Verbal Abuse Signs and Help:
Understanding and Thriving beyond
Verbal Abuse in Abusive Relationships

Dr. King

by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

KATE CARLSON interviewing Jeanne King

Verbal abuse, as well as emotional abuse, result in wounds and scars deep within. In the following interview we look at the impact upon the victim and offer recommendations for her surviving and thriving beyond the battering.

The following is part two of an interview with Kate Carlson, OTR/L interviewing Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D., leading expert in the subtle communication patterns of battering relationships.

1) KATE CARLSON: What would you tell a person who is being verbally abused? How would you help her help herself?

Dr. Jeanne King: The most important thing to realize is the verbal licks and kicks are not about you; rather they say more about your battering partner. And what it typically says is, his felt impotence is longing omnipotence in that particular moment in time.

As far as helping her help herself, this is the most important goal. Because as she does, she grows to no longer tolerate abuse and acquires skills for dealing with it. I would help her by first facilitating her awareness of the way in which the verbal abuse impacts her physically, emotionally and psychologically. From here, the prognosis improves manifold...because no one truly wants to be abused.

2) KATE CARLSON: Do you discuss listening to one’s inner voice? What do you recommend listening for in your inner voice? Can this be a contrast to the verbal abuse? If so, how?

Dr. Jeanne King: Not only do I discuss listening to one’s inner voice, I help my patients find and hear their inner voice. This is central to, even more…critical to, finding and knowing what’s right for oneself.

You ask if the message of the inner voice is a contrast to the verbal abuse. It most definitely can be. You see, the inner voice is the message of what’s right with you and reflects your highest good. So, you can pretty much expect this to be the opposite of the verbal licks and kicks intended to knock one down.

3) KATE CARLSON: How would someone know if a friend may be being verbally/emotionally abused? Especially if it happens when the friend isn’t right there to hear it? (Could you notice personality changes? What else?) 

Dr. Jeanne King: When you are with your friend and you observe her to be less than herself in the company of her partner, then you may suspect the strain of an abusive relationship. She may appear somewhat repressed, less spontaneous, more guarded when she is in public with him.

4) KATE CARLSON: In abusive relationships, does verbal abuse/psychological abuse always precede physical or sexual violence – if these other abuses occur within a relationship? How do they “work” together/how do they interrelate?

Dr. Jeanne King: This is an excellent question. First and most obvious, yes verbal and psychological abuse typically precede physical and sexual abuse in abusive relationships. Then once the relationship battering escalates to more physical altercations, a shift occurs. That is, from here on, the emotional and verbal abuse can then serve to let the victim know the big one is right around the corner.

5) KATE CARLSON: How does a verbal abuser’s reaction to a victim’s speaking up work to silence her? (ex. When he says, “You’re too sensitive” or “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill” etc. How do these responses effectively silence her?)

Dr. Jeanne King: Those responses discourage her connecting with her inner reality, and rather prompt her to question what she feels to be true. These responses by the batterer are intended to do exactly what you point out: silence her. They are comments of minimizing, externalizing, rationalizing, outright denying...all intended to maintain the status quo.

6) KATE CARLSON: How does silencing her serve the (verbal) abuser?

Dr. Jeanne King: As I’ve said, silencing her, aids in maintaining the status quo. A batterer will use battering to both establish and maintain unequal power within the relationship. And the silencing serves to maintain the control having been established.

7) KATE CARLSON: Do you have any other comments regarding verbal abuse in general?

Dr. Jeanne King: Yes, verbal abuse can be regarded as friend, rather than foe. You see, when you use this indicator as a warning sign and if it co-exists in the context of the 5 red flags of an abusive relationship, you have all the information you need to make choices that serve your highest good...before and without ever getting hit.

For more information on recognizing, ending and healing from emotional and verbal abuse, see Emotional Verbal Abuse. Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people identify, stop and heal from domestic abuse. Kate Carlson is an OTR/L at

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© 2009 Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. – Domestic Abuse Prevention and Intervention

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.