Thursday, July 30, 2009



Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” How many times have we heard this popular childhood phrase? But the truth is, words do hurt. Those words cut to the core of a child and changes who they are (like Dr. Phil always says).
Emotional abuse is the most common form of abuse, but the least understood and the least talked about. Of all forms of child abuse, emotional abuse is the cruelest and is more debilitating than physical abuse. *“When it comes to damage, there is no difference between physical and emotional abuse. All that distinguishes one from the other is the abuser’s weapons.” Emotional abuse is often trivialized, and we think “she’ll get over it”, but the pain never stops.
Emotional Abuse Takes on Many Forms, including:

  • Insults
  • Criticism
  • Degrading
  • Humiliation
  • Threats
  • Teasing
  • Labeling
  • Giving the silent treatment
  • Name-calling
  • Rejection
  • Yelling/swearing
  • Threatening abandonment


  • Emotional abuse leaves a child believing what he/she hears and leaves him/her feeling unworthy, unlovable, insignificant, and needy.
  • Children who are emotionally abused are five times more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs.
  • Children who are subjected to emotional abuse are found to be angry, uncooperative, unattached, hostile, aggressive, and have an extreme negative opinion of themselves.
  • Repeated verbal abuse, such as ridiculing, insulting, swearing, yelling, and humiliation have long-term effects on a child’s self-esteem and contributes to feelings of uselessness, worthlessness, and self-blame.
  • Emotional abuse can have severe physical and psychological consequences for children, including severe depression, anxiety, persistent headaches, and stomach problems.
  • Emotional abuse can also affect a child’s social development and may result in an impaired ability to feel and express emotions.
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal
  • Low self-esteem
  • Aggression
  • Emotional instability
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Suicide attempts
  • Under achievement
  • Frequent crying
  • Self destructive behavior (cutting, eating disorder, etc)
My daughter was emotionally and verbally abused by her father. It started around the age of 4 or 5. He would call her stupid, fat, and ignorant. He would tell her he was leaving (because of her) and never coming back, just to watch her cry. When he got mad, the words would just spew out of his mouth. Of course, I never just stood there while he abused Hollie. I always stepped in, so he would turn on me – yelling, cussing, upset because I wasn’t “backing him up.” We had to walk on eggshells around him. It was a living nightmare.

I tried telling him over and over that Hollie was going to have problems later in life, but he thought he was “toughening her up”, getting her ready for the "real world". I know I should have left sooner than I did, and I carry that guilt with me, especially when I see Hollie hurting.

When Hollie was seven and he called her a “stupid bitch”, I decided enough was enough, and I developed a plan and was finally able to move out. After we separated, he continued the abuse during “his” weekend, so I told him either the abuse stopped or I would see to it that he only had supervised visitations. He finally grew up and stopped the abuse, but not before the damage was done.

Today, Hollie suffers from insomnia and severe anxiety. She has been diagnosed as borderline personality disorder. She has tried cutting, street drugs, narcotics, and alcohol to try to stop the inner pain. I have taken her to a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and four counselors to try to help her, but nothing has helped.

If you are a parent who is emotionally abusing your child, please seek professional help, so you can stop this destructive behavior. If your spouse is emotionally abusing your child, you need to make him seek help. If he refuses, you should seriously consider leaving. I won't make you think it will be easy, because it won’t be, but you have to do what is best for you and your child. And chances are, if he’s abusing your child, he’s also abusing you, and the abuse will only get worse.

Believe me, there is nothing you can do or say that can undo the damage caused by emotional abuse, because it scars the heart and soul of your child.

(About two years ago, Hollie’s dad finally apologized to her for the way he treated her. Their relationship is better, but still strained.)

*Andrew Vachss, Parade Magazine, August 28, 1994


Adriana said...

Wow, that is quite an eye opener for me. My husband also verbally abuses us, more so my son, which is not his. I'm actually going to send this to him to read and hope and pray it makes him think. I really hope he won't be upset with me.

I have before spoke to him about it, with no luck.

Hold thumbs for me.

Mhar's Display said...

If somebody verbally abuses me, I am not going to be a martyr.


The Redhead Riter said...

for you...

Melissa B. said...

A powerful post, and I concur wholeheartedly. SITS sent me over from Sharefest, and I glad they did!

Robin said...

Great post...

And with that....I often wonder why people delight in watching the reality TV shows. They are so very abusive. I suppose it is okay to watch and laugh because it isn't them. Some of those shows do such / say such ugly thing to those who are participating; things we aren't allowed to do to prisoners.......but society says it's okay and even entertaining to do it to these few participating.

BTW....Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!!

Teresa @ ♥ Too Many Heartbeats ♥ said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment! I truly appreciate it.

What an awesome blog you have here! You are providing such great information for parents of teens here. As a mom of 3 daughters, ages 23, 17 and 15, and a former paramedic, I applaud you for what you are doing. So many parents stick their heads in the sand and don't have a clue what is going on in the lives of their kids. It is very sad. May God bless you in your efforts in making people more aware of the dangers facing our young people.

I'll be back to read more when I can. Thanks again for stopping by. (BTW, my youngest daughter happened to look over my shoulder as I was reading your blog and asked me whose blog I was reading. She absolutely LOVES your background..and so do I!!)

Have a wonderful weekend!


Teresa <><

Carma Sez said...

if I could count the times I heard "toughen up" -- ugh!!

No child should have to put up with that crap. I'm sorry for your daughter, but glad her father came to his senses. Better late than never I suppose...

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you had to live through that. And my heart breaks for your daughter.

I was in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship for 3 years and it is devastating.

Honey + Lime said...

This is terrible. My son is two and my husband and I would dare not even think of making him feel any less than he is.

This is a great post!

Unknown said...

your blog has received an award, stop by my page to claim it.

Gamma Sharon said...

Wow... I feel for you and your daughter. I have a daughter that is borderline by-polar so I understand a little about dealing with the medical part of it. What a strang woman you are to go through all that.

Over from SITS to say Hi... you were ahead of me on roll call.

Lift Like A Mom said...

I'm so sorry you and your family had to endure such pain like that. That's rough.

Stopping by from SITS and hope you have a great day! Glad things are going better for you.

Nadia said...

i agree that sometimes verbal abuse can really be detrimental to someone... especially to their self esteem

Creative Junkie said...

Sometimes emotional abuse is so much more devastating that physical. Broken bones will heal but the scars left by emotional abuse will be there forever.

I came over from SITS for their Saturday Share Fest.

Kirsten said...

I am so sorry Holly had to go thru that. I truly feel her pain. Please give Holly a big hug from me even though I do not know her, but she sounds like a very special girl and I pray for her to become strong one day.

Unknown said...

Wow. Thank goodness your daughter has you. What a strong person you are and what a moving post!

Just stopping by from SITS

Frugal Vicki said...

following you from MBC. VERY great and needed post. Thank you for writing it!

mudmama said...

That is such an important message to get out there! So glad he apologized and your DD can heal!
a fellow MBCer

MommyLovesStilettos said...

This hits home for me. I have a six year old daughter and her dad and I have never emotionally abused her, however I recently discovered that her stepmother is...and her father allowed it.

It's horrifying to me to know that the six days she spends with them a month - are hell for her.

I'm just thankful she finally told me so we can stop this from happening. I was emotionally abused as a child by my father and I still to this day have issues because of it. I don't want that to happen to my baby :(

Robin@A Balanced Life said...

Thanks for making this amazing post. Typically, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of abuse is physically or sexually. However, the great information provided gave us all an understanding about the devasting effects and complications one can have from verbal abuse.

You daughters have a wonderful mother.

Kelly said...

Great post. I appreciate your honestly and openess on this subject. I think a lot of people don't realize that it's just as bad (if not worse sometimes) than physical abuse. My parents are so amazing, I can't even imagine what your daughter went through.

Unknown said...

Your blog here is very real! I can't imagine living under those circumstances. I also enjoyed your pics here- nice looking family.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for mentioning that the silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse. I got ticked off at husband for the timing of something he said (just as I walked in the door yesterday) and have been silent since our verbal upset. Just went downstairs to say hi to him, just to break the ice.

Anonymous said...

That is so heart wrenching. Thank you for sharing!

Stopping in from SITS. :)

Putting the FUN in DysFUNctional said...

This breaks my heart. I was just reading in my journal about the time a few years ago when my ex-husband handed my 3 children (around 4, 9, and 12 at the time) garbage bags and told them to pack all of their stuff and never come back to his house. It hurts to think of the damage these types of things have done to them.

seven thirty three said...

You are a strong, brave woman to find the strength to leave.

So glad SITS featured you. Such an informative blog.

Thank you.

Robin said...

Please be kind to yourself. You left when you were able. It's easy to look back and see what you would do differently with the tools you have now. I believe you loved your children and did the best you could at the time to try to do what was right.

Your children are so lucky to have a mother who is willing to see the pain and try to help. As an adult who was emotionally abused as a child I can validate what you are saying. Overcoming it is so hard. Part of it will be with her forever. But she can learn to trust herself instead of those mean tapes that keep playing in her head. It will take time.

God bless you all as you work through this.

Anonymous said...

I have really appreciated reading your blog tonight, as I am for the second time reliving the horror of my ex husbands mental torture of our child we had together now 3yo. My eldest was abused by him mentally and physically, but the mental was worst. She was made to stay up all hours using psychological torture, Di you love me, do you love mummy, then asked again to see if the tone changed, and then grilled for it. She was 2 and a half, there was nights where he made her sleep on the dogs bed because she was not worthy of her own bed as it was his house and if she didn't like him she wasn't allowed to sleep on a bed, she was made to wash her clothes by hand, for hours because she had slightly soiled her knickers, and tried to hide it in fear of being reprimanded, and as she did not do it right he would pile on more clothes, I had no family, no money as he always made ne spend all my money on bills whilst he drank his up, finally at 6 months pregnant, I left under a tripplle zero phone call made by a service I had come to call my best friend 'women's domestic violence hotline' in Australia. I never looked back, my eldest by the way is not his. I had her 2 months early as I believe a result of my ongoing bleeding in pregnancy I sustained as a result if my trying to protect my eldest one night at 6 weeks pregnant. Now I've battled in court for 3 years and it came down to supervised access centers saying he was a good father, very encouraging and polite, so now sadly he has 3 nights a week, it was fine at first.. But then Emily started coming home tired, screaming she didn't want me, restless and her hair all cut off, earings being removed, driving past his local bottle shops she once stated to me ' that's daddy's shop' I asked what does he do in there? She said 'umm he buys the brown paper bags.' she now says don't want to go to daddy's mummy, daddy hits me and yells at me, want to stay with you. I have no evidence. At all. And all the begging in the world to the department of child protection can not help me to investigate my feeble 'gut feelings' that what she saying to me are true as there are no bruises, and apparently they can do nothing. My doctor tried doing a referral, still, nothing. Now I just sit in her room every night she is away and tidy, cry and hope, that she is ok. Or that one of the neighbors hears and rings the police on him. Men like this will never change. There is no 'counselling' for them to make them change. Nor do they want to, in their minds, it's the 'right' way. If there is at least one thing I have learnt it's that if you feel like there us just something a bit weird or peculiar about your partner, leave. My mistake was I thought, I could, change him, you can't. Now all I do is think and sit and stay up all night wondering what she is being put through, for how long she had to stand in one spot, with her little hands on her head repeating his endless rants. Please read this and if it sounds like you, your pregnant, run to another country, change your name, go to china or any other county not apart of the Hague convention and love your child forever. Xxxx

The Budget Diet said...

Your husband's comment about "toughening her up" is what so many parents (and especially men) feel is important. Your story illustrates that it really is emotional abuse.

Eli@coachdaddy said...

What an incredible post. It's hard to imagine anyone treating my girls this way. To me, their hearts are so tender and vulnerable (even when their exteriors are not), that to heap any abuse on them as their father would be incomprehensible.

I feel for those who have had to endure such things. Having dealt with adults who've come from that type of childhood, I can only say that the effects are so long-lasting and planted deeply that it feels impossible to see them fully recover.

Cody said...

What an eye opening post! Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Unknown said...

It's probably very easy to fall into those habits without even knowing you are. This is great to point out, so that everyone can do a double check.

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