Verbal and Emotional Abuse – A Primer – Part IV

The Downward Spiral

We have followed the trail of the typical emotionally or verbally abusive relationship through the initial shock, rationalization, denial, acceptance and, now, the arrival at a place of perpetual fear and disillusionment.

It is only a matter of time before the enabler-victim finds herself emotionally alone and physically exhausted. Nothing works. Life is a never-ending cycle of heartache and anxiety. Abuse victims may suffer from any number of physical manifestations that may include depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, insomnia, headaches, stomach ulcers or other digestive disorders, any of which may result from trying to cope with the stress of living in an abusive relationship. It is a high physical and emotional price to pay.

The abuser has an extremely short fuse and is consistently cruel. He will snap at his wife for the slightest thing – or nothing – yet, he still expects her to be there to meet his needs. Walking on eggshells is now the norm for his wife, and the enabler-victim is often too tired to even defend herself. She finds it puzzling that so many people see him as a great guy, and she questions whether she really is responsible for his unhappiness at home.

Tension permeates the home. The victim tries to maintain a semblance of normalcy, but children know something is wrong even when it’s unspoken. Children’s responses are an effective barometer of what may be going on in the household. They may exhibit signs of depression or anxiety, struggle at school or in their friendships, or exhibit other anti-social behaviors in a desperate cry for help.

There is nothing normal here. The victim feels helpless and wonders what in the world she is supposed to do next. Happiness seems virtually unattainable.

The Time Comes to Change Things Up

Now that the victim has finally reached the point where she is desperately miserable, she wants to ask for help, yet it feels like a huge risk to tell anyone what she is going through. Many victims are frightened by the prospect of divorce, but there comes a time when we begin to fantasize about what life might be like without the abuser. The victim feels compelled to open up to someone. Whom can she trust? How much should she share? What if the abuser finds out that she told someone and made him look bad?

It’s terrifying to contemplate opening up after keeping the secrets for so long. (It is ideal to find a counselor experienced in abuse issues, but most victims will take a chance first on a close friend.) She has an abiding fear that the person she confides in might not believe her or may tell her that the problems she is experiencing are, in fact, her fault? Or that, because he isn’t hitting her, she should just keep on trying? (This is common and simply demonstrates that many people haven’t a clue about the very real pain inflicted by verbal and/or emotional abuse.) It takes a great deal of courage to reach out and begin to tell the secrets. She should tell them anyway.

This is a crucial point at which the victim needs to stand on what she knows to be true. If one person will not hear her, she needs to keep opening up (using discretion, of course) until someone does. Organizations familiar with domestic violence will understand and may be able to refer victims to an appropriate counselor and other forms of support.

It is important to note that some victims buckle under the pressure before they have the opportunity to share anything with anyone. They should waste no time and simply get out.

See Part V

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10 thoughts on “Verbal and Emotional Abuse – A Primer – Part IV”

  1. After many years of emotional and verbal abuse, I finally took a chance and opened up to someone whom I thought would understand. After only sharing parts of my secret, I was told it was my fault for allowing this to happen. I just want to my feelings and experiences to be acknowledged as real..

  2. AllAlone – it is NOT your fault. How can you be blamed for wrong that another person does? I don’t think anyone can ever rightfully say someone “provoked” them into anything because they ultimately have the choice of whether to abuse or not. A lot of people also don’t understand why the abused stay in a bad relationship – they just DO NOT understand how hard it is to get out. I never knew until I was abused myself – I always said “those women should just leave” but it is NOT that easy, especially if you have kids, a home, you depend on him financially, etc. I am sure you know this. Also, unfortunately, in the Christian churches we women are blamed with all marital problems. I do not attend church at this time. I worship Jesus on my own. I can’t say I will never attend any church again, but it will have to be one that understands abuse and that sometimes divorce can’t be helped. Don’t let people discourage you from telling your secrets! Call a women’s domestic violence hotline in your area – they are there to listen to you and they care. I have talked to them many times and they care even if you haven’t been hit but have been verbally/emotionally abused. Most of all, stay strong and pray for God’s strength.

  3. What about when your abuser finds out you told others and accuses you of “slander” and “gossip?” 🙁 I hate how he’s always done this…I thought true slander is when you maliciously try to destroy someone’s reputation, not tell someone else you’re being hurt…

    1. I know what you are talking about. That is one of the reasons many women do not share what is happening to them – because they will be accused of being a gossip. That is ridiculous.

      Reaching out and asking for help because of legitimate harm that is being done – and then being thrown back into the fire with the added bonus of a guilt trip… that’s appalling. This is where the church gets it wrong. Really wrong.

      One theologian’s research I read indicated that in the Old Testament times, men were expected to release their wives with a writ of divorce if they were not taking proper care of them according to the requirements of Deuteronomy 24. If a husband refused, he was confronted by the priests and, if he did not relent, he would be physically dealt with until he agreed to do the right thing. Now, in many cases, we have a wimpy, wienie church that does not wish to confront overt sin in our homes, but will put all the expectations on the victim to “fix” her marriage.

      It’s hard to go up against this legalistic church culture, but we have to stand on the truth, in spite of my what anyone tells us. It’s crazy hard sometimes, but when one woman finds the truth, falls in the arms of God and sees Him come to her rescue, I’ll tell you what, it is a joy to behold.

      Cindy

    2. Hello again, Pooh.

      Slander and gossip… That just ticks me off. Yes, I have heard that one before. Oftentimes those whom we turn to for help or support will use the same terms, placing us in a position where we are compelled to silence. It is one thing to go around bad-mouthing someone without actually looking for a solution, but only wishing to complain, but really, how else are we supposed to ask for help?

      The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Sometimes we have to just keep making noise until someone hears us. Fortunately, in the world of cyberspace, there is a lot of support and information if people go looking for it. That’s where this ministry comes in. 🙂

      Some people just don’t “get it.” We just have to reach out to those who do.

      Cindy

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