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Verbal Abuse is Domestic Abuse

Several years ago, when my ex-husband was constantly harassing me and threatening to take our daughter away from me. I found myself walking through the doors of a local Domestic Abuse Counseling Center. Years earlier, I had started attending Alanon, because I was pretty convinced he had a drinking problem. Alanon helped me come to terms about his drinking, but it did not fully explain his abusive behavior. 

I cannot remember how I heard about the Domestic Abuse Center, but I set up an appointment to meet with one of their counselors. I remember sitting in the chair and listening to a woman describe my relationship in detail as if she had been a fly on the wall inside our house. She explained to me that my ex-husband was exhibiting behaviors of classic domestic abuse. So apparently my experiences in my relationship were less unique than I had originally thought. They also said that, Women often make decisions about their future based on information of what hasn’t happened yet.

“Women often make decisions about their future based on information of what hasn’t happened yet.”

At this time, our divorce had already been finalized and I was dealing with the continuous threats, harassment, and difficulty of co-parenting with an abusive person. Dealing with my ex-husband left me in a state of constant fear. His threats left me with continuous anxiety and fight or flight stress. Plus, we had a daughter and meant we had to have some contact. He was emotionally abusive, and his behavior was destroying me from the inside out. My belief was that Domestic Abuse had to be physical, I had no idea that Verbal Abuse was Domestic Abuse. It seemed like my ex-husband always knew when to stop, and exactly how far to not take it to be able to justify or explain away his bad behavior. Also, because he never hit me, there was nothing I could do legally to stop him.

I started attending counseling sessions at the Domestic Abuse Center. They had a door that was extremely thick and always locked. This was a scary thought to me that they were taking such precautions. However, today, after reading about so many stories where when tried to leave their abusive partners and were murdered. I get why they would be so careful.

It can be extremely dangerous when dealing with abusive partners, just read some of these stories:

Years ago, on DrIrene.com‘s website, I found a questionnaire that really hit home and made it hard for me to deny that I was in a verbally abusive relationship. Although he had never hit me, I was extremely afraid of him. I really believed he might kill me if I decided to leave. Perhaps my relationship was worse than I had thought, especially after reading these questions, and having answered yes to almost all of these questions, except for a few.

Does your partner:

  • Ignore your feelings? – Yes
  • Disrespect you? – Yes
  • Ridicule or insult you then tell you its a joke, or that you have no sense of humor? – Yes
  • Ridicule your beliefs, religion, race, heritage or class? 
  • Withhold approval, appreciation or affection? – Yes
  • Give you the silent treatment? – Yes
  • Walk away without answering you? – Yes
  • Criticize you, call you names, yell at you? -Yes
  • Humiliate you privately or in public? – Yes
  • Roll his or her eyes when you talk? – Maybe I did that?
  • Give you a hard time about socializing with your friends and family? – Yes
  • Seem to make sure that what you really want is exactly what you won’t get? – Yes
  • Tell you you are too sensitive? – Yes
  • Hurt you especially when you are down?
  • Seem energized by fighting, while fighting exhausts you? – Yes
  • Have unpredictable mood swings, alternating from good to bad for no apparent reason? – Yes
  • Present a wonderful face to the world and is well liked by outsiders? – Yes
  • “Twist” your words, somehow turning what you said against you? – Yes
  • Try to control decisions, money, even the way you style your hair or wear your clothes? – Yes
  • Complain about how badly you treat him or her? – Yes
  • Threaten to leave, or threaten to throw you out? – Not so much
  • Say things that make you feel good, but do things that make you feel bad? – Yes
  • Ever left you stranded? – No
  • Ever threaten to hurt you or your family? – No
  • Ever hit or pushed you, even “Accidentally”? – No
  • Seem to stir up trouble just when you seem to be getting closer to each other? – Yes
  • Abuse something you love: a pet, a child, an object? – Yes
  • Compliment you enough to keep you happy, yet criticize you enough to keep you insecure? – Yes
  • Promise to never do something hurtful again? – Yes
  • Harass you about imagined affairs? – Yes
  • Manipulate you with lies and contradictions? – Yes
  • Destroy furniture, punch holes in walls, break appliances? – Yes
  • Drive like a road-rage junkie? – No
  • Act immature and selfish, yet accuse you of those behaviors? – No
  • Question your every move and motive, somehow questioning your competence? – Unsure
  • Interrupt you; hear but not really listen? – Yes
  • Make you feel like you can’t win? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t? – Yes
  • Use drugs and/or alcohol involved? Are things worse then? – Yes
  • Incite you to rage, which is “proof” you are to blame? – Yes
  • Try to convince you he or she is “right”, while you are “wrong”? – Yes
  • Treat you like a sex object, or as though sex should be provided on demand regardless of how you feel? – Yes

Your situation is critical if the following applies to you:

  • You express your opinions less and less freely. – Yes
  • You find yourself walking on eggshells, careful of when and how to say something. – Yes
  • You long for that softer, more vulnerable part of your partner to emerge. – Yes
  • You find yourself making excuses for your partner’s behavior? – Unsure
  • You feel emotionally unsafe. –  Yes
  • You feel its somehow not OK to talk with others about your relationship. – Unsure
  • You find yourself doubting your memory or sense of reality. – Yes
  • You doubt your own judgment. – Yes
  • You doubt your abilities. – Yes
  • You feel vulnerable and insecure. – Yes
  • You are becoming increasingly depressed. – Yes
  • You feel increasingly trapped and powerless. –  Yes
  • You have been or are afraid of your partner – Yes
  • Your partner has physically hurt you, even once. – No

If you are wondering if you are in a Verbally Abusive relationship, it may be a good idea to locate a local Domestic Abuse Center and learn more about your situation. If you are still living with your partner, make sure you take safety measures. The time when a women (or man) is leaving their abusive partner can be the most dangerous time. Counselors at the Domestic Abuser center can help you learn more, while helping you take any safety measures.

Resource Books:

  • Why Does He Do That? – Bancroft Lundy
  • The Verbally Abusive Relationship – by Patricia Evans

 Questionnaire from above is from Dr. Irene’s website.

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