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5 Signs of Verbal Abuse, Gaslighting and Coercion

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Verbal abuse aims to control the behavior of a person through verbal coercion and will sometimes lead to physical assault.

Unlike physical abuse that leaves visible scars to its victims, psychological abuse scars the mind and soul. The damages are invisible, oftentimes irreversible and lasts a lifetime. On the previous post, I’ve discussed about gaslighting, where a victim is subjected through constant and intense emotional manipulation to the point that they question their own sanity.

A facet of gaslighting, verbal abuse is one of the most common way to control the thoughts, feelings and behavior of a person which is often done under the guise of love and respect or fear. The main difference between the two is gaslighters prey on their victim’s doubts and weaknesses, while verbal abusers rely on verbal coercion and physical assertion. Anyone can fall prey to verbal abuse at any given time and place. It can happen at work, at home, at school, on the road or even as simple as a walking towards your destination. The sad thing is that you can do nothing to prevent it and no one is completely immune to it.

When thinking about verbal abuse, most people only consider vociferous language that aims to humiliate and dominate another person. While verbal abuse can be loud and obnoxious, it can also be silent. The non-verbal body language is just as effective, considering that it can be understood clearly without the aid of any spoken words.

Everyone knows what raising the middle finger means. When someone points a knife in your direction, or a strangling motion, it immediately translates as dangerous actions in your head that threatens your wellbeing. Some abusers will have a subtle look or behavior that their victims know all too well to the point that they don’t even need to say anything to make their victim do what they want.

Here are 5 signs of verbal abuse:

  1. A house isn’t a home

A house is supposed to feel safe, warm and full of love, however, that is not the case. In the house, you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, always mindful of everything you do or say. Any wrong move could be interpreted as insult and would result in a verbal assault that leaves you feeling hurt and confused. What is supposed to be your place of sanctuary, will be your greatest source of fear. You are the brunt of painful jokes in front of family and friends, and when you try to fight back, the abuser, regardless of whether there are other people, will often make sure to threaten you or put you down when the both of you are alone.

  1. They define the relationship

Whether the relationship is familial or not, the abuser will paint the relationship into something that it’s not to other people. In a subtle way to control you, the abuser will try to put on a façade so believable, that when you finally get the chance to tell someone about it, they will never believe you. It can happen in many ways, and one of them is projection. An abuser might say that you are always looking for a fight, when in fact it is them that is doing so. They will put on an act that will negate your cries for help, making you feel like you are a burden, a nuisance in their lives.

  1. It begins to feel familiar

Overtime, the verbal abuse starts to feel normal. Having your goals and achievements constantly be put down, being told off when you are happy or when you show enthusiasm over something, hear your words twisted in a way that makes you feel that you are wrong and worthless will feel normal. The tight grip on your arms that causes redness, sometimes bruising, the strong thumps at the back of the head, the constant struggle to not flinch every time something moves will feel normal. An abuser will blame you for their actions, and they will insist that you are nothing without them. The inner voice in your head is now the voice of your abuser, berating you and making you feel guilty loud and clear. You begin to believe that by changing yourself, your abuser will be happy.

  1. No reconciliation

The way a verbal abuser argues is by sucking you in a long conversation to intentionally drain you of your fight to disagree. This is just as effective as backing you somewhere to prevent your escape. They will make you agree with them, that you are wrong and they are right. They will pressure you into agreeing over something that you don’t want. In a way, they will always have a say to you and for you. After every verbal altercation, you will want to apologize but the abuser wont. Instead, the abuser will either punish you by being silent or insisting that there is nothing to talk about. This passive aggressive behavior along with the dismissive attitude disintegrates your crumbling self-esteem into nonexistence. Sadly, this is further reinforced by normal interactions before and after the altercation, making it seem like everything is okay before the next round comes.

  1. Isolation and depression

A part of an abuser’s tactic is to get rid of people that could destroy the hold over their victim. They will do everything they can to prevent you from seeing your friends and family. An abuser does this by either by removing you from the vicinity or telling lies about you that makes people wary to be around you. Abusers are not above physically preventing you from going somewhere. Depression slowly sinks in. This makes you feel like there is no escape, like you are drowning in a pool of tar. With no one else to help you, every snide remarks and negative comments will reinforce itself in your mind. Making you believe everything your abuser says is true.

 

Verbal abuse is one of the most common and often unpunished abuses each of us face in a daily basis. Unfortunately, some have it worse than others. Victims of abuse will constantly make excuses to other people for their abuser’s behavior. A couple of reasons could be because they are caught in a limbo of wanting to help their abuser; or because they are afraid of what their partner would do if they separate.

That is why we must always be careful with the words we use and how we say them. We don’t know what a person is going through, and we can either make it better or worse. If you feel that you are a victim of verbal abuse, or abuse in general. Please contact the nearest authority and seek help immediately.

 

References:

The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Patricia Evans. Adams Media Corp 1992, 1996, 2010

Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You, Patricia Evans pg. 191. 2002 by Adams Media Corp

10 Patterns of Verbal Abuse https://www.domesticshelters.org/domestic-violence-articles-information/10-patterns-of-verbal-abuse#.WO-3CTG6we1

Signs You Are Verbally Abused https://psychcentral.com/lib/signs-you-are-verbally-abused-part-i/

Verbal Abuse Signs and Symptoms Cause Emotional Pain http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/verbal-abuse/verbal-abuse-signs-and-symptoms-cause-emotional-pain/#sthash.zUe1ZC1O.dpuf

Verbally Abusive Men and Women: Why Do They Abuse? http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/verbal-abuse/verbally-abusive-men-and-women-why-do-they-abuse/

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  1. I was involved in a rather toxic and quite abusive relationship for longer than I like to admit and it all starts with what they tell us about romantic love: a relationship is expected to be “passionate” to make it enviable and real … The inconvenience comes when that passion is directed exclusively to make you feel that you do not give enough or that everything is against you.

    “When thinking about verbal abuse, most people only consider vociferous language that aims to humiliate and dominate another person. While verbal abuse can be loud and obnoxious, it can also be silent. ”

    These two sentences clicked on me. Because I remember that the speech seemed quite harmless, even aimed at motivating me or getting the best of me, when in fact It was doing the opposite, gradually shifting to isolate me and completely me and his needs. It’s been a few years, but I still remember it and I feel stupid.I believe that this kind of articles can help people who go through these abuses or are related/involved with gaslighting people without knowing it.

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Written by Khole

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Hi!

My name is Khole. I mainly focus on Human Relations, Clinical and Abnormal Psychology as well as Psychological Research. My perspective is a combination of Psychodynamic, Humanistic and Gestalt.

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5 Signs of Verbal Abuse, Gaslighting and Coercion