Verbal abuse is the use of language to manipulate, control, humiliate, insult, ridicule, put down, and show disrespect to another person. Patricia Evans says:
Domestic violence is about the control of one human being by another. This control begins with verbal abuse and is similar to mind control. Verbal abuse attacks one’s spirit and sense of self. Verbal abuse attempts to create self doubt. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” “You don’t have a sense of humor,” “You can’t take a joke,” “You’re too sensitive,” “You’re crazy.”
Verbal abuse so controls ones mind that some women who have left a verbally and sometimes physically abusive relationship twenty or more years ago still find themselves wondering, “Maybe there’s something I could have done…,” or, “Maybe if I’d tried to explain just one more time my relationship would have gotten better.” Very often the people who find themselves the target of controlling behaviors can’t comprehend that anyone would want to control them so they try to be nice. This doesn’t work. You can’t stop a rapist by being extra nice. http://www.verbalabuse.com/10.shtml
There are different types of verbal abuse, though an abuser is likely to use a combination of many or most of these.
Accusing/blaming – accusing or blaming another for outbursts, expressions of anger, bad moods, mistakes and failures.
Covert/subtle – this is when the abuser sounds sincere and loving but is still manipulating, controlling, blaming, etc.
Denial – the inability to admit and take responsibility for one’s own actions and words when confronted with their own behavior and words.
Discounting – denigration or denial of the experience, skills, maturity, and abilities of another; often marked by distortion or lies
Judgmental criticism – Criticism that goes beyond neutral and/or constructive verbal correction of erroneous actions; comprised in part of ridicule, name calling, denigration, and/or humiliation.
Humiliation – Public or private intentional shaming and embarrassment of any kind.
Manipulation – Appealing to and/or using another’s sense of responsibility or obligation to achieve a personal goal.
Name calling/epithets – All name calling, and epithets directed at another are abusive.
Ridicule – Making fun of and otherwise “putting down” another person or group based on their appearance, gender, competency, beliefs, ethnicity, culture, or religion.
Teasing/joking – Humor at the expense of another, comprised of humiliation, exaggeration and/or fabrication.
Threats — threatening to hurt or kill another or another’s loved ones, pets, etc. May also be threats to get custody of children, take all financial resources, tell lies to others, damage another’s reputation, etc., may include threats to commit suicide, file false charges, or false reports to child services.
Opinions as threats – an abuser sees another’s different opinions as attacks and feels threatened and goes on the offense. A typical abuser’s attitude for this is “the best defense is a good offense.”
Redefining reality – This form of control is very oppressive. When an abuser tells another what reality is, the abuser is playing God and is discounting the other’s experience by defining “THE TRUTH”-which in fact is a LIE.
How do you know if you are in a verbally abusive relationship? Ask yourself the following questions:
Does your partner:
Put you down?
Put down your dreams and goals?
Tell you how to dress?
Make you feel crazy – play “mind games”?
Always misunderstands what you’re saying? Is extremely literal or exact in the meanings place don your words?
Ever wonder what’s wrong with you? Ever tell your partner to stop? Make excuses for your partner?
When you and your partner get into a fight, are you the one who always ends up crying and saying you’re sorry?
Verbal abuse is counter to the teachings of Jesus. Jesus always exhibited respect for everyone He met. He taught such things as the golden rule. He taught that anyone who calls another by an insulting, belittling name is in danger of hell fire (Matt. 5:22). Proverbs tells us many things about verbal abuse:
The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked what is perverse (10:32)
There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health (12:18 )
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (15:4)
A healthy relationship will demonstrate good boundaries and respect for one another. Good communication will include the following:
1. Being of one mind. People will not always agree on everything, nor should they be expected to do so. However, it’s important to work towards growing in Christ and developing the bond of unity in Him. Mutual submission helps respect one another, especially in important decision making.
2. Having compassion. Knowing that the other person truly cares enables people to share their deepest thoughts and feelings with one another.
3. Demonstrating love. While it seems obvious, love can sometimes be the most difficult thing to maintain. 1 Corinthians 13 should be our guide in this.
4. Being tenderhearted and courteous. This means having an attitude that puts the other person’s needs ahead of our own.
5. Blessing the other person. This means always wanting the best for him or her.
Some references: http://www.verbalabuse.com/3.shtml; http://www.usda.gov/da/shmd/aware.htm#WHAT; http://www.drirene.com/verbalabuse.htm; http://silverreflection.tripod.com/speakoutagainstverbalabusecopy/id23.html