Thursday 8 October 2015

The Many Faces of Domestic Violence: Verbal Abuse

Hello everyone!
For those who didnt know, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and because this was an area I worked in for many years, I always feel that I want to make a difference in this space. I have written numerous articles on abuse and have decided to do that for my blog. The articles I have written share on my own research with 60 women who all have experienced abuse. I have permission to share these stories but with name changes etc. I pray these articles will truly bless someone out there and if you know someone who is being abused, please send them on with love and let them know we love them enough to raise this alarm!

          The Many Faces of Domestic Violence
                          Verbal Abuse

Recently my husband and I were flicking through new movie trailers and we landed on one called Spy. It’ about a female CIA analyst named Susan who sits behind a desk yearning to do something brave, yearning to be out on the field. In one scene her laughable words are cleverly composed to leave the cinema roaring with amused laughter. “I just... I still, you know, hear my mom's voice... "well-behaved women often make history, just blend in, let somebody else win, I got that a lot in high school. And there was, "give up on your dreams, Susan." She used to write that in my lunchbox.”

I struggle to find these scenes amusing because I know someone somewhere in that crowd of movie – goers, has heard the same thing in their own lives, spoken by their own moms, dads, aunts, husbands or wives. I know because I spent five years researching the effects of verbal abuse in the lives of South African women. I know, because I lived with an authoritarian father who told me the same thing. I know because I interviewed 60 different women from across different backgrounds and divides and 92% of them had experienced or continue to experience verbal abuse.

“He made me feel worthless that I could do nothing for myself, that I knew nothing, (he) told me I was stupid, (that)I didn't know what I was talking about, (he) talked down to me and criticized everything I did.” – Emily* (name changed to protect identity)

Dr Grady (2010:33)[1] pointed out that verbal abuse is words that attack or injure an individual, that cause one to believe the false, or that speak falsely of one. Verbal abuse constitutes psychological violence. Verbal abuse is further defined by the London-Middlesex health unit[2] as the use of negative comments that are unwelcome, embarrassing, offensive, threatening and degrading to a woman; examples include name calling, false accusations, lying, saying one thing and meaning another. Verbal abuse is not limited to the spoken word but includes abusive language written in letters, facsimiles, electronic mail or via modern day cellular phones. Likened to emotional abuse, verbal abuse is not easily recognisable as it is non-physical and therefore not something readily seen. 

Pat Gaudette[3] stated that verbal abuse in itself will cause the victim to doubt his or herself, his or her abilities and personal judgement. Verbal abuse leaves the victim feeling insecure, vulnerable, powerless and depressed.

In the 90’s a man named Dr Emoto, hired a number of skilled photographers to photograph water crystals that had been exposed to different words or sentences. The water that was exposed to love, prayer and calming music, formed the most beautiful perfect shapes that are breath taking. The water exposed however to harmful, angry words, like I hate you or I will kill you, they did not form shapes at all rather they formed loose clusters that barely held together. Their clusters looked brown, polluted, dead.

Our lives are like that. Influenced by the words we hear around us, and with our bodies comprising of over 60% water can you imagine the effect on our emotions, our brains and our physiology when we are exposed to negative words only. The very places where we often go to for comfort, love and support are our interpersonal relationships and yet sometimes these places are battlefields instead of the loving support that God intended us to enjoy. Of the 60 women I interviewed, the following results came out of their answers; 53% had experienced verbal abuse in a marriage relationship, while 52% had experienced this kind of abuse among their immediate family (father, mother, sibling). Employers and Co-workers / colleagues made up 27 and 22 percent respectively, while the Extended family (aunt, uncle, grandparent) made up 17%. Sadly, many of the respondents had experienced verbal abuse in their Religious Institution, over 13% and a further 12% had experienced it at the hands of an unmarried partner (living together). 

While statistics are a grim reminder of what we face, there is incredible hope on the opposite side of the coin. Many of the women I interviewed had found hope and healing in the Love of Christ, just like I did and many more women are discovering that they have eternal worth and value. We are created to be Loved and to be cared for, not broken down and made to live in fear. Verbal abuse is not Father God’s design or desire for any one of His children. If you are experiencing verbal abuse in any relationship or environment, I urge you to find a Christian counsellor who is qualified, to deal with domestic violence and reach out. Some of the women I interviewed believed they were to be subservient and behave in a “Christ-like manner” and accept the blows of abuse. This is false theology, wrong doctrine rather Father God says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you,” (Jeremiah 1:5). Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31) “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” (Isaiah 43:4) There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18) 

A Blessing

I bless you precious one in the Name of Yeshua our Messiah, the Lover of your soul. I bless you to know His Love, His peace and to know how much He values you and rejoices over you. You were not made for fear or abuse but you were made to shine, to be loved, to be cherished and to live on purpose. May the bondages of abuse be broken in your life and may you seek out the Wisdom from above to walk the journey of faith over the threshold of abuse into His perfect Love. Amen.  

[1] Grady, J, 2010, You are a door prize not a door mat, Therapeia Publishing, Houston.

[2] London-Middlesex Health Unit, Woman abuse, 9 August 2004, Date accessed 02 June 2011,

[3] Gaudette, P, Speak Out Against Verbal Abuse, Silver Reflections, Date accessed 30 May 2011,

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