When Words Hurt

‘You are so dumb! You are thick, rude and disrespectful.’

‘You don’t deserve to have time to play.’

‘Everything is your fault.’

‘You are a donkey.’

‘I am going to poke your eyes out.’

‘I hope you don’t wake up in the morning.’

These words, and much, much worse, have been venomously slung at children (and partners) in homes where domestic violence is the norm. Over time the victim invariably comes to believe that what is being said is true. And think they are to blame or somehow deserve the abuse.

Until they learn that this kind of behaviour is not normal and that they indeed are the victims. Children are particularly vulnerable.

Verbal and emotional abuse takes many forms – name calling, constant criticism, swearing, humiliation, insults, yelling, threatening, embarrassment, control, power play, guilt manipulation, social isolation. Like Chinese water torture, it has a serious and often lasting impact on self esteem and confidence. It bruises and hurts. Deeply.

When the perpetrator is confronted, they often deny what they said or blame someone else. That is called gaslighting.

“It’s a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed.” 

The victim’s view of reality becomes  distorted by the denial, excuses, and lying. Through this emotional torture, they change from a level-headed, confident person to a confused victim.

“It’s literally a manipulative attempt at making another person think they’re losing their ability to think, remember, and be rational.”

Bottom line – it’s about power and control. And it goes hand in hand with all the other forms of abuse – physical, financial, emotional, verbal, social, sexual, stalking, spiritual, image based, dowry and elder.

Watching and listening to those who are caught in the web of violence is heartbreaking. What is even more heartbreaking, if that is possible, is walking alongside as they try to navigate the torturous path of getting help.  It can, and does, take years to break free from the cycle.  The systems that have been put in place to support and assist are so convoluted and tied up in red tape that many give up in despair. And, sadly, far too many end up dead.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017 data  paints a stark picture. Here’s just a sampling  –

On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.

1 in 4 women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15.

1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.

85% of Australian women have been sexually harassed.

Almost 40% of women continued to experience violence from their partner while temporarily separated.

1 in 6 women have experienced stalking since the age of 15.

Children of mothers experiencing domestic violence have higher rates of social and emotional problems than other children.

Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and their children.

Most often it is women and children who are the victims. But that is not always the case.

Warning: this short film is graphic.

If you know of anyone in these circumstances, first and foremost, be a friend. Listen. Let them know you care. Let them know that they matter. That what is happening to them is not OK. That they have a right to be safe.  To be respected. To be heard.

Be there to help them navigate their way through seeking help. It is not easy.

Raili Tanska

Be a friend to those in need





12 thoughts on “When Words Hurt

  1. Thank you so much, Riali! This is a message we should all of us be repeating now and then.

    Your timing is poignant to me. Two days ago, a young woman — 18 — emailed me with her life’s history in an effort to reach out to someone. She had only two months before come of age, and thus finally able to escape her sadistic grandparents. The state had placed her in their care because her own parents were so much worse.

    From her story, I judge she’s a miracle — her heart at first glance seems untwisted, un-warped. She seems to have the instincts of a good heart. Of course, most everything else appears — at least at first — to be what you might expect. For instance, she seems to have no boundaries, no concept that she’s worth any.

    Obviously, she needs professional help — and quickly.

    Which brings me to Amanda. She’s new to blogging, but I’m already impressed. More to the point, she’s a psychiatric nurse and therapist. I’ll be discussing the young woman with her, of course. Amanda just a day ago posted this on her blog, “true healing is found not in medication, but in being witnessed”

    I can’t do much myself for the young woman, but I aim to witness her. I’m under the impression just about no one has ever paid her any real attention.

    Here’s the link to where the quote came from:


    A very timely post, Riali. And also a very well written one. Thank you for it.

    1. The synchronicities that come our way never cease to amaze me. I am so glad you found this post helpful. I expect the young woman in question will be grateful for your support. She sounds like an amazing person to have survived as intact as she has. And young enough to reap benefit from help as she enters adulthood. It is such a crucial time in life.
      I will definitely check out Amanda’s post. Thank you.
      Another synchronicity landed in my lap yesterday. It is the subject of today’s post.

      1. The Australian stats struck me as about the same in most cases as the American stats. I don’t have the American stats memorized, so I can’t say for sure, but I think I have a pretty good approximate idea — this is an area of life I have paid attention to for years.

    1. Because the large majority are women and children, it often gets overlooked that men are victims too sometimes. Regardless of who is the victim. the consequences can be just as devastating

  2. Terrible state of affairs, Raili.
    I can see the manipulation taking place at my Place of W – never thought of it as a form of abuse, but it so is.

    1. It certainly is, Tom. I have been immersed in some very toxic work places. Often you do not realise just how bad it has been until you manage to leave, be it work or a relationship.

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