Finding Your Voice During Verbal Abuse

January 9, 2020 Katlyn Brinkley 

Finding your voice and reacting appropriately during an initial reaction to verbal abuse can be harder than it seems. Often, we can get wrapped up in a moment, as if our bodies go into shock. Sometimes, it's not until later that you can form words that, in retrospect, you would have liked to say, but for some reason, you didn't. This describes my experiences with verbal abuse, and I hope that my lessons help you avoid this frustration and become powerful in speaking your mind in the active moments of verbal abuse.

Not Finding Your Voice During Verbal Abuse

I've heard many stories, regarding verbal abuse and otherwise, about the phenomenon of not reacting the way you expect during a shocking moment. For me, a lot of these moments were when my partner would say something verbally abusive. While I felt anger, I never said exactly what I wanted to at the moment. Hours later, the words would come to me as I vented to my friends and family.

One thing that is important to note is that I was reacting, but it was all internal. I would be angry at my partner and a fight would happen. The problem was, though, that I was never able to illustrate to my partner what it was that he said that was wrong, and by the time we resolved the argument, I felt better and never truly got to comment on how the verbally abusive comments, however small, hurt me. So, why do we wait?

Delayed reactions to verbal abuse could be happening for many reasons. For me, I believe that while my gut knew the comments were wrong, my mind couldn't compute the reality of the statements. I had never experienced verbal abuse before, so I didn't have any way to identify it until after the relationship had ended, let alone in a real-time fight. Whatever the case may be, not calling out verbal abuse as it happens has many future risks attached.

Why We Should Find Our Voice and Speak Up

I wish I would have been more accurate in addressing the abuse in the moment for a hundred reasons; I would have felt strong for standing up for myself, validated in explaining the actual reason for being upset, and closure in being honest sooner rather than being frustrated later.

Regardless of my journey here, what's important to me now is that I learned how important it is to use your voice, especially in verbally abusive relationships. Here are some reflections:

  • Being the bigger person doesn't always mean being quiet. During the worst of my relationship, I thought it might not be worth explaining how I was hurt to my partner because he clearly wouldn't understand me, and I knew I was right anyway. However, looking back, keeping it in didn't make me feel any better. Communicating your side is beneficial, even if just for you.
  • Forming habits early determine how a relationship evolves. Verbal abuse can start off small, unintentional, and covert. By drawing attention to negative comments, you're informing your partner of problems that they may not have been aware of. Not addressing this can lead to affirmation that you accept it and start new, more intense verbally abusive habits.
  • Speak up for yourself like you would for your friend. Often, we are our hardest critics. We may not believe addressing verbal abuse is a big deal because, in the end, we're in a relationship where we must be being loved. The thing is, if you picture your best friend in that situation, it's likely that you'd want them to speak up for themselves and be treated as nothing but the best. Be that friend to yourself and defend what you deserve.

I realize that reading this is probably easier than practicing it, but I do think that's all it takes: a little practice. I now completely understand that staying in your power and realizing that your emotional health is something sacred and positive is the key to feeling the confidence to defend it.

Have you had trouble finding your voice during verbal abuse? Tell me what that's like for you in the comments.

APA Reference
Brinkley , K. (2020, January 9). Finding Your Voice During Verbal Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 14 from

Author: Katlyn Brinkley 

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January, 5 2021 at 7:27 am

Hi Katlyn, your experience and thoughts on how to stand up for yourself is powerful. Thank you for sharing. For me, I face verbal abuse but not from my partner but from his family. It took me awhile before I realized what they were saying to me is verbal abuse. At the time it happens I would be in shock and wouldn't know how to react or what to say. I would feel a lump in my throat if I tried to say something and later I would feel so bad about it and sometimes I loose sleep and cry all night. But with these tips, I will do my best to stand up for myself. You're right saying something is easier than doing it but I'll have to because sadly these are people I can't avoid and I want them to stop abusing me.

January, 6 2021 at 11:30 am

Hello Zuhur,
I am Cheryl Wozny, one of the bloggers for Verbal Abuse in Relationships. Thank you for sharing your story. It is so hard to try and act for yourself when those moments happen. Shock can certainly take over, giving us that Fight or Flight mode. I hope that as time goes on, you can find the strength to speak up and give yourself the respect you deserve. It won't happen overnight, but taking little steps at a time, can make a difference. I hope that you find peace with healthy relationships as you grow.

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