Sticks and Stones

If you went to any playground you would likely hear a child say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” in response to taunting. Unfortunately, this popular children’s verse is not true. Words are powerful weapons in the arsenal of an abuser. Emotional abuse, sometimes called verbal or psychological abuse, is one of the most common forms of abuse. Try to remember the worst boss you have ever had. They were demanding, critical, unappreciative and maybe even called you names. Remember how you felt each day when you had to go to work. You most likely had a knot in the pit of your stomach and wished yourself anywhere but at work. If this sounds familiar, you most likely had an emotionally abusive supervisor. Emotional abuse is under reported and often the effects are minimized. Many people think if there are no physical incidents, they are not abused. Moreover, society believes that if they do not see bruises, cuts and scrapes there is no abuse. Emotional abuse causes bruises, cuts and scrapes to a person’s spirit. Some victims’ of both physical and emotional abuse have reported emotional abuse is more difficult to overcome. Emotional abuse involves a pattern of behavior that degrades another person. This abuse can come in many forms and may be subtle. Abuse can be obvious such as statements of, “Your stupid! No one would ever want you!” On the other hand, it can be subtle like the person that always points out what you did wrong and offers “helpful” advice. The abuse can also be in the form of withholding attention such as never giving child praise for a job well done. The effects of emotional abuse are many. Most victims of emotional abuse will experience low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and many other psychological issues.  Physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, and stomach problems may also occur. For many this constant barrage of negativity has been so steady for so long that they begin to believe the criticism. Think back to your bad boss and how long it took you to leave, now imagine the abuser is your spouse or parent. The people in your life that are supposed to be your chief supporters are, instead, your chief destructors. Many do not understand why people in abusive relationships do not leave. However, if this constant negativity is all you have ever known, you do not know what you are missing until someone shows you. Therefore, the few kind words you give someone may be their first glimpse of respectful communication. Be mindful as you go about your day of how your words and actions could be perceived by others and be a positive force in the world and not destructive. If you or someone you love is a victim of emotional abuse, help is always available at the Watertown Resource Center. Visit us at or call 605-886-4300 for more information.

By: Angie Meseberg