Sanctuary for the Abused
Sunday, February 08, 2015
Calling her dumb, an idiot, stupid is verbal abuse. Putting her down, criticizing her, defeating her in argument for the sake of defeating, not for the sake of mutual enlightenment – this is verbal abuse. Threatening and intimidating by use of words is verbal abuse. If he is angry almost daily, this is verbal abuse. If he is constantly trying to convince her that something is wrong with her, this is verbal abuse. If he further tries to convince her that something is psychologically amiss with her and that she needs therapy, this is moving to extreme verbal abuse.
Verbal abuse may be indirect or covert, and it may be direct – shouting slanderous slogans – the same ones she has heard over and over. Verbal abuse is wanting power over the woman, and completely misusing the power. Verbal abuse constantly undermines the woman, it constantly denies her reality, her very existence.
In many cases, she is not supposed to exist. She is to be an extension of her husband/partner and nothing more. She is to parrot his words, his ideas, and to predict his needs and desires at every step. This is her function. And despite whether she succeeds or not, abuse will rain on her head. There is no escaping it, and there is no escaping its escalation over time.
There are clear symptoms of verbal abuse. Generally, verbal abuse will be secretive. Only those inside the home will know about it. Second, it increases with the passing of time, and the wife adapts to this increase. Third, the abuser repeatedly denies and discounts the wife’s perception of his treatment of her.
Verbal abuse always hurts. It attacks the abilities of the wife and erodes her self-confidence. Verbal abuse fills her with doubts regarding herself. Verbal abuse may comprise of angry shouting or it may be subtle brainwashing, or both. Abusers with developed intellect will use every form of manipulative cunning to brainwash their wives, to convince them their value is nil. Verbal abuse is insidious because many times it is indirect, roundabout and filled with devious cunning which the spouse cannot even begin to comprehend but which leaves her feeling horrible.
While the husband may create many so-called issues of dispute in the marriage, in fact the real issue in the marriage, the real problem, is his never-ending and escalating abuse. It is very hard for the victim to recognize this simple fact. Anger is another category of verbal abuse. If a man uses anger, there is nothing the wife can do or say to mitigate the anger, because it is nothing she has done. His anger is irrational, unpredictable and explosive. It is his trait of character, it is a part of his personality makeup. Generally, it cannot be changed.
In her book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship, P. Evans lists the types of verbal abuse:
1. withholding: rejecting the wife.
2. countering: saying the opposite, arguing without real cause.
3. discounting: discrediting what she says. (‘You’re too sensitive.’ ‘You can’t take a joke.’ ‘You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.’)
4. joking: using jokes to abuse. In the joke, she is the victim, she is the object of ridicule.
5. blocking: not allowing the wife to communicate. (‘You know what I meant. You’re talking out of turn.’ ‘Quit your bitching.’ ‘It’s too complicated for you to understand.’ ‘Just drop it!’. ‘You heard me. I shouldn’t have to repeat myself.’)
6. converting dialogue into fights: When the wife tries to accommodate him, he blows up in anger. He frequently takes her words as a personal attack.
7. Judging: constantly condemning over issues big and small.
8. Trivializing: making fun of what she says and what she does, her accomplishments.
9. Undermining: continually eroding the wife’s enthusiasm about subjects and interests not related to the husband, thereby sabotaging her social life.
10. Threatening: threats of loss or punishment
11. Name calling: from violent attacks to patronizing contemptuous nick names to sarcastic affection, name calling is used to keep the wife in her place
12. Forgetting: declaring that abusive events or where the husband was exposed never happened.
13. Ordering: treating the wife as a servant. This dehumanizes the wife to a machine with no needs. Some men continuously talk in the imperative even when there is no conflict.
14. Denial: refusing to accept responsibility for abuse by accusing the wife of lying or being crazy.
15. Angry abuse: in the forms of yelling, snapping back, raging, shouting, glaring, grimacing (clenched teeth), argumentativeness, tantrums, explosions, long episodes of continuous vicious sarcasms. This develops into an addiction so that the husband will need a daily fix of raging in order to overcome his feelings of dependency, inadequacy and powerlessness by shouting out his anger.
Still another form of verbal abuse is interrogation. The interrogation begins with throwing the wife into a guilty confusion by a cold inquisitional air. The husband plays both the roles of the good cop and the bad cop, changing from sorrowful, reproving affection to cold scientist examining a lab rat to a vicious abuser that the wife cannot even recognize. Interrogation is an addictive power game that gives thrills of power to the power-hungry husband who yearns for greater power in society. The reason it is so thrilling is that the husband can take a petty incident such as shopping and convert it into a criminal act. The husband’s own anxiety and possessive insecurity merely adds to the emotional high of tormenting the wife. Interrogation not only involves making the wife feel she is sinful (materialistic) and selfish (not serving the needs of the husband), but also establishes the husband as the omniscient lord who will judge the wife in future whenever she may ‘fall’ from the path of virtue.