I can’t tell you how many times I have said to a woman, “do you realize that you are a battered wife?” She has lived for years with a man who verbally and emotionally abuses her, who humiliates her at every opportunity, who is passive aggressive in his behavior, who isolates her from her friends and family, who controls her comings and goings, restricts her access to money, uses the children as a weapon against her, destroys any possessions that are significant to her … the list goes on and on … She looks at me and says, “but he never hit me.”
Remember the little ditty that we learned as a kid …. “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” It’s a lie. Words hurt. As any child that has been bullied. Physical wounds can heal, although they sometimes leave a scar. Verbal and emotional wounds are just as painful, but they aren’t visible from the outside. If my client had a mark on her body from every one of the times she had been verbally or emotionally abused by her spouse, she would be a candidate for the trauma unit of her local hospital. Everyone that came into contact with her would recognize that she is in agony and needs help.
Because verbal and emotional abuse doesn’t leave a physical mark, not many people will ever notice that my client is hurting. Her spouse’s controlling behaviors keep her inside most of the time. It’s hard for her to give people eye contact or engage in conversation. For her to come to my office has taken all the courage she can muster.
There’s a link that might be very helpful to you if you think you might be like my client.