The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that one in four women experience domestic violence at some point during their lifetimes. When I worked as a social worker at the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati, I learned firsthand that domestic violence includes not only physical and sexual assault, but also emotional and verbal abuse. I was the program coordinator of a domestic violence treatment program for adolescents, many of whom had witnessed domestic violence between their parents. Many of my clients had experienced verbal and emotional abuse, and some of them were also verbally or emotionally abusive themselves.
As the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Counseling Center website explains, emotional abuse includes things like criticism, intimidation, and manipulation, while verbal abuse include name calling, threats, and yelling. An emotionally and verbally abusive husband tries to control you by these abusive techniques.
Many clients told me they felt emotional and verbal abuse was just as bad as physical abuse; some felt it was even worse. How do you cope with a husband that is verbally and emotionally abusive?
In an article on the Healthy Place website entitled “Dealing with Emotional Abuse,” Natasha Tracy recommends responding to emotional and verbal abuse in a calm, confident manner. Communicate assertively and set appropriate boundaries. Say something like, “Stop putting me down. I want you to treat me with respect.”
Avoid Becoming Abusive Yourself
It may be tempting to respond to verbal or emotional abuse by becoming abusive yourself. You may feel like yelling or calling your husband names or saying thing to hurt his feelings the way he hurts yours. Don’t do it. While it’s natural to feel that way, it will likely only make matters worse.
Guard Your Self-Esteem
Verbal and emotional abuse, especially over time, often damages self-esteem. Guard your self-esteem by reminding yourself of your good qualities and accomplishments, spending time with people that make you feel good about yourself, and doing things at which you excel. Remember that someone who puts you down often does so because he has low self-esteem himself, not because there is anything wrong with you.
When dealing with an abusive husband, you need support. Unfortunately, many women feel embarrassed to tell their friends or family about the abuse, and if they do tell, people may not understand or may react in a less-than-supportive manner. If you feel unable to talk to your friends and family, or just need more support than they can offer, make an appointment with a professional counselor or call your local battered women’s shelter to talk to someone that will understand what you’re going through.
Leave if You Believe You Are in Danger
Not all men that verbally or emotionally abuse their wives become physically violent, but some do. Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure if your husband might hurt you physically. If you think you might be in danger, or if you just can’t cope with the abuse anymore, call your local battered women’s shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 for assistance.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. http://www.ncadv.org/files/DomesticViolenceFactSheet%28National%29.pdf. Domestic Violence Facts.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Counseling Center. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_help_treatment_prevention.htm. Emotional Abuse.
Healthy Place: Dealing with Emotional Abuse. http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/emotional-psychological-abuse/dealing-with-emotional-abuse-how-to-stop-emotional-abuse/. How to Stop Emotional Abuse.