Are Modern Day Pranks and Jokes Verbally Abusive?

September 21, 2023 Cheryl Wozny

Jokes and pranks can be fun for some people, but they can be downright abusive for others. Not everyone will possess the same sense of humor, leaving the other person with conflicted feelings. Does this mean pranks and jokes are verbally abusive or cruel? For some, they can be. While jokes can be fun, hurtful or malicious words packaged in an entertaining method of delivery are still verbal abuse

Verbally Abusive Jokes and Pranks are Still Abuse

I've felt the sting of a joke from family members at my expense as a young child. These incidents ranged in severity as I grew older. Some of these included: 

  • An uncle compared my feet to a dolphin's flippers and said I should be a better swimmer because of them.
  • A parent made fun of my lack of breasts as a teenager and stated I only needed two Band-Aids and a string, not a bra.
  • A cousin in my school made jokes about my hair in front of classmates because they didn't like the cut and style.

As an adult, I tend to shy away from making jokes at another's expense. I know how hurtful words can be, even if they are not intended to be verbally abusive. Part of me still feels attacked when someone makes an off-handed joke about my appearance, actions, or life. I try not to take these jokes personally, but when they do happen, they still make me feel worthless and unimportant. 

Repercussions of Verbally Abusive Pranks and Jokes 

Not everyone will feel put down when they are subjected to verbally abusive pranks and jokes. Because I grew up in an environment where verbal abuse was a regular occurrence, my emotional state was degraded continuously. These circumstances left me feeling like I couldn't trust those closest to me, in fear of more abuse

Even today, as an adult, I feel lied to and hurt when facing pranks at my expense. I will retreat and avoid any further attention or confrontation to escape more verbal abuse. I have gotten better at speaking up when someone makes comments that aren't welcome or hurtful. However, there are days when I still resort to my fight, flight, or freeze mode to manage my emotions

Although many people consider how their words and actions will affect others, not everyone is rational when it involves humor. Speaking up is essential if someone makes verbally abusive pranks or jokes at your expense. If you see someone mistreating others badly, step in and come to their aid. When more people speak up against verbally abusive jokes and pranks, it empowers those who face this awful behavior to heal and move forward to healthier relationships. 

APA Reference
Wozny, C. (2023, September 21). Are Modern Day Pranks and Jokes Verbally Abusive?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Cheryl Wozny

Cheryl Wozny is a freelance writer and published author of several books, including mental health resources for children titled, Why Is My Mommy So Sad? and Why is My Daddy So Sick? Writing has become her way of healing and helping others. Find Cheryl on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and her blog

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