'You're lucky to have me. You're so fat and ugly, no other man is going to want you?'
"When we go to the party tonight, keep your mouth shut. I don't want people knowing what an idiot I married."
'I'm ashamed to be seen with you.'
Not too long ago I posted about verbal abuse and how badly it hurts. Well, the following story is a prime example of exactly how destructive it can really be. Abby, (name changed) is a lovely young woman with many serious issues, including her involvement for five years with a verbally abusive man. Abby was raised in a dysfunctional household. Her mom was an alcoholic who brought men into the home, and Abby was sexually abused by one of them when she was in her teens. At 15, she dropped out of school and ran away. No one bothered to look for her. For a few years, she had a little peace in her life. She'd moved in with her boyfriend's family, went back to school, and had plans to go back to college...that is, until she and her boyfriend broke up and she was put out of the home.
To support herself, she became a topless dancer. She made pretty good money at it, but found that drugs and alcohol were eating most of it up. By now she was an alcoholic and a heroin addict. At some point, she became involved with a man who was also abusing drugs and alcohol, and since Abby was the one who brought the money into the home, he was determined to keep her dancing. But, he was constantly belittling her as well by calling her such names as slut and whore. Then, he started nagging her about her weight, telling her that she was getting fat and was going to be nothing more than a useless has-been. Abby, fearful that she would lose him, became overly obsessed with her weight and was eventually diagnosed with anorexia.
This went on for five years before Abby came into treatment, and by the time she did, she was a mess. Two weeks prior she'd entered detox, but was so sickly that she was moved to a medical floor instead. Her boyfriend entered treatment at the same time. In those five years, she had become a skeleton. She is so thin that her bones are visible through her blouse. Two years prior, she'd been high and had walked in front of a car. She still suffers from pain from the accident. She's also lost almost all of her hearing. Abby is only tenuous in her recovery at this time, and I fear she is about to relapse. Boyfriend is not making it any easier on her. He continues to assault her with his words, and she often appears at the program in tears. She stays with him because she 'loves him' and knows he 'doesn't mean what he says' because he 'loves her', too.
Emotionally abusive relationships destroy our self-worth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make us feel helpless and alone. It can cause extreme emotional damage and leave lasting scars. So, why is it that we women allow ourselves to remain in relationships where we are verbally assaulted? First, women stay in abusive situations because they are emotionally attached to the relationship and economic dependency on the abuser. In addition, the woman may choose to stay in the relationship because she wants her children to be with their father. Additionally, women who select and choose to remain in abusive relationships were also often abused as children. These women often have low self-esteem and believe the words attributed to them to be true. And lastly, we stay in an abusive situation because we see no other way to survive. I stayed in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship because I didn't see any way out.
The first step in breaking free is to 'recognize' that you are being abused. Abby remains in the denial stage. She'll cry and talk about the abusive words he throws at her, once I approach the subject of verbal abuse, she becomes very protective of him. Sadly, until she is able to acknowledge and understand her reasons for being in this relationship, not much can be done. I can be there to listen, to offer suggestions, to encourage her in her recovery from drugs and alcohol, to help her work on her self-esteem and deal with childhood issues, and hope that one day she gets it before it is too late.
Any woman who suspects that she is being verbally abused should consult with a professional counselor.