Most domestic violence is verbal, not physical.

Domestic violence that is verbal and that does not stem from some incredible stress the individual is experiencing (please see Type Two conflicts for clarification) is called verbal or emotional abuse.  Verbal abuse consists of put-downs that make you feel diminished, powerless and ashamed.  You are very apt to feel that the verbal abuser has just taken your most revered or precious attribute, the quality on which you have built your self-esteem and of which you are most proud of and turned it into something very negative – something that you should hide.   They have a knack for reading you this way as they are threatened by your positive qualities.  Their remarks can really knock you off course as they can cause you to question yourself and their level of vehemence can be frightening.   It is worse than brow beating, which is very serious in and of itself, but it is relentless, in the way that brow beaters are relentless.

“One of the most striking characteristics of good people is that they are almost never completely sure they are right.”   Martha Stout,  “The Sociopath Next Door”

A major concern for the victim of verbal abuse is that if they confront the abuser the matter will simply become worse.  They do not want to disrupt their entire world  – especially their children – by arguing back – so they take it – until it happens again and again – usually with increasing frequency.  As I understand it, and I am not a neuropsychologist, as scientists are learning more about brain function they are able to identify the neural pathways by which this behavior is occurring, and they are able to see the strengthening of this system that leads to an increase in this behavior.

The mindset of verbal abusers is such that they are looking to trip you up; the result being that you constantly feel cornered.  If your children are hearing this language they will be negatively effected by it.  They will be frightened and there is a good chance they will be traumatized by it.   Trauma will negatively affect their cognitive and social development.  It will make them angry and it will cause them to act out.  (Please see the trauma section under “How to Use This Site.”)

Verbal abusers are highly resistant to treatment. Anger management programs have notoriously poor results. Two books that stand out in this area are: The Verbally Abusive Relationship and Emotional Blackmail.