Gerrie Pretorius, a professional counsellor and founder of Life Counsel, chats to us about one of most common and least spoken about forms of abuse – verbal abuse.
October is Domestic Violence Abuse Awareness Month.
According to the Domestic Violence Act No. 116 of 1998, domestic violence is any form of abuse which includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or economic harassment. It also refers to damage to property, stalking, entry into a person’s property without their consent and any other abusive or controlling behaviour where such conduct causes harm or may cause harm to the victim’s health, safety, or wellbeing.
Sadly, according to SA Medical Research Council, 40% of men assault their partners daily and three women in South Africa are killed by their intimate partner every day.
Although most people can easily identify physical and sexual abuse, verbal, emotional and financial abuse are seldom spoken about, though they affect a lot of people.
Just because abuse is not physical, doesn’t mean you must overlook any other forms of it. “Don’t downplay the situation by saying at least my partner does not beat me up,” warns Gerrie.
Let’s look at some of the signs that could indicate that your partner is verbally abusive.
If your partner has a pattern of degrading or humiliating you whether privately or publicly, he is abusing you.
Repeated insults, ridicule, name-calling and threats are also signs of abuse.
Gerrie says even “yelling, name-calling, blaming, shaming and intimidation are all part of verbal abuse, and most often you will find that physical and emotional abuse go hand in hand.”
He says verbal abuse is just as bad as physical abuse and should never be downplayed.
“Verbal abuse damages your self-confidence, self-esteem, your self-worth, emotional well-being and it creates negative feelings and thinking,” adds Gerrie.
How to get out of an abusive relationship
To get out of an abusive relationship, Gerrie says it is best to remove yourself from the situation while the abuser gets professional help.
“Talking about it is usually the first step in hearing yourself and better understanding your situation. At times you have to get the authorities involved like the police or getting a restraining order. Find support with family, church, friends or work friends, in case if you need a place to stay for some time to figure things out,” he says.
He adds that you must understand that your abuser’s behaviour is not your responsibility.