How to defend & protect yourself from verbal abuse

Written by kyra sheahan
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How to defend & protect yourself from verbal abuse
Protect yourself against verbal abuse. (Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

Verbal abuse takes many forms and is considered emotional abuse according to the non-profit website, Helpguide. Yelling, insulting, shaming, blaming and name-calling are types of verbal abuse that individuals may experience without recognising that they are, indeed, forms of abuse. It is important for victims of verbal abuse to learn how to defend and protect themselves against their abusers or else victims can become scarred by the emotional abuse that they are exposed to repeatedly.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Know what verbal abuse is and learn to identify it as it happens. Pay attention to how the abuser makes you feel when he speaks. Belittling you, name-calling, teasing, bullying, blaming, manipulating, ordering you around, controlling you and making serious threats are forms of verbal abuse.

  2. 2

    Do not engage in the verbal abuse as it occurs. Ignore the abuser and do not give him the satisfaction of putting you down. Walk away from the situation. If you live together, go to another room and close the door or leave the house and go for a drive. Engaging in the verbal abuse by arguing or listening gives the abuser power to continue abusing you emotionally. If you are not present, the abuser cannot victimise you.

  3. 3

    Speak up to your abuser after the fire dies down. Tell him how it makes you feel when he verbally abuses you. Let him know that it is inappropriate for him to speak to you that way and that you would like for him to stop. This is a difficult feat and not many people are comfortable with being confrontational. However, it is important to communicate how the verbal abuse makes you feel and doing it calmly may be received more effectively than if you were to say so in the midst of an argument when emotions are high.

  4. 4

    Stick to your guns. Once you make the commitment to defend and protect yourself against verbal abuse, really try to do so. Do not allow your abuser to abuse you. After your conversation or confrontation, if your abuser continues to verbally abuse you, point it out to him. Tell him that this is exactly the sort of thing that upset you before and you will not stand for it. Repeat the same behaviours of leaving the argument and not engaging with your abuser. This not only shows him that you mean business, but it gives you a chance to protect your feelings from exposure to his harsh words.

  5. 5

    Set your boundaries. If your abuser tells you that he will work on things so that he does not abuse you anymore, decide if this idea works for you. Outline the things that your abuser can do to get help, such as see a therapist. If the verbal abuse is prompted by substances, such as alcohol, the issue may be that the abuser needs to become sober, so Alcoholics Anonymous may be an effective tool for helping decrease the verbal abuse in the relationship. Do not sway from your boundaries. If you set a time frame for your abuser to get help, hold him to it.

  6. 6

    Have a backup plan. In case your abuser cannot or will not stop verbally abusing you, decide your next step. You cannot force your abuser to change his behaviours; this is something he has to do on his own. As such, you need a plan in place to keep you safe and protected. Consider which friends or relatives you can stay with, whether you want to kick your abuser out of your home or end the relationship.

Tips and warnings

  • Many victims of verbal abuse are afraid of standing up to their abusers to defend and protect themselves. If this is the case, join a support group, see a domestic abuse counsellor or read self-help books to build your self-esteem and give you the courage to defend and protect yourself.
  • If you feel as if the verbal abuse is going to lead to physical abuse, remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible and find a safe haven for yourself with a friend or relative.

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