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How To Spot Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse is when someone uses their words to frighten, demean, or control someone else.

Verbal abuse can show up in your romantic relationships, friendships, or even in your family. When people think of abuse they may automatically think of physical abuse, but verbal abuse can be just as harmful.

Wondering if you or someone you know might be experiencing abuse can be a confusing or scary experience. If you would like to talk to someone about it our advocates are here to support you. Remember, it is never your fault.

What are some warning signs of verbal abuse?


Name-calling is often an abusive tactic used to belittle you. It might sound something like:

  • "You are so stupid."

  • "It's no wonder why everyone thinks you're a jerk."

  • "You little _____."

  • "You're such a _____."


Harsh and persistent criticism is used to chip away at your self-esteem. Some common phrases you might hear from someone who is criticizing you are "you always" or "you never."

  • "You're always upset about something, always playing the victim. That's why you have no friends."

  • "Can you ever do anything right?"

  • "You never do ______."

  • "You are always wearing tight clothes for other people to notice you."


When someone uses humiliation and shame to degrade you and lower your confidence.

  • "No one will ever love you."

  • "I mean look at you. No one else would ever want you."

  • "You're so pathetic."

  • "You are nothing without me."


Manipulation is used to control you and get you to do something without directly saying it.

  • "You would do it if you really loved me."

  • "If you truly care about me you will never do that."


Blame becomes abusive when someone blames you for their behavior.

  • "It's your fault I yell at you."

  • "You always try to make me mad on purpose."

  • "I have to scream at you because you never listen."


Is someone constantly accusing you of doing things that you don't do? This one happens pretty often.

  • "Why won't you give me your phone if you have nothing to hide?"

  • "You didn't answer my calls because you were with someone else."

  • "I saw the way you looked at them, obviously something is going on."

  • "I know you cheated on me, just admit it."


Gaslighting is used to make you question your perception of events. You might find yourself apologizing for things that were not your fault or that you don't remember happening.

  • "That's not what happened. What happened is _______."

  • "You really don't remember when you said ______."

  • "You are crazy."


Threats can be dangerous and are meant to frighten you into giving into their agenda.

  • "I will break up with you if you don't have sex with me."

  • "If you don't pick up the phone I'm going to do ______."

  • "Piss me off one more time and see what happens."

  • "If you break up with me I will tell everyone your secrets."

What To Do If You Think You're Experiencing Verbal Abuse...

What you do is always your choice. You are the expert in your own life and have the right to choose whether to stay in a relationship or leave.

It is important to consider your safety and well-being if you decide you want to end a relationship. Leaving an abusive relationship can be the most dangerous time so it's never a bad idea to create a safety plan just in case. Check out the free safety plan template below!

If you would like to talk it over with someone you can trust, our advocates are here to help on the helpline. Help is always free, confidential, and we will never judge you.

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