closed lips, condoning a certain behavior or leaving you empty with no response. Sometimes it’s a lack of support, the loneliness you feel when you say, ‘I’m sorry,’ or ‘I love you,’ and they say nothing in return.

Verbal abuse is swearing, or negative language. Words that cut deep, regardless of the seriousness of the situation. Words that are repeated for every wrong doing. Words that you’ve come to see as your self-definition because they’ve been spoken so frequently to you, you’ve forgotten who you really are.

Verbal abuse is everyday words, spun with a twist that wears you down. Sometimes it’s not about name-calling, but about the common words that take on a new meaning when they’re spit at you. Your insecurities are brought to the light, put into focus day after day after day, telling you that you will never be enough.

Verbal abuse is holding grudges, withholding forgiveness. Sometimes the anger is not so much direct as it’s under the surface. Not giving you a chance to rebuild, to restart. Pushing you down further, with no ability to rise.

Verbal abuse is when you are the only one apologizing. No matter the circumstance, you are somehow the one in the wrong. You are somehow the person with the problem, who, is actually hurting them. Not the other way around.

Verbal abuse is passing blame. Someone never taking responsibility, but putting the fault on your shoulders. Making you carry that burden without a chance of ever seeing it lift.

Verbal abuse is focusing on the negative. Your faults, your flaws, your mistakes. Never seeing the positive, never allowing you to bloom.

Verbal abuse leaves scars that can be just as hard to heal. Often there are no bruises, no visible marks of pain on your skin, but the cut is just as deep. The words, like knives, dig into your skin, into your soul. And those scars are just as painful, if not more painful to heal. This pain is below the surface, unseen and unnoticed. But it breaks you, just the same.

Verbal abuse is emotional. A long, uphill battle to find yourself again. A struggle against the voices in your head that have learned how to break you down because of the person who abused you. This is not physical abuse, but abuse nonetheless. This abuse of your emotions, your mind—and to survive you must relearn and re-love who you are. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Marisa Donnelly

Marisa is a writer, poet, & editor. She is the author of Somewhere On A Highway, a poetry collection on self-discovery, growth, love, loss and the challenges of becoming.

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