Verbal abuse is the first step into domestic violence

It is not uncommon to hear a victim of verbal or emotional abuse say, “Well, it’s not domestic violence. He’s never hit me.” Really? Do you think demeaning or threatening words don’t cause damage, too? There were many times I stood listening to the words spewing from his mouth, telling me how useless, stupid, fat or ugly I was, how nobody else would want or have the likes of me, and I’d wish he’d just go ahead and hit me with his hand. It couldn’t possibly hurt any more than the wounds that were a result of the tongue lashing. Sometimes it felt as if he were coming through my very soul with a sword or machete. It cut me to the marrow of my being.

But, he didn’t hit me. He just talked. He yelled. He threatened. But, he didn’t hit me. Whenever his verbal tirades took place, a piece of me was chipped away. My self esteem was lessened, finally reduced to nothingness. I now realize that each instance took a part of me and I became more and more withdrawn. I became more and more manipulated and controlled. He gained more and more power over me. Pretty soon, I became somewhat of a zombie—the walking dead. He was officially in control of MY life. It had stripped the life from me. I merely existed. Once I reached that point, the pinnacle of abuse, then I was in place for the physical assaults to commence.

The first time it was an open-handed slap across my face. I was so shocked he had hit me, but I knew better than to hit back. With each verbal attack, he became more volatile, and I figured if I instigated another strike, it would be harder and more painful. I just stood there, with tears rolling down my face, wondering how I had ever become that person. I didn’t know her. She was not the “me” I had known for so long. The chipper, perky optimistic blonde had become a morose, hopeless victim of abuse. He only slapped me that one time. . . until the next time. I made the mistake of calling him an SOB, so he slapped me twice, grabbed my hair and told me if I ever spoke to him like that again, there would be hell to pay. Was I not already there?

The violence culminated on Easter Sunday of 1985. Once again he grabbed me by my hair. This time was a bit different. I found myself being slung around like a rag doll, and eventually having my head repeatedly rammed into a door. It was the day after Easter I obtained an Injunction for Protection and started the divorce.

So, you see, my dear ones, if you think words don’t cause damage, you’re terribly mistaken. Every word leads to another. In my case, it started with one word: STUPID!

Every instance of domestic violence—EVERY INSTANCE—begins with a word, sentence or glare. Don’t try to be valiant, thinking it could never happen to you. I was certain it could never happen to me . . . but it did.

Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Life Direction & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, and bringing training to organizations seeking to help victims. Hennecy spent much time during October 2011, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with media doing radio and television interviews. See Carolyn’s interview with Gayle Guyardo of NBC Channel 8 News Today Early Morning Show and her featured segment on the ABC Action News Emmy Award winning “Taking Action Against Domestic Violence” at

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