Skip to content

Verbal abuse… yeah, it is that bad.

Trigger warning: This post discusses various forms of abuse to both women and children, not limited to verbal abuse.

A quote from an article I found…

Article: Domestic Violence – To say emotional abuse bad insults battered wife.

Domineering, bullying husbands who shout at their wives but never lift a finger to hurt them would find themselves in court.

Let me tell you: this is not domestic violence. It is an absurd idea to define such acts in that way, and worse, it serves to trivialise genuine cases of domestic abuse.

Let me share some things about what it’s like to be receiving abuse that has no visible signs.

It’s like a perfect crime. There’s no evidence and no proof outside of the insecurities and fears of the victim, and their inability to recognize their own self-worth or that it isn’t their fault.

I was 3 years old when my mother married my step-father. I couldn’t tell you when the abuse started. What I can tell you, is that my most vivid memory of the man is from when I was four years old.

My mother wasn’t home at the time. We lived in a little trailer in a trailer park, and it was one of those rare occasions when I was stuck at home with this man, who I accepted reluctantly but never really liked. I don’t have any memory of what I was up to that day. All I remember is the confrontation. I had used the toilet. Some short while after I had, he went into the bathroom and found a bit of pee on the toilet seat. To my step-father, this was totally unacceptable, and was a result of me ‘playing around on the toilet’. (I had the habit back then of sitting on the toilet seat sideways, because it was easier to not fall in that way. He defined this as ‘playing around’.)

So, he came to talk to me about this ‘crime’. He told me that I’d been playing around on the toilet, etc. When I tried to explain, he yelled. When I started crying, he asked me, “Why did you get pee on the toilet seat?” His intention was for me to parrot his words back at him, so he could be sure his brainwashing had worked. When I couldn’t complete a sentence, because I was sobbing, and all I could get out was, “I…” repeatedly, like a stutter, he mocked me with, “I, I, I, is there something wrong with your eye?” I sat there, for at least an hour, being yelled at, mocked, and put down, sobbing too hard to speak, while he tried to force me to admit that I had been ‘playing around on the toilet.’ When the doorbell rang, he sent me to my room.

My step-father wasn’t the only abusive male authority figure in my life. I also had an uncle who, shall we say, was ‘fond’ of ‘little girls.’ Unfortunately, my experiences with him were subtle enough that at the time, I failed to even recognize them as abuse. I had someone at home who routinely yelled and screamed, spanked, and shoved my mother around (though never actually with enough force to physically harm her). How was I supposed to realize that my soft-spoken uncle who never actually ‘hurt’ me was being abusive? When I was about 9, he was convicted of multiple counts of child molestation. I was on the list of victims.

The constant emotional abuse I’d been undergoing at home ensured that my reaction to this would not be to speak up and add my testimony to the case. Instead, I was terrified of going to court, and ashamed that I hadn’t had the right reaction to this, and hadn’t said anything before. I couldn’t let anyone know that I had failed to be perfect. Not being perfect was a crime that would be punished in my world. I lied. I told my parents that if anything had happened, I must have been asleep, because I didn’t remember anything.

My experience with abusive male authority figures was by no means limited to these. There were several other abusive male relatives. Verbal abuse was most common, but often spilled over into violence. Even my own step-father would lose patience with shouting and yelling and putting us down eventually and resort to the belt, pushing and shoving, or in one instance when I can only remember the event second-hand when I was telling someone about it, the whip.

To say, “…the definition of domestic violence is quite clear: if you are not in fear of your life, you are not suffering it,” means that you are denying help to any but the most extreme of cases. In fact, you are denying help to those who quite probably need it the most – those who are so cowed by their abuser into believing that everything is their own fault that they don’t realize they are being abused, and sometimes seek suicide as a result. It’s the perfect crime – you convince someone that they are so worthless, they take their own life, saving you the trouble. No physical evidence. People who define domestic violence the way you do make it easy for abusers to continue abusing, so long as they’re careful not to leave physical marks.

You’ll never convince me that just because I don’t have any physical wounds to show means that I wasn’t violently abused. As a teenager, I hid in a closet anytime a male started yelling. I had a mental state that told me that I wasn’t allowed to make mistakes, and everything was my fault. As an adult, I was diagnosed with ‘Generalized Anxiety Disorder’ and still struggle to overcome the anxiety attacks this causes. 32 years later I still sometimes sit on a toilet feeling like I need to justify the fact that four year old girls can get a tiny bit of pee on a toilet by pure accident, without ‘playing around.’

Defining domestic violence as something only experienced by those in fear of their lives is allowing the abuse to continue until a victim is in danger of losing their lives by refusing to recognize it as a crime until it’s been taken to extremes.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Ashton | February 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    I would just like to point out (from the perspective of having worked at a CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE) that emotional abuse is a legally recognized form of abuse, which can be just as much a grounds for removing a child from an abusive home as physical abuse can be.

    More people need to be aware of this. Emotional abuse is still abuse, and it can be devastating.

  2. Rena | March 2, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    It is for children, and possibly has been for quite some time. I don’t think that it was back when I was a kid pre-1980. Geeze, I feel old now. I could be wrong.

    Even so, while my post focuses on my own experiences as a child surrounded by abusive individuals, my mother and her sisters were enduring just as much abuse. The laws are much more protective of children, and ready to recognize abuse toward them, than they are toward adults. The article focused on Domestic Violence, and on recognizing that one partner can be violently abusive toward another, without leaving any marks.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *