Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Verbal abuse is still abuse...
I saw that image several months ago and it made me feel so terrible. I saw it again a couple days ago and decided I'd do a blog post about it. I have seen and heard a lot of people say that verbal abuse isn't really abuse. They're just words. No one's really getting hurt, right? That's wrong. Verbal abuse is still abuse.
As an adult, I don't give a shit what people say to me and about me most of the time. Call me an idiot? Call me a slut? Call me a bitch? Tell me I'm useless? I won't believe a word of it because I'm not, so what?, I can be and I'm definitely not. I know who and what I am. I'm a very strong person and I don't let people get to me easily. I don't honestly care what most people think of me, either.
That wasn't always the case, though.
When I was a little kid, I was more susceptible to the words around me.
You tell your child, "You idiot, what did you do that for?!" because they did something stupid. You lost your temper. You said something dumb. You know your kid isn't an idiot. You just said it out of anger or frustration. Your child might roll their eyes or not say anything.
I remember when I was young, I'd glare or roll my eyes. Then I'd be sitting in my room drawing and listening to music or doing something. And words would creep back into my head. I'd tell myself I was the opposite of what had been said but there was always doubt. Always a small part of me that soaked it in and thought, well maybe that's true, maybe I am...
I wasn't verbally abused. My parents weren't constantly telling me bad things or talking down to me. Once in a while, they would slip out of frustration or anger and say something hurtful that I assume wasn't really meant. It would bother me even though I acted like it didn't. I would always have that small nagging voice in the back of my mind that reinforced hurtful words I heard.
I was different from the girls in my classes. I went to a different school damn near every year. Sometimes I'd stay somewhere two years. I was always different. I had a weird sense of humor, was a major tomboy who really only cared about sports, LEGOS, action figures and horror stories. I was fascinated by things that were probably a bit morbid for a kid to be interested in. I didn't always fit in but I always had a few friends anyway. Then I had the rest of the kids who said mean shit to me thought most of that didn't start until 5th grade. It's no surprise to anyone who knows me or who has read my blog long enough to see pictures to know that I have a huge rack. And I've had large breasts all my life. I never wore a training bra, I just got thrown right into the real thing. In 5th grade, I had at least 3 times more boobs than any of the other girls in my classes. Which sparked a lot of animosity from literally every girl in my class. I think 5th grade was one of the worst yet best years ever. That was the year I had to put up with more shit from kids at school than I ever had before but that was also the year I started learning to not let what people said about me and to me get to me. Thankfully, I was also taller than all of them, had broad shoulders, played hockey on a mostly male team as well as played other sports; so none of their picking on me every came in the form of physical torment. That didn't make the other crap any easier to deal with at first. It sucked hearing groups of girls talk trash to and about me every single day, it sucked having them write stupid notes about me and spread stupid rumors. But it also worked in my favor because I decided I'd never be like that and that I'd stop letting people's opinions of me matter. I knew I wasn't any of things they said I was and that was enough for me. I knew I never wanted to be that kind of mean, petty person either. And the less I cared, the more it pissed them off. Which after a while just became amusing to me.
You might not realize you're damaging or hurting someone when you say something terrible out of anger, frustration, etc. You might not even remember saying it later. You might not give it a second though. A week later and you probably won't remember at all. It doesn't mean the person you said it to won't. It doesn't mean that words don't hurt and don't leave an impression. Especially on children. They haven't learned to blow it off. They haven't learned that people don't always mean what they say.
There's no reason to ever make a child feel stupid, useless, ugly, unworthy or anything else that's negative and hurtful. It doesn't mean you shouldn't tell them when they've done something wrong but don't call them names to get across a point whether they did something wrong, made a mistake, didn't do well on a test, their team lost a game, etc. Don't belittle them, don't call them names and don't make them feel like a piece of garbage because they don't deserve that. No one deserves that.
Even if they act like they don't care or act like it doesn't hurt, even if they roll their eyes or stomp off, they're going to think about it and the words are going to be there lurking in their young minds.
Verbal abuse can be just as and sometimes more damaging than physical abuse. Emotional wounds often take far longer than physical ones to heal. Though there are plenty of emotional ones that come along with the physical but that's another post entirely. So next time you're angry, upset or frustrated, take a breath and think about what you want to say and how you need to say it. You don't need to sugar coat things but being verbally abusive isn't the answer. It also teaches them to react that way and that will stay with them and grow with them as they get older and then it will likely just keep going. That's not something you really want to pass on and spread to the world. That's something the world needs a whole lot less of.