What did you picture when you read those words just now?
A woman cowering in a corner, hands over her head in a protective stance, with a violent man standing over her with voice and fist raised?
That’s a reasonably accurate depiction of many people who are in abusive relationships, and the roles can be reversed: the man isn’t always the abuser.
Often, though, it’s not the punch, the slap, the shove, or the kick that hurts most and is most damaging, dangerous, and painful.
Emotional abuse is when someone uses words, lies, intimidation, manipulation, and gaslighting to abuse, control, and oppress another person.
Remember the old chant about sticks and stones causing harm, but “words will never hurt me”? It seems like that chant was intended to encourage, advising us to ignore the hurtful words and brush them off. It’s solid advice. But some words, when they’re being thrown in our faces on the daily, unrelenting, in the form of abuse from a mate (or other person close to us), hurt, and they hurt an awful lot. And that hurt lasts.
Emotional abuse should be regarded with the same seriousness as physical abuse as it can cause lasting damage and poses the same potential threats as a punch to the face. It should never be watered down into “they’re just words.”
Never believe in “at least he doesn’t hit me” or “she doesn’t really mean what she says.” Why?
First, there’s no solace in “only” being abused from the inside out and not (yet) the outside in. Both ways are awful. Second, it doesn’t matter if the person means what they say. They still said it. They can’t un-say it. You can’t un-hear it. The toothpaste is out of the tube. It can’t go back.
Emotional, mental, and verbal abuse cannot be diminished. Because they don’t leave a visible mark doesn’t mean they’re not legitimate. They are and they’re types of abuse that need to be taken seriously and dealt with appropriately.
For years, I was a victim of daily emotional, verbal, and mental abuse designed to manipulate, confuse, exhaust, and control me. But over time, the physical threats became reality until one day I was begging for my life with a loaded gun in my face.
What might seem to some as “just” words can quickly turn violent or even deadly.
And that, friends, is why we need to talk about all types of abuse.
To learn more about the various aspects of emotional abuse, please visit Melanie S. Pickett