Verbal abuse, also known as emotional abuse or psychological abuse, is a pattern of behavior in which an abuser attempts to manipulate, emotionally injure, and dominate his domestic partner through mind games. The patterns of verbal abuse may seem obvious to an outsider, but they can be difficult for those involved to identify. The abuser may deny having spoken or behaved in an abusive way. And the victim may doubt her own perceptions.
Compounding the problem: even as victims doubt themselves, they tend to lend their abusers the benefit of the doubt. This leeway can be dangerous, because verbal abuse is frequently a precursor to physical violence. Abuse tends to start slowly and escalate gradually over time, making it even more difficult to identify common behaviors as abuse.
Outside perspective is one antidote to this cycle of abuse. The victim may consult a friend or therapist to verify that the abuser’s behavior is out of line. Or if, as an outsider, you suspect that a friend or family member is being verbally abused, start a dialogue and help her connect with a trained therapist.
To learn more about the signs of verbal abuse and how to address it, check out our Instaread on The Verbally Abusive Relationship.