How to Walk Away From Verbal Abuse

March 10, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

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.

Now It's Time to Walk Away from Verbal Abuse

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Note-Taking

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.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, March 10). How to Walk Away From Verbal Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, March 30 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 28 2018 at 11:58 am

Go to court! Get a restraining order and have him served! We aren't talking rocket science here. Leave how to protect yourself and your kids. Don't you have any friends or relatives? Or have they all been through his and don't want to get involved. There are domestic abuse victims homes you can go to. JUST GET OUT!!

January, 20 2013 at 5:06 pm

I just wanted to let you know you were right to take a
stand. Yay you and you are brave & know you didn't
deserve to be mocked and trampled with words.
Sometimes taking a stand can cause more damage
you believe , yet you know the REAL story and justice
for yourself & kids is the right thing. He said these
things because he wants a break & wants you give him
reason to leave you , to walk out or tell him yes, the mere
reason he ignored also . He may want a forever break
& you did all the right things but he hes deep down
self centered & tired if you yes & ready for new .
I was widowed & remarried & lll never understand
the stubborn ways he treats me & ill testify
if i didnt keep pushing to have mended us back
together after he left , he would have never came back.
But the abusive words you wrote I did & still
experience . Just somebody with money &looks
he'd ready to escape the cares of life as
he's always done . A set guarantee to be financially
good & new start on life, this would be final & fine w/ him.
Some are just not cut out for death do you part no matter
how we wish it .

December, 16 2012 at 9:21 am

I'm not sure if i'm taking the right apporach on my marriage but I have been with my husband for 8 years married 5. for about 4 years we didn't get along then i wanted to change so i became a member of a church and changed for the best attitude wise and still changing for the better. for almost 6 years my husband has been calling me every name in the book, he also says he hates me i make him sick he wished he never married me and so on. but he does those things when he is mad but when he is not mad he is the greatest person in the world. we have 2 kids together soon 3 and we got into an argument 7 days ago and he left to his mother's and father's. on that day he called me a moron at that point i had it i told him to get out. packed some of his things and brought them to his parents. but all his stuff his here/home clothes tvs electronics. i mean everything. i think he called once but i missed the call he hasn't called me yet to check on the kids or to talk he hasn't been home. i feel like at this point i need to stand my ground and when he calls he calls if he doesn't then i guess i know what i need to do financially because he supports the family. i need some advice on what i need to do or if this is right what choice i made to make a stand for myself.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 28 2018 at 11:53 am

Stand your ground! Tell this moron that if he doesn't go with you to therapy then you are leaving! Bottom line no excuses! Apparently you can get along enough for a 3rd kid? Stop getting in deeper. Accept that you are screwed and let go of the material stuff! Are you going to ruin your life over a TV? Come on you know he's a asshole even though he's "Great" when he's not a asshole? Really?

December, 16 2012 at 2:27 am

i have been divorced and had to leave my ex husband because i cheated on him, but my 3 grown up children are with him and do not want to know me only if i go back to my ex husband, i been three times but everytime he takes me to bank and take all my money out so i wont go again, now this is the third time i walked away and to be with the person i love and he looks after me respects me, but ex emails me and says come back im thinkung of going back my heart says no then when i think of my grown up kids its says yes go. im scared do not know what to do he said if i do not come back he will get someone else in then the doors are sut on me what should i do help me please im stuck in between decision making now.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Holly
December, 16 2012 at 7:47 am

Ayesha, you could be talking about financial abuse, but since you allow him to take your money out of guilt and as a safe-guard to keep you from leaving, I am not sure it is abusive. You said you love someone else but your grown children won't talk to you unless you're with your ex (I presume your ex is their father). That is their way of trying to control the situation, to keep their mom and dad together. All kids do it or want it on some level, no matter what their age. This in itself is not abuse.
To me, it sounds like you want both men in your life - to have your cake and eat it too. You cheated on your ex for a reason. You say good things about the other man, but nothing good about your ex. I think, and this is only my opinion, that it would be best to let the door to your ex close. If you don't, not only will your ex close the door but your new man could too. No one can put up with their lover going back and forth forever - at some point, the pain you cause him will become greater than the love he feels for you.
If there is abuse involved in either relationship, then leave that one. Otherwise, your decision is yours alone and even if someone told you what to do you could not do it until you make up your OWN mind.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 28 2018 at 11:47 am

Why does this a**hole have access to your money? You have only yourself to blame for that so you can't really complain. Who cares what your kids think! And who cares if they don't care about you, why should they? You let him treat you this way! Get out NOW! If you have someone who cares about you go to him! Go where the love is! Don't stay where it isn't! None of this is rocket science!

June, 29 2012 at 2:54 pm

I'm trying to walk away from mine, but it is hard. I have eubpd,ptsd and children in care.
The problem ive got is my abuser is only abusive when I disagree with him or have an opinion. Also he has filed divorce on grounds of my unreasonable behaviour where I have tried to only defend myself from his physical violence. When he gets physically violent, he then turns to alcohol, takes an overdose and puts himself in hospital.
He has used my mental health against me in his divorce,he says 'divorcing me is the only way he will get his children back' but cps have told me they wont return them to him.
I've tried the police but im stuck because they think im manipulating the attack because of my mental health. He also ropes in my 17yr old son,he has brainwashed him into believing this is my fault. Since the children went into care this has got worse,I find myself verbally abused,emotionally blackmailed over the children,my opinion belittled and totally ignored when I stand up to him.
He then resorts to going out of his way, buying me things and being caring one day to make me believe he loves me, then acting as if he hates me the next. He told me of yesterday just for telling him I wanted to change my doctor.He takes no interest in what I am doing to get well, mocks me for using the skills I was taught in dbt and says 'he doesn't care' one minute, then tells me 'he loves me the next.
I'm told 'my son hates me' and called a 'sefish bitch' when my opinion on the children differs to his. I'm going through with my divorce, as I believe I have a better chance of getting well and even if I don't get my youngest back, at least I can try for my older children.
I am scared,I feel nobody believes me and I'm worried that when I leave he will get the children. CPS can't see this because he is different around them and in contact with the children,hes passed his parenting assesment through being decieving.I know when they come home, they will get hurt as one of them has in the past.However they are desperate to come home,and because of this the son that got hurt is scared to speak up and seems to be making excuses for his dads behaviour.I feel victimized, not just by my husband but by the local authorities who do not believe me because of my mental health.
If anyone has been here before,I'd welcome some advice.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 28 2018 at 11:41 am

So he "ONLY" turns into a a**hole when you have a opinion! We all have opinions all the time, like what to eat, wear, read, ect.
It's no use to go over all the points you made as they will be endless. He's a abusive man who has to have someone to abuse or he would go insane in the empty room. You already know this though, but you're making excuses for him.
"Get Out"! So what about all the excuses for why you can't leave it's bull. Those things will always be there, accept it and get out!
Who cares what your kids think? Their kids! By staying YOUR teaching them it's okay to treat you this way. I could go on and on but that would take up too much of my life.

James E. Nelson
April, 15 2012 at 8:18 am

I had been married for 30 years. The best thing I ever did (after she told me to pack my trash and get out) was to leave. The effects of a verbally abusive wife for so many years has taken it's toll on me. If your partner is verbally abusive - get out; you simply cannot change them.

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