VERBAL AND EMOTIONAL ABUSE—So, are they truly part of domestic violence? And if they are, what part do they play? As a former victim, now a strong survivor and thriving advocate, I can attest to the fact that almost without exception, every incident of domestic violence will begin with verbal and emotional abuse.
How and when did verbal and emotional abuse start for me? I was engaged to be married to a guy I knew was an alcoholic. It was the Savior Complex at its finest. He needed Jesus, and I could hook them up, introduce them. After all, I had been raised in a very strong, strict Baptist home. Both my parents taught Sunday school, my mother was the church Clerk, Daddy was a deacon. I served in the choir, played the piano and sometimes the organ during services. My church youth group and its activities were a very integral part of my growing up years. Who ever saw verbal and emotional abuse in my future? Surely not me. But then came that night we were out on a date. He called me “stupid.” Before we married it would expand to “ignorant bitch.” I know, I know—I still get two questions all the time: “Why on earth did you marry him knowing he was that way?” and later on, “Why didn’t you just leave?”
You see, I was in denial it was actually verbal and emotional abuse being doled out to me. I knew what he was saying was not true. I was smart, and smart girls did not make stupid choices, nor did they get themselves into stupid relationships. Smart girls did not walk into verbal and emotional abuse. I just would not see myself as being abused. After all, he never threw a punch. He did slap me with an opened hand once, maybe twice. It’s hard to remember. He was known to grab and twist my arm, back me into a corner, curse like a raving lunatic, throw food and dishes, but I never had a broken bone or busted lip. So, I found myself validating the fact it was not domestic violence, but instead “simply” a bad temper. I had not been trained about the POWER AND CONTROL that are the thrust of domestic abuse.
I refused to accept it was verbal and emotional abuse. But it was. Over the years it escalated to physical force and violence. On that Easter Sunday he grabbed me by the hair, slung me around from room to room, eventually repeatedly ramming my head into a door. Somehow in that moment I came to recognize it for what it had always been—verbal and emotional abuse, then full blown domestic violence. Suddenly I was awake to the facts. My gut was telling me that if I stayed, I would have a broken bone, concussion, or wind up dead at the hands of his insatiable need for power and control over me, our children, and his environment. He hung out with other bullies. He got drunk with other bullies. He had affairs with other women who had low self-esteem and had, most likely, also been abused in their own pasts.
Throughout the years spent as a survivor spokesperson and advocate for victims of abuse, I have met many women who bear visible physical scars that are easily seen with the naked eye. But bear this in mind. For every scar you see on their physical body, there are many more scars within their psyche or spirit left behind by the wounds inflicted from verbal and emotional abuse. I can’t help but wonder how many women, like me, have declared, “I bet my right arm he’d never raise a hand to me.” And for over 15 years, he didn’t. Instead, he drained the desire for life from my spirit with words, glares and ridicule. He took away much of my zest for life for a very long time through his verbal and emotional abuse.
Ironically, when he was grabbing and twisting, it was that right arm I was so willing to bet on that was taking the physical abuse, as he repeated, over and over again, “Stupid bitch.” If you are considering leaving a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship, please remember this: Between the time a woman decides to exit an abusive relationship and for a time after she leaves, she is at her highest risk of danger. DO NOT LEAVE WITHOUT A SAFETY PLAN IN PLACE. There are blog posts here giving you information on developing a safety plan, a safety code word, etc., or you can go to the Victim Support Page and visit a website of an agency or organization to get personal one-on-one help to do all you can to leave safely.
Do not think that just because it is verbal and emotional abuse that it will not get worse. Odds are, it will. It’s only a matter of time. And you deserve a happy, fulfilling life. You do. I got mine. You should have yours. The good news in all this is found in my book, ORANGE BLOSSOM WISHES, when I say, “Wounds heal, scars remain.” The wounds can and will heal. The scars remain to remind you what verbal and emotional abuse sound, look and feel like, and that you can and should avoid that path in the future. You are a smart woman, making smarter choices. Use the past, do not let the past use you.