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tuesday, april 10, 2001

once again i am reminded how much we tend to overlook verbal and psychological abuse. almost everything you will see and read and fill out surveys on concern verbal violence. domestic violence brings up images of physical battery. books allude to verbal abuse, then fly right on by it. entire web sites are devoted to nothing but physical and sexual abuse, with next to nothing on verbal abuse. i know, i looked.

take a moment and imagine any of this is being said or done to you:

"how'd job hunting going?"

"i'm not looking for a job. we decided i'd stay home with the kids. we told you that."

"but i got those dresses for you so you could find a job!"

(domineering control and manipulation is psychological abuse.)

after giving your educated opinion on something you get,

"oh you're so silly."

(subtle but it's there.)

you're 10 and just dropped something by accident:

"how can you be so stupid! where on earth did i every get such a clumsy stupid child!"

(obvious enough for you now?)

"what a lovely dress! but, you know it would look so much nicer if you could just lose that extra ten pounds."

one of the definitions of abuse is "language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily". but that hardly sums up the devastating affects of verbal and psychological abuse. a closer definition is "constant criticism, humiliation in public, name-calling, isolation from family and friends, general harassment, threats to injure either the victim or those close to the victim, withholding approval and/or appreciation of affection, denial of worth, as well as the more obvious put downs." all of the above situations fall within this definition. i have only experienced two of them, but let me tell you, the abuse i experienced was devastating. you lose yourself in ways people who have not experienced it can't even begin to imagine. and it takes years to recover, if you ever can.

what brought this on. yesterday as i walked through the halls about three dozen journal topics came to my mind. by the time i got home they were gone. (lesson learned, getting a notebook tomorrow!). tonight i opened my gender book and had the memory of what and the why of one of those topics sparked again. in my gender class one of the psych students handed out a survey. i don't mind filling these out, they're anonymous and extra credit in case you need them. after going through my own mad scientist moment, i know how hard it can be to set up questions and so on. but this one really bothered me. for one, a number of the questions asked about things that can be general symptoms of anything, including adhd. secondly, the primary focus of the survey was physical abuse. when i got to those questions something in the back of my head said, "again?"

don't get me wrong. i realize the seriousness of physical and sexual abuse and neglect. really i do. and i am not saying that we should stop studying. but, my god, what about the rest of us???? no one other than my parents (in appropriate disciplinary measures) has ever raised a hand to me. but words can hurt and hurt badly. they cut deep. they leave indelible marks that will forever be in the back of your head, influencing how you view yourself, others and the world.

i will never be good enough for my ex in some ways. he never said so, but his mother never failed to let me know it. when something goes wrong, even if i had nothing to do with it, i have to fight those whispered words in the back of my head, "it's your fault." because some friend 'teasingly' blamed me for almost everything when i was a teenager. in my eyes i will forever be "four-eyed" and "buck toothed".

it's definitely time to change our focus and start the studies and surveys into verbal and psychological abuse with as much passion and frequency as physical abuse. it is definitely time to raise awareness of these devastating forms of abuse.

in so many ways i am so tired of my pain being overlooked.

post script. sometimes we think we're over things. then they hit us when we least expect it. it's all i can do to keep from crying. i am loved, but in the face of this pain the love withers to nothing. tomorrow will be better, the pain will be behind me again. but it will always be lurking to catch me by surprise once more. i just wish it would just go away instead and leave me alone. but deep inside i know it never will.

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