Imagine yourself with two of your closest female friends, and let’s assume for the moment that you are also a woman. Statistics show that one of you will have been abused. If you are a man, then the odds aren’t much better. 25 percent of men admit that they have been the victim of physical abuse. In the United States, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused and many more suffer from verbal abuse each minute. That verbal abuse can take on many different forms, and most verbal abuse happens behind closed doors. Here are some common types of verbal abuse to watch out for in your own relationships and in the relationships of those you love.

Opposing or Belittling

Many couples have minor spats where they disagree, and society tells us that this is perfectly normal within any relationship. However, many of these disagreements stem from a form of verbal abuse known as belittling or opposing. In these situations, the verbal abuser constantly puts down the other person’s opinion, making the victim feel stupid and useless, or at least that the abuser believes them to be. At the same time, they refuse to offer anything positive themselves. Therefore, constructive conversation toward problem resolution is impossible. On the other hand, the abuser may constantly make their significant-other feel like their ideas are worthless or wrong while still proposing alternative ideas. Without respect from both parties toward the other, relationships can easily take on this toxic cycle.

Blocking

Another form of verbal abuse also involves frequent opposition to the victim’s thoughts and ideas. In this case, the verbal abuser may never let the person being abused discuss the topics that are important to them. The abuser may simply tell the abusee to ‘shut up” or they may switch topics so that no progress can be made towards resolving the conflict. This form of abuse can be severely degrading to the victim and also lead to damaged self-esteem. This form of degradation is one of many ways that an abuser can make someone feel both lesser in value and also without control, and can often lead to physical abusive behaviors against the victim. When blocking becomes particularly aggressive, it may become necessary to hire a domestic violence attorney. Otherwise, victims find it increasingly difficult to get away from a potentially dangerous situation.

Manipulation

While threats of self-harm and suicide should be taken seriously, many do not realize that they can actually be misused as a form of abuse. People experiencing suicidal thoughts need to be given access to immediate professional help, but an abuser may use it as a way to manipulate their significant other rather than to actually seek help. The abuser will frequently threaten to harm or kill themselves if the victim doesn’t say or do what the abuser wants. This puts pressure on the victim to comply or else be responsible for the death or harm of someone they love, and will make it much harder for the victim to escape an abusive situation without severe guilt.

Gas-Lighting

There are times when the abuser can make the person being abused feel like they are losing their minds. This is typically used to avoid blame or to make the victim believe that the abuse is all taking place in their heads. A common method is to escalate their denial to any accusation with further lies, blatantly denying any evidence against them. This either serves to wear down the accuser to the point that they realize that facts have no bearing anymore, or else to make the victim doubt themselves entirely. This also prevents the victim from gathering the help and support they need to escape an abusive situation.

While it can be very difficult, if you are in an abusive relationship, then it is important that you get out as soon as possible. While some verbal abuse can be done unknowingly by the abuser and can be fixed with earnest therapy, most situations are purposeful acts of manipulation and cannot be resolved. If you have brought up couples therapy and it has been received poorly, then you may be in a situation that could swiftly become life-threatening. Watch out for abusive signs, physical or verbal, and be prepared to reach out for the necessary help to escape your situation before it can escalate further.