Excepts taken from “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” by Patricia Evans:
1. Mostly, verbal abuse is secretive. Usually only the partner of the abuser hears it.
2. Verbal abuse becomes more intense over time. The partner becomes used to and adapted to it.
3. Verbal abuse takes many forms and disguises.
4. Verbal abuse consistently discounts the partner’s perception of the abuse.
Verbal abuse may be overt, such as an angry outburst directed at the partner or an attack along the lines of, “You’re too sensitive.” Or it may be covert, hidden, as in thecase of “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” when in fact the abuser does know.
Covert verbal abuse is subversive because of its indirect quality. It is a covert attack or coercion. This kind of abuse has been described as “crazymaking.” It is “a form of interpersonal interaction that results from the repression of intense aggression and which seriously impairs its victim’s capacity to recognize and deal with he interpersonal reality.” (pg 23)
Generally the responsibility for recognising verbal abuse rests with the partner of the abuse, because the abuser is not motivated to change. However, the partner may have difficulty recognising the abuse for what it is because she is led to doubt her feelings. For example, if she feels hurt or upset by something her mate has said and she expresses her feeling, saying, “I felt bad when you said that,” the verbal abuser, instead of recognising her feeling and responding appropriately, will reject and invalidate her feeling by saying something like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re too sensitive. The partner then doubts her own perception. Wh? In childhood, like many, she may have been taught that her feelings were to ignored. Feelings, however, are essential to our being, because the criteria by which we determine if something is wrong or unsafe.
All verbal abuse is dominating and controlling. Verbal abuse used to control the partner without the partner’s knowledge is called “crazy making”. “The sustaining of power seems to be one key factor in crazy making behaviour. It appears to be a way of asserting dominance while denying its existence or the wish for it.”
Verbal abuse closes the door to true communication intimacy.
When the verbal abuser refuses to discuss a problem, he prevents all possibility of resolution. In this way he exercises control over the interpersonal reality. Partners are frequently left with a sick, hurt feeling that is never really resolved. There is no feeling of closure. Upsetting incidents may reoccur in confusing flashbacks because they haven’t been fully understood or resolved.
Because of his need for dominance and his unwillingness to accept his partner as an equal, the verbal abuser is compelled to negate the perceptions, experiences, values, accomplishments, and plans of his partner. Consequently, the partner may not even know what it is like to feel supported and validated in her relationship. In truth, a verbally abusive relationship is more or less constant invalidation of the partner’s reality.
The anguish and confusion which the partner experiences from the abuse is compounded by the abuser’s negation and invalidation of both the abuse and its effects.