Words bruise

As I’ve discussed in several of my posts lately, my first boyfriend was abusive.

He didn’t hit me very often (in fact, I only remember him hitting me once). He didn’t need to. He could bench press 300 lbs, so I was just a rag doll to him. He pushed me around, threw me into things, or picked me up and shook me when he was angry. If I tried to run away, he would grab my arm so tightly that it would leave bruises in the shape of his hand.

Those things hurt. They hurt badly. And the bruises were ugly, purple and green.

It’s been five years. They don’t hurt anymore. And the bruises are gone.

But my first boyfriend left some bruises that haven’t faded. Bruises that can’t be seen. Bruises that still hurt.

Bruises caused by the impact of words.

I haven’t done the research, but I would guess that verbal abuse is far more widespread than physical abuse. As easy as it is to get away with physical abuse (hint: it’s pretty damn easy), getting away with verbal abuse is even easier. I would assume that this is partly because people do not take verbal abuse that seriously. 

But it still hurts. The words always come back to me, always in his voice.

Whenever I firmly stand up for what I believe I hear,


Whenever I am reminded of the fact that I am not a virgin due to the sexual abuse I suffered as a child I hear,


Whenever I study for a difficult exam in college I hear,

“You’re too stupid for college.”

When my current boyfriend tells me he loves me I hear,

“You don’t deserve to be loved.”

I know they say that words can’t hurt, but to be honest, I think I’d rather take my chances with the sticks and the stones.

Physical abuse is a terrible, terrible thing. But don’t ever think that verbal abuse is not terrible as well. Don’t ever think that just because your wounds aren’t tangible the pain you suffer isn’t legitimate.

If you have suffered verbal abuse, you have been hurt and it is okay to need to heal. I belittled myself for years for letting those words bother me. I thought I was weak for that.

But the truth is, words can hurt.

So, how do we heal?

Join the facebook fan page for Not This Girl if you'd like to get more involved in the fight against physical, sexual, and verbal abuse!

I’m still in the healing process myself, so I am not an expert. But the best advice I can give you is combat the lies by constantly filling yourself with the truth. And surround yourself with others that fill you with the truth.

God doesn’t make mistakes. You are a beautiful creation. You are significant. You are enough.

**Read more on this topic here, here, and here. If you have a story to share, feel free to do so in the comments or to send me an email. Help me be a voice!

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  • I haven’t gone through anything near as terrible as you have, but I know what you mean about words hurting. That’s why, when I’m particularly irate, I have been attempting to remove myself from the situation before I say something I’ll regret.

    My family growing up liked to yell at each other a lot. I can’t stand yelling, and it would sometimes make me shake. I remember once a close relative saying “Why are you scared of me?! It’s not like I’m HITTING you!!” The fact that she said it threw my mind in a tizzy. I don’t know how she wasn’t able to see what her attitude was doing.

    We don’t talk much any more. I don’t hate her or anything; I just value my sanity more than anything else.

    • ah, yeah, I know people like that. The thing with words is that they just get stuck in people’s minds and are so hard to get out! Sad that people don’t realize how much power words have and how much damage they can do.

  • this is why if I ever marry/have children, I WILL be kind with my words. I can’t bring myself to think about that possible future without that internal promise to myself. it’s kind of important!

    • yes, very important! i should make that internal promise as well.

  • I think that for me the most painful and offensive is ‘“You don’t deserve to be loved.”’ It rends my heart when I hear from people who have internalized this lie. A lie it is straight from the deepest, darkest circle of hell. Offensive because the underlying assumption is that love is a commodity, it is not. Love is not something that can be sold or bought, traded or bartered, earned or stolen.

    You ARE loved. Loved because God loves you, deserving because God thinks you are worth loving. This is true for

    Hope you don’t find this offensive but “bitch” as your old, abusive boyfriend used it (in his mind as some weapon) is kind of a compliment. You said that when you stood up for your beliefs he slung this epithet at you. But standing up for your beliefs, especially in the face of violence (you are so right that not all violence is physical), is integrity. It is a positive thing to not compromise your principles and integrity. What he really meant was, “Wow you are amazing, strong, and principled, but I cannot handle that because I have no self-esteem or confidence, and to make myself feel like I am worth something I have to control you and when I cannot I lash out. But this is my short coming, not yours, but I will do my damnedest to make you think it is your shortcoming by slinging epithets as weapons.”

  • Lauren J.

    Out of your post this one hits the closest to home for me. I wanted to just email you but then I felt like God was telling me to share my story so that it might help someone else.

    I have grown up and lived in a Christian home my entire life but but behind the doors that really only family gets to see is this monster. This monster is my dad, he does not physically hurt anyone but the dogs but he uses his words and his anger. For a long time I just thought that it was ok because it only happened every once and a while. However, over the last three year while I have been away for college I have seen it escalate more and more each year. At times it was so bad that I would try and find ways to not go home for holidays and breaks. More recently my mom has started to use her words negatively also.

    Back to my dad, when I left for my freshman year of college he quit going to church and has not gone on a regular basis since. I used to blame myself for this but I have come to realize that its not my fault and that I cannot blame myself for his actions. But since then his anger has become a lot worse and its not only towards my mom anymore, he has started to turn on me too. I would try to respectfully ask him questions about things and he would go on me. He has called me a “bitch” many times and said to me “f*** you”, that one hurt the most. Then there are times that you could never tell that he is ever angry but his fuse is short that I am constantly walking on egg shells because I never know when he is going to go off. He has also completely ignored me for small little things like I forgot to give him the money for my insurance one month. Recently, it has been a constant thing, not alway at me but he is or seems to always be angry, its really beginning to affect me but I am also beginning to open up to more of my friends and tell them what is going on and I am beginning to consider counseling get help me cope with this, because I cannot just leave this relationship.

    With my mom she likes to tell me in a nice way that I am fat and could lose more weight. One summer I even considered becoming anorexic because of the things that she says. Its hard because the first thing that she notices in anybody is their weight. I always feel that I am not good enough because of the way that I look, but I am comfortable in my skin and she cannot accept that, this is another hard thing for me.

    • Thank you so much for sharing. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to get that kind of abuse from your own family. At least I was in a relationship that I could walk away from eventually. You are very strong!

      I am in counseling now, and I highly recommend it, but must say that it’s very difficult at first. I also know that opening up to friends allows them to fill you with truth and that is also a helpful thing!

      Stay strong and remember that you are beautiful and you are complete in Jesus! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    In my first relationship, things went well for a while, but closer to the end of it, things changed. I had always been supported in my education choices but suddenly, I was being told I belong in the house. I was told one day while cooking for my boyfriend that I was “finally in the kitchen where you belong”. I thought that maybe he was joking. We continuously had fights more often than ever and one day he decided to text me it was over (because everyone wants to get that over text). When he called he screamed and yelled that I was “seeking attention” or that I was “faking my depression for drama”. The last things I remember him yelling were on account of my swearing at a good friend once for drinking and cutting trying to figure out what she was thinking. “Anyone who swears is stupid. Anyone who thinks of suicide is stupid.” and at the moment, I could only think of the literal words. After about a month, I realized he was calling my person stupid, not my actions. My actions were a bit skewed when I swore and thought of suicide. However, the swearing got my friend back in church and got her to gain perspective of how much people really cared about her. There were many other things both said and not said that hurt. I felt thin, ugly, stupid and unwanted.

    My second relationship didn’t help much. Within the past week of reflecting back on it do I realize that I was sexually abused. He lied to me for three months and then cheated on me with a guy because he was too afraid to tell me he was gay. After being told he imagined me as a guy almost the entire time, I really started hating my appearance. I wanted nothing more than to shrivel into a dark, damp hole and just forget the world. I couldn’t believe I had allowed any of that to happen to me. I couldn’t believe I didn’t see through the lies.

    My third relationship wound up slightly like my first. He became verbally abusive towards me. Though he and I both suffer from depression, he wasn’t understanding of it. I was going through a rough patch and he consistently yelled at me for supposedly making it out more than it really is. That also, didn’t help the depression.

    After those three relationships, I felt worn, useless, worthless, and ugly. I still sometimes do (actually, I do a lot). I’m trying to change that, but it’s been a very steep uphill battle.

    • I’m sorry you’ve had such an uphill battle. Sounds like all of your relationships were very tough.

      I’ve also heard many times that I was “seeking attention” or “faking my depression for drama”. It’s a horrible thing to say to someone who is suffering from depression. It’s sad how slow people are to take depression seriously.

      I know what you mean about being in an uphill battle- but your climb will we worth it someday. It’s easy for me to feel worn, worthless, and ugly too. I probably think at least one of those words about myself per day. But let’s keep filling ourselves with truth and keep climbing uphill.

      Thank you for your story, and I will pray that you find healing!

  • Iseebetternow

    Thank you for being open and honest. My daughter is in a physically and verbally abusive marriage. Based upon my research of domestic violence and abusive relationships, and from what I personally have observed in her, I would agree with you about the verbal abuse. It is devastating to a person’s spirit. It changes the way a person thinks about themselves. I’ve tried so hard to figure this out, because I want to help my daughter. Answers are difficult to find, but I think, at least in my daughter’s situation, I may have found a piece of the puzzle. Maybe you can help me know if I am on the right track, because I certainly can’t talk to my daughter about it.
    Well, here is what I’m talking about. When my daughter left her husband for two and a half months out of fear for her life, she told me one night, while lying face down on her bed, and with the saddest tone, that Andrew, her husband, used to call her the most retarded thing on earth (just one out of many things he would say). I asked her, “Did you believe him when he said that to you?” She said, “Yes, I believed him.” I asked her why she would believe something that is so obviously not true. Her response was heartbreakingly simple, “I believed him because I trusted him. I thought he loved me and wanted what was best for me, and that if he said I was the most retarded thing in the world, then it must be true, because he would only try to help me. I never thought he would try to hurt me because I thought he loved me.”
    A woman’s heart was designed to fully and (blindly) trust the one to whom she has given her heart to. When her abuser torments her with such venomous verbiage, she takes it so to heart and believes it, because she has surrendered her heart to him. It takes a while to push pause on trusting and believing him long enough to actually see him for what he really is, and to know that he is incapable, in his present state, to actually love and feel empathy and compassion for the one he is abusing. It takes a long time to finally see that the verbal assault is one of many tactics he uses to maintain power and control. It also takes a long time to realize that the abuser simply views you as his object of control, and not as his object of love to be cherished. He simply does not see her the way she sees him. Until she leaves, he perhaps never will. Thank you for letting me post. And thank you for your wonderful blog. It is helpful to me as I wait, year by year, hoping my daughter will see what you have seen, and leave once and for all. All the best to you.