Verbal Abuse, Part 1

The Bible teaches us that words are powerful. They can bring life (John 6:63, NIV), or death (James 3:6,8-9a NIV). Words can build up people (Eph 4:29, NIV), or tear down nations (Jer 1:9-10, NIV). Words can bring great suffering (Psalm 55:2b-3), or be a fountain of life and healing (Prov 10:11, NIV).

Like all domestic violence, verbal abuse is a pattern of behaviors aimed at gaining and maintaining power and control over another person. It does so by systematically diminishing the other person, wounding them emotionally and psychologically, and telling them that their feelings and very perception of reality is wrong. It can be an important early-warning sign of an abusive personality. According to Patricia Evans, in her excellent book The Verbally Abusive Relationship,1  not all verbal abuse becomes physical, but virtually all physical abuse is preceded by verbal abuse.

Verbal abuse, also called verbal battering, is a particularly insidious form of domestic violence. Though it doesnít leave outward scars, it is calculated to assassinate the character and kill the inner person with cruelty; belittling; put-downs; shaming; name calling; intimidation; raging; silence; criticizing; blaming; twisting the truth and rewriting history; and strategic "forgetting." Some of these abuses donít even involve words. All are designed to inflict injury. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our spirits and our hearts.

Discussion Questions:  

  1. Read the description of some Types of Verbal Abuse and identify those you have experienced.
  2. How does each category of verbal abuse give the abuser power and control, and  make the victim more powerless?
  3. How does each category of verbal abuse attempt to silence the victim and take away her "voice"?


1. 1993,  Adams Media Corp.

Copyright 2005   Judy Kennedy