Calling Out Verbal Abuse Isn't Always Wise

July 29, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

Calling out verbal abuse as my abuser said it seemed like such a great idea. But it wasn't. Not in my case. The idea helped me to see the abuse but didn't help to end it.

During the time I was trying to save my marriage, I made quite a few mistakes. One of them was calling out the type of verbal abuse he used as he said the words.

After educating myself with many books (mostly by Patricia Evans), I made a list of the abusive techniques he has at his disposal. I learned them (hint: great idea) and posted them on the fridge (hint: terrible idea). Then, when he'd pull one of those tricks out of his hat, I named it, told him that I would talk to him when he was NOT trying to control me, and then turn on my dainty heels to leave the room.

What I Hoped Would Happen

I hoped that once he became aware of the problem, he would WANT to fix it. I figured that he would get tired of hearing me name the type of abuse (he did) and realize that he needed to change the way he spoke to me (he didn't).

My Results From Calling Out Verbal Abuse (Yours May Vary)

Naming the type of abuse out loud escalated the abuse to the point that he was a raging bull at all times. We COULDN'T talk. I hated having to give up whatever I was doing to leave the room, and a lot of the time he followed me. We played a sick "follow the leader" game around the house with him shouting as I tried to find refuge (and continued naming the type of abuse).

About three weeks after I started using this technique, he pushed me over the end table onto the couch and held me there by my throat and chest while he yelled at me. FAIL.


However, this technique did help me. It revealed to what lengths he is willing to go to deny his problem. One way to look at it is that his behavior DEFINITELY validated my belief - HE IS ABUSIVE. During that time, I recognized too many types of abuse coming out loud and clear from his mouth and through his behavior to believe otherwise.

I could no longer hide behind excuses like "That's just the way he is" or "He had a bad day" or "What did I do to make him so mad?" (and then spend days analyzing myself!). He wanted me under his thumb, and I wouldn't go back there. The first-hand knowledge I gained empowered me even though the abuse escalated.

Recommendation For If You Decide to Call Out Verbal Abuse

If you find (or fear) that naming the type of abuse out loud will escalate the abuse, then please be smarter than I was. For goodness sake, DO NOT CALL IT OUT WHERE S/HE CAN HEAR YOU!

But please, DO name the type of abuse in your head. It will keep you sane and sharp AND give you something to think instead of whatever your abuser wants to make you think. Doing this is especially important if you haven't figured out a way to escape the immediate abuse (i.e., your abuser follows you wherever you go).

*The categories of abuse I mentioned are from the book "Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out" by Patricia Evans, ISBN 1558503048, Adams Media, February 2003. I highly recommend that you read that book.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, July 29). Calling Out Verbal Abuse Isn't Always Wise, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

December, 6 2017 at 2:21 am

Thank you for the laugh on a time when laughing is the how to come by. I just realized after 18 years of marriage than that I am in an abusive relationship. I need this realization after he kicked me a few weeks ago. I have MS and had been or have been having depression for quite a while over a decade. I think I know why. I’m starting to call him out. We’re going to couples therapy tonight. I think we’re done. Still confused still in a state of August. I things for the laugh. I think I’m done telling him that what he’s doing is verbal abuse. I told him once I don’t think you got it. I am very aware of calculating in my head what he’s doing as he’s doing it. I’m hoping that my facial expressions don’t match what I’m thinking in my head because if they match my jazz on the ground because I’m just blown away by everything that is coming to life after the kick.

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