Verbal and Emotional Abuse
Domestic Violence Case Management Team 

When people think of the word domestic violence, most instantly think of what is classified as physical abuse. But it’s important to remember domestic violence is more than just physical abuse, it can also be verbal or emotional abuse, as shown in the power and control wheel discussed earlier in this blog series.  

Verbal abuse is a non-physical form of domestic violence. Verbal abuse is the use of words to attack, hurt, or injure someone. It is a way for perpetrators of violence to gain power and control over their partner by persuading them to believe something that is untrue and harmful. Many people who have experienced verbal abuse have said that the emotional pain and mental anguish that accompanies verbal abuse took longer to heal than the pain and physical injuries of the physical abuse they experienced. Almost all individuals who have experienced physical assault report having experienced verbal abuse as well.  

Verbal and emotional abuse can be subtle; it’s often difficult to see and identify as abuse. Verbal abuse is manipulative and controlling.  It includes behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, excessive calls and texts, isolation, humiliation, or stalking. Perpetrators of violence may call their partner names, yell at them, intentionally embarrass them in public, start rumors about them, or threaten to have their children taken away as a form of verbal abuse. They may also perpetrate emotional abuse by blaming their partner for their abusive actions, threatening to harm pets or loved ones, or making survivors feel guilty if/when they don’t want to consent to sexual activity with their partner.   

Verbal abuse often attacks the nature and abilities of a survivor. It seeks to slowly diminish a survivor’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Survivors slowly lose confidence in themselves, often without even realizing it. Survivors may also consciously or unconsciously try to change their own behavior in an attempt to appease or avoid upsetting their partner, so they won’t experience the pain of verbal and emotional abuse. Simply put, verbal abuse is a slow, subtle way of gaslighting.  

If you’ve been reading this blog and trying to figure out if you’ve experienced verbal and emotional abuse, consider asking yourself these questions. If any of the answers are yes, it’s possible you’re experiencing verbal and emotional abuse.    

  1. Do you doubt your judgement or wonder if you are crazy? 
  2. Are you afraid to express your true opinions and feelings to your partner? 
  3. Have you been withdrawing from friends and family? 
  4. Do you feel forced to “walk on egg shells” when your partner is in a bad mood? 
  5. Do you feel forced to ask your partners permission to spend time with friends? 
  6. Do you fear doing the wrong thing and getting “in trouble”?
  7. Have you lost confidence in your abilities? 
  8. Have you become increasingly depressed? 
  9. Do you feel increasingly dependent on your partner? 
  10. Do you feel trapped and powerless?

If you believe you’re being verbally and emotionally abused, please know the abuse is never your fault. The person perpetrating the violence is not behaving or speaking rationally. You are valued; you are supported; you are resilient. If you’d like to connect with one of our advocates to learn more or to create a safety plan, please contact us via our 24-hour help line or email. We are here for you.  

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