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.


GrrlTragic said...

The physical injuries my mother inflicted upon me were very real but I only think of them now and again, when it rains and my fractured disc aches..

The things she said to me still echo through my mind whenever I think about anything I might decide to do, I hear how stupid I am or how ugly I am, how I'll never succeed, etc.

I can ignore the scars from my childhood bullies, the ones on my body anyhow, but to this day I'm sometimes afraid to speak my mind in a group unless I'm absolutely certain that I can trust the people around me. I still have anxiety attacks in social situations.

Words DO hurt and they never ever go away. Thank you hun, this post is important.

Alice In Puckland said...

This is such a hard post for me to read. Its true, I remember words and words from my parents made me doubt myself in so many ways which made it easier for the things bullies at school said to me to sink in and hurt that much worse. If everyone was saying it how could it not be true? I learned eventually but not near as young as you did and I do sometimes still let words get to me. Anyone who says verbal abuse is not abuse is wrong.

Excellent post my friend and I love how you just come out talking about issues that are may be uncomfortabke but need to be addressed.


HappyGirl2525 said...

Hugs girl. A very brave post. 5th grade sucks (another thing we have in common.)I moved from Wisconsin, where I was super cool, to Ohio, in 5th grade. Needless to say, I was not cool at all in Ohio. I talked funny. I dressed funny. Two people from my school made the rest of my life miserable until I graduated and went off to college - where I regained my super coolness. Ha. Verbal abuse scars just as deeply, if not deeper, than physical or sexual abuse. I know from reading your blog, you've been through a lot. I'm glad you've survived and I'm so happy we're friends. YAY. And yeah, 5th grade sucks.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Ashly. I hated Cleburne school because everyone was mean to me except for Chrystal, who is still until this day my best friend(didn't meet Beth until I came back). I got bullied all the time and one girl, Terrin, even went the extra step and punched me around. The teacher would never believe me. So I was glad to come home, but half the time when I got home my brother would verbally attack me. Needless to say I called my Dad and begged to move down to his small town where there wasn't that many kids. That was the best year, but then towards the end my Step Mom started to make me feel useless. 6th grade back in Cleburne wasn't so bad, but it was in 7th grade when I was shocked to see one of my former bullies Casey. She walked up and apologized for everything. I luckily no longer had anymore bullies because I changed over that year of being gone. Oh, even smaller world: Terrin, said worst bully I ever had... her Mom is my Mom's former High School BFF from North Richland Hills. Wish I would of known that sooner, but I never got to see my mom because she worked nights and I was too shy to tell my Step Dad. Could of made things more simpler then and I wouldn't of had to leave. But, all became well. Good post here, very good. (This is April, btw.)

Snow Queen said...

Good post, I can relate to it well. I was bullied at school, and there were times my parents could be verbally abusive and it stung....I remember my unstable mother yelling at me once...'I'm going to call a shrink about you, you're not all the ticket (repeated twice)...look at you slouched in that chair...blah blah blah (more insults that escape my memory)'. The words the kids said somehow stung less than those of my parents, as they were the authority and what they said had to be true, didn't it?

As adults we can more easily develop a thick skin to what people say, but even then if someone repeats something to you often enough you will take it in on a subconscious level. My last two boyfriends were both verbally abusive, and they knew how to do my head in by repeating their mantras....about how fucked up I was, I should look at myself and recognise what a favour they were doing me by going out with me...needless to say the verbals later become physical. Enough said. But like other people who have posted the words from my childhood still echo in my head.

Nolens Volens said...

I have to remember to not do this to my kids. So easy to slip up.

Tracy L said...

I never really thought about it honestly because I always thought they're "just words" and I never dreamed I could be considered abusive towards my kids. You're right though and now I will try to be better about what I say to them when I'm frustrated or angry with them.

Anonymous said...

Words are words. Its up to you how they effect you. If you want to let them hurt you, thats partially your fault for the abuse you garner in my opinion.


Ashly Star said...


As an adult, I can agree with that. To an extent. Not everyone is strong enough not to take critical comments to heart, though. I won't get too much into that however since my main point here is kids.

Children haven't learned to do that yet. They haven't learned not to take everything said to them to heart. And when it's a parent or someone that's important to them doing the belittling, it's a hell of a lot harder to just shrug it off. Why would the people who are supposed to love and protect you say mean things to you unless they're true? That's not true but it's a rational form of thinking for someone who hasn't been taught or figured out differently yet.

Ashly Star said...

Tragic & Alice:
I replied to y'all on Twitter but seriously, love y'all. ((hugs))

I'm sorry you had to go through that. I can't imagine people wanting to be mean to you ever, you're so sweet and a genuinely nice person. But being different is enough for some bullies. I'm glad we're friends too, you're a wonderful person. And yes, booo 5th grade.

That's shitty. That's cool Terrin apologized, that doesn't happen much. I never told my parents about it either but it was just because I really couldn't see how they would really be able to do anything so I decided I'd just deal with it myself since I was the one that had to be there for it 5 days a week. Though they might have been able to help me deal with it better. Who knows? :D

Snow Queen:
Parents words sting more because they're the authority but also because they're the ones supposed to love us and protect us. When they're the ones insuilting, you're going to believe it because why would the people who love you say something mean unless it's true, right?

As an adult, if it's said often enough especially by multiple different people, it does start to sink in on a subconscious level. I just do a lot of self-reflection and evaluation because I know most of the stuff said to me isn't the truth. ((hugs))

I can imagine. I have to slow myself down when I argue with my boyfriend so I don't say horrible things I don't mean. When you're angry or frustrated, it's so easy to throw out a "geez you're so stupid!" even when you don't mean it.

That made me happy to read. :) Good luck!

Aurore said...

What is it about the 5th grade? That was a horrible year in school - the kids decided to call me Woolly Mammoth because of my kinky hair. It was crushing.

My father told me constantly I was stupid - I was a straight A student, except for gym - that I could never be anything or anyone without him. I carry that with me still. I still think no matter what I do and have done, it's not good enough. It's not always on the surface but deep down I question myself. It's hard to undo that many years of a negative message.

Thank you for writing this post.

Autumn said...

what an interesting post! i happened to catch the picture/title in my reading list and had to pop over and read it.

having lived in two different households growing up, i have a keen sense of how different it can be. while i was living with my mother, we still got yelled at sometimes of course, but never ever called names. i DO recall being teased a great deal by friends though and at that time, i was very much concerned with what others thought of me. i was rather shy and meek, leaving me open for ridicule in many cases. it was a comfort to spend time with my mother and brother, as they never made me feel that way. i feel blessed to have had that experience in my formative years.

when my mother passed away, i went to live with friends of our family and let me tell was like night and day! my guardian father was extremely abusive to his wife and children. name calling and extremely harsh words were the norm there. by the time i graduated from high school, my esteem was at an all time low. i actually BELIEVED that i was all those things he called me...stupid, fat, a boy crazy little slut to boot. somewhere deep in my mind, i knew that these things weren't the real me, however, i wasn't quite sure how to build these positive thoughts up so that i could alter my beliefs about myself.

now that i'm all grown up and have children of my own, i am cautious about my words. while i tend to raise my voice when i'm frustrated or angry, i focus on modifying the negative behavior and not on them as individuals. they are both capable, intellegent boys and i will never take that from them.

i admire your ability even as a child to ignore the teasing and negative things people said about you. i have always considered you to be an extremely confident lady. someonee with great inner strength and acceptance of self. thank you for posting this.

loves autumn

ps: i believe your comment on my post is worthy of a another post as well.