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How to Walk Away From Verbal Abuse With a Purpose

Walking away from verbal abuse temporarily helps ease the trauma of the abuse. Unfortunately, the abuser doesn’t like it when you do not stand there and listen to the abusive rant, so walking away can seem like the absolutely worst option at the time of attack, yet walking away from verbal abuse is probably the best option, every time.

Before You Walk Away from Verbal Abuse, Prepare Yourself

Prerequisite to this experiment:

Make an extra house and car key. Always have them in your pocket or in a hidden space where you can subtly grab them. (As a commenter pointed out, you may not want to wear them around your neck as the chain could be used against you.)

Keep your purse by the door that is closest to where you park your car. If you do not have a car, place your purse by the door that most quickly gets you into view of your neighbors so you can walk to someone’s house. If you don’t have a car or neighbors, then keep your cell phone on you at all times and either “walk away” by going outside or by going into a room with a working window and locking the door. (Don’t go to the bathroom or garage or any room that has usable weapons or multiple hard surfaces. Right now, the attack is verbal, but it could escalate to physical violence and you don’t want to make hurting you easy for your abuser.)

Have your notebook in the place you plan to escape to. If you’re going to a friend’s, store it there. If you’re going to your car, keep it hidden there. If you’re escaping to your bedroom, …

NOTE: You know your abuser. If you fear physical attack by trying the following tips, then you are in a very serious position.  Carefully consider your own safety action plan. The Army has a good one; find a modified version of  their safety plan at Verbal Abuse Journals.

The key to remembering to leave the fighting arena is pre-planning. You can somewhat figure out when an attack is going to occur if you read the signs in your abuser’s behavior. Being able to do that will take a bit of observation, willing detachment, and note-taking.

Observe Your Body’s Warning Signs

Pay attention to your body’s anxiety signals as a forewarning. When you feel your heart beating and you’re trying to pretend like everything is normal, that is your first sign that an attack is imminent. Make a mental note of the time, and remind yourself to look at the time again when your abuser begins the abuse session. (Make sure you write how long it took from “symptoms felt to abuse” in your notebook later.) Ultimately, the goal is to find something else to do in a different location when the symptoms begin, but you’ll want to prove to yourself that you can predict the violence because you’ve probably been told that you can’t trust yourself.

When your abuser begins the attack, what is their facial expression? What are they doing with their hands? Do they call to you to go to them, come to you, or just start making a fuss to which you respond in hopes of calming before it gets too bad? Write down as much information as you can about his behaviors and expressions. When you’ve seen enough, it is time to walk away.

You can simply walk away without saying anything, or you can state one of your boundaries that the abuser has busted through. Say it once, calmly, then begin initiating your escape plan.

Notice that no where in the observation portion do you listen to the nonsense.

Willing Detachment

At this point you may be calm or you may be crying. You may be feeling all sorts of things because even though you “weren’t listening” you did hear. (How can we not?) Now is not the time to feel these emotions. You can feel them in a few minutes when you’re at a safer place.

Note: If your escape place is your bedroom (with a working window and a lockable door), have an mp3 player or something in there to help you refocus from the abuser who may stand outside your door to continue his rant.


When you are in your safe place, pull out your notebook and start writing down the facts. Recalling the facts will help you to further detach. Although writing them down may not make you “feel” better immediately, after doing it you will likely feel differently about what was said to you and how he acted. Over time, you will see that the “spontaneous” attacks seem more like “controlled terrorism” in which your abuser picks the time and place. What the abuser does is no accident, what s/he says is predictable, and the accusations s/he lays on you are nonsense.

When I was married, I was naively in denial that my husband would physically attack me (again). I would pull out my notebook and start writing in it during an attack in front of him. I don’t recommend doing that. Your notebook should be sacred and private. If you’ve never hidden anything before, now is the time to get creative.

Your notebook serves two empowering purposes. One, it helps you to detach from the pain of a verbal assault soon after experiencing it. Two, it provides you a record of “what happened” no matter how long it is between attacks. There is a tendency to “think we’re crazy” and deny to ourselves the hurtful instances we’ve experienced with our abusers. Your notebook will not allow you to fall prey to your own mind.

Author: kholly

Kellie Jo Holly advocates for domestic violence and abuse awareness through her writing. You can find Kellie Jo on her website, Amazon Authors, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

50 thoughts on “How to Walk Away From Verbal Abuse With a Purpose”

  1. i am 66 yrs old. i have lived with a man that drinks a case of beer every day. he has physically abused me i had him arrested. now he verbally abuses me i can do nothing right in his eyes. Three yrs. ago he divorced me when he found out he was getting his moms house when she died. i pay for half of all household bills. I live on disability due to a back injury. I want to leave but cant afford to live on my own. He knows that and makes my life hell. I have to stand up when he is home knowing it hurts my back. I no longer love him I feel so damn trapped.

  2. I’m so impressed by the strength of the women writing on this blog. Both survivors and future survivors. Thanks a million for sharing your stories. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t left yet. You are strong. You are surviving each day and you will get out when the time is right. Pray for guidance. I have been in an abusive situation for 23 years. I had no idea what was wrong until 12 years ago when my sister talked to a friend of hers (a marriage therapist) about me and her friend told her “your sister is being verbally and emotionally abused.” I had been physically abused too but was too shocked and ashamed to tell anyone. I had four young children at the time. I’ve been getting my own counseling for years now and my husband has come to counseling too but stil refuses to admit he’s abusive. I can’t believe the things I’ve been told about myself over the years by the man who is supposed to love and care for me more than anyone else. It crushes your whole soul. Counseling is happening again but still so painful to listen to him rant about me and make things up. I am trapped by the 75% of the time that he is good and fun and the fact that I know he will use my mistakes and eating disorder (I’m recovered now) against me. Also that I love him and I see his potential for good. I literally can’t be mean to him. I can’t say no. I can’t leave or ask him to leave. Thinking about hurting him makes me sick. Yet he doesn’t seem to mind when I’m hurting at all. In fact he blames me for talking to my friends about our marriage problem and says he can’t trust me. That I’m not loyal to him. It’s the most confusing thing ever and makes you feel crazy but I know it’s him. But it makes you question everything. I used to want him dead. Now I want to die. I can’t leave. I can’t do this for another 23 years. He will be nice and wonderful for months but then out of the blue he will rip my heart out. I try to protect it but then feel bad for being a jerk and being aloof from him. I try to forgive him and fix my flaws but he still finds something to get mad about or tells me that I don’t love him. That makes me insane. If he only knew how much I’ve suffered for him. My kids are older now and some want me to leave. They don’t know how I lasted so long. I don’t either. I won’t hurt myself because I’ve already lost someone to suicide and will never do that to my loved ones but I do wish that god would just give me a fast acting disease so I can just be an angel in heaven and watch over my children. Sounds peaceful.

  3. I can’t live anymore with his verbal abuse. Its worse than getting raped every day. I am threatened nonstop by him. I am garbage in His eyes. I want a divorce, but he says he has no money…I am physically beautiful, but physically sick due to a surgery.

  4. Wow after having yet another verbally abusive episode with my partner of eleven years this woke me right up….I found another post I had written on this site two years ago….nothing’s changed at all in fact I feel more helpless hopeless and stuck. Best part is I’ve managed to put an apartment together and refuse to comity to his oh move in with me and be a family will get married

  5. Hi. Me and my husband have been together for 6 years, married 3.
    He say the most foul things to me when he’s mad over little things are accusing me of something like sleeping around. He says things like “i hope you catch something and die, or you disgust me looking like shit you stupid hoe, all you gonna ever be is a hoe thats all you good for” mind you i have not stepped out on my marriage, he has. i never ever talk to like crap. at first i thought this isnt half as bad as it could be until i started standing up for myself which lead us to actually fighting because he wants me to stand there and listen to him degrade me until i have nothing left of my self esteem. we have 3 little ones, 3 yr old twins and a 7 month old baby. he is the sole provider as far as income. i have no where else to go and im a stay at home. i tried to leave before which he guilt me into coming back for the kids. i want a divorce but i feel like i cant do anyting without a job. he wont let me us the car or anything bc he pays the bill but both our names are on it. i dont know what to do. i feel supper stuck and its depressing going through this. any advice would be appreciated.

  6. Hello. Christine I am in the same situation as you. I don’t know what to do. I am from other country and I don’t have money for buy my tickets. I am trying to get a job and see if I can go home. First he doesn’t want I work now the he is having economic troubles he wants I get a Job I am looking but so far nothing yet. Now he call me useless all the time 🙁

  7. How do you leave an abusive relationship?
    You walk out the door.

    Having a safety plan is smart if you have time to gather important papers, photos, medications. Leave when he is not home. I left one day and left everything I own. I changed my phone number that night. Blocked him and all his family and our former mutual friends on FB. I told trusted family & friends to not respond if he contacted them.

    I was verbally, emotionally and physically abused by him. He followed ALL patterns Kellie talks about here. There was the tension phase (my heart would race) I walked on eggshells to ‘avoid causing him’ to rage/blowup/yell. I know now that I had absolutely no control over his actions. I did not cause him to do anything although he had me believing I did.

    Tension phase was followed by the actual abuse, blowup, verbal or physical. From standing directly over me yelling with his hand an inch away from my face, to the time he threw me on the floor and choked me. He got to the phone first after hearing me say something about calling the police and I was arrested. He used that over my head in multiple ways to keep control. It also kept me afraid to ever involve law enforcement again. He had a rug burn from tackling me, my state must arrest one party on a DV call and he had the visible injury. A rug burn. I’m an older woman and have never been assaulted–ever. He was unable emotionally to talk about our relationship like a mature adult. He’d say, “Oh stop your psychobabble”. He’d make up things I supposedly said in my sleep and punish me for weeks saying it was an ex’s name. He was insanely jealous & in rages call me a whore and say I sold myself. He used my family as a weapon, telling me he was threatened by them. What he was threatened by was my attention and natural love for my family, he was outright jealous of my son and our relationship. He worked very hard to tear it down.

    Then the Honeymoon stage where he’d rarely attempt a feeble apology. He never apologized for assaulting me, it was my fault, I had made him angry, I had purposely done whatever it was to set him off. His honeymoon stages became fewer & weaker, the time in between that stage and the cycle back to the Tension phase was shorter each
    Time. Pretty soon it was all tension. My heart used to race and my head was cloudy. I doubted myself.

    One day after a blowup so loud in our quiet neighborhood, I knew that was it. I was recovering from surgery and physically was unable
    To leave when I wanted to. I’d been ignoring my gut; my women’s intuition. It was screaming!! I educated myself on abuse. I read Kellies site and saw myself. I knew my gut was right.

    I called the National Domestic Violence Hotline and that gave me the power I needed to leave. You can call them as much as you want and they listen, no judgement. He had recently bought a gun without consulting me under the guise of protecting his home and his belongings from my own son. When the hotline heard hed physically abused me along with verbal/emotional Abuse and had brought a gun into the home, they suggested highly that I leave.

    I woke up one day and knew this is the day. I was terrified he’d come home while I was putting a few clothes into my car. The night before he’d almost lost it because he spilled a bag of chips. His face was so red I thought he and his veins were going to explode. At that point I sat back and amidst the palpitations I Marveled inside at what a sick person he truly was.

    I’d left probably 6 times in our 2 1/2 years together. I have severe spinal issues and it was very hard to sleep on friends/families couches. I always got tired and missed my own home, my own bed. Why did I always have to leave? I had to because I was keeping myself safe even without knowing it at the time–I couldn’t stay in that environment being screamed at, accused of things I didn’t do, told to Get Out Get Out. If I stayed he’d follow me around the house yelling, then he would withdraw affection not talking to me for days at a time. He’d post passive aggressive things on FB. “Did you ever mistake a life lesson for a soulmate?” Was one of them.

    The day I drove away I thought I was going to pass out. I went to a trusted friends house. I was emotionally exhausted. Living under a constant state of adrenaline, ready to fight or take flight is exhausting. The next day– after changing my number, my address and got a PO box, I filed a restraining order. I continued to call the hotline who connected me with shelters. Most were full but God told me I have a place for you. And did He ever. I’ve been surrounded by the strongest, most supportive women (and a few select men) who truly understand. This is not a step back, it’s been a step towards a new life–and a life without him. I’m getting healthy. I can think clearly again, make good solid life decisions and trust myself again.

    It’s never too late to change your life. There are organizations that want to help. I encourage you call the national hotline and start there.

    Leaving is scary. It’s striking out away from everything familiar. My abuser had me believing I couldn’t make it without him even though he was a tightwad. He’d buy food that I was expected to cook but use that in a way that he’d twist my thinking I wouldn’t eat without him.

    I’ve had 2 major surgeries in 7 months, one of them cancer surgery and treatment. I was worn down and needed help. Whenever I was down, he’d abuse me verbally/emotionally. To the outside he’d look like the savior. But they don’t know what is saved for the times we’d be alone. He did like to make sure neighbors heard his tirades, part of the humiliation he loved to dole out to me.

    I’m FREE!! I’m OUT!! I’m calm, confident and self-assured. I trust myself again. I love myself. Therapy is part of the shelter support system and I’d recommend that to all abuse survivors. I have PTSD from his abuse. A door slam shakes me up. But it’s not him slamming it so I’m okay.

    Thank you Kellie for allowing open communication about this hard subject!! It means the world to me to read your words and know that–IT WASNT MY FAULT!!!!!

  8. I’m in a horrible verbal abusive relationship. I know I need to get out because I am an amazing person. I have no vehicle, no job, no friends or relatives that I can go to. I am trapped!!! I hate it and I want out!!!

  9. I have been in my relationship for 5 years. I have a child from a previous relationship and a child with current boyfriend. We dated long distance for a year then I moved 3 hours away from my home to be with him.
    As soon as I moved in with him, his true colors came out. He would tell me i live like a pig if o didn’t keep the house to his standards. He would often drive to our home town without me just to get away from me. At this time I didn’t know anyone in my new community. All my friends and family werw back home.
    Now, 5 years later, I tells me I’m a bitch almost every week. Selfish bitch is his favorite line to use. It only occurs when I disagree witg him. He blames me for every thing. Tells me I need to work harder and to stop asking him to help me. ( I work 40 plus hours a week a still have 2 kids to care for).
    My biggest issue is that I have very few friends
    here. He reminds me of that often. Tells me i
    have mental problems and if I ever plan on leaving him, he will take our child from me.
    Says he has the resources to prove to a Judge that I am abusive and mentally unstable. He
    has drained my soul. He has started to criticize the way we have sex. He says that HE should be all I need to climax. I shouldn’t have to help myself. All of my brain tells me child custody is just a threat, but it still scares me enough to stay. I wish daily that he would die.
    He make 3 times the amount of money I make. He tells me if I leave him, ill regret it. Tells me I can move back in with “mommy and daddy” (that’s how he likes to put it). I never have money left over at the end of the month. He makes me split the bills right down the middle. Tonight he informed me that he is going to lease a vehicle so he can get better gas mileage to work AND keep his current truck. I told him I didn’t think it was fair for him to have an extra couple of hundred a month and for me to not even have enough to by pants for work. That was a mistake. SELFISH BITCH! Always thinking about myself. “If you want more, you need to work harder, stop asking me to buy shit for you. You don’t deserve shit”
    How do I get out? I have 8 dollars in my account and can’t save anything because it all goes to bills.

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