Practical tips to stop verbal abuse

A form of bullying that strips off a victim’s dignity

28 SEPTEMBER 2016,
A victim of verbal abuse
A victim of verbal abuse

Verbal abuse is a form of bullying that has stripped off a victim’s dignity. It’s a social ill that has plagued many. Yet, it remains unabated even to this day.

Recent news carried a story involving a teenager who committed suicide due to bullying. Thirteen-year-old Daniel Fitzpatrick of Staten Island, New York decided to end his life by hanging. He was a victim of bullying at his school. His schoolmates and some teachers called him “baby”, “lazy”, and other names. He tried seeking help from his teachers to stop the harassment. But allegedly, the intervention was not enough.

Because of the emotional and physical torture he suffered, Fitzpatrick’s academics was immensely affected. It got to the point where he was advised to repeat the seventh grade. Apparently unable to bear his suffering anymore, the boy resorted to suicide on August 11, 2016. He left a letter for everyone to know about his ordeal. He wrote that he only wanted a friend.

The tongue can be likened to a two-edged sword. It either builds up or tears down a person. While a word of praise boosts a weary heart, the unbridled tongue ruins a reputation. Words intentionally used to attack can immensely affect the psychological well-being of the victim. Its impact can go beyond imaginable.

Verbal abuse, also known as name-calling, is a social ill. It preys on all ages regardless of social status. And yet, not many victims are brave enough to come out to report the abuse. In Daniel’s case, he tried seeking a friend. Perhaps, all he needed was someone to listen to what he was going through. If only to ease the pain. But since he got none, he resorted to just ending his life.

By detailing his ordeal in a letter, Daniel sends a strong and serious message. And it was meant not only to those who made his life miserable. But rather, he was also trying to make a call on all humanity. He must have wanted us to move to action to stop bullying altogether.

The effects of verbal abuse

We have seen how verbal abuse and physical aggression affected Daniel Fitzpatrick. He is one among the hundreds or thousands of victims out there.

Actually, verbal abuse can happen anywhere. You can be attacked at the school, or at the workplace. Worst, abuse can happen right at the very place where you thought you are safest. Yes, many verbally-abused individuals claimed that they were harassed by family members at home. Most often, verbal abuse starts with the indiscriminate use of foul language.

Foul language is a common thing in many households everywhere in the world. And family members have to cope with it as a ‘normal’ thing. Although, they may get hurt, victims could not consider the hurting words as verbal abuse. For them, it’s just a matter of expression. And so, they are not keen on sharing or reporting their ordeal. Aggression usually occurs when the victim is subjected to racist or offensive remarks. It also comes in the form of insult, and teasing using sexually suggestive language.

Several studies have shown that abusers lash out because they themselves were abused as children. They have unconsciously put off their ability to feel emotional pain. And since they lost empathy for their victim’s pain, they abuse without caring a bit.

Children and teens who grow up in an abusive environment are most vulnerable. They are likely to develop certain physical and psychological conditions in the long run. They run the risk of acquiring migraine and frequent headaches. They may suffer from chronic pain, ulcers, and stress-related heart problems. Stammering may also develop in them. They even become prone to any of these conditions, among many others.

● fear and anxiety
● insecurity
● depression
● stress and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
● irritability
● anger issues
● suicide

These young people may then turn into abusers later on. They can take on from their experiences at home. And the vicious cycle will continue!

Outsiders may readily condemn the abusers and label them as narcissists or psychopaths. It may be true that they are suffering from mental conditions. But it’s unfair to accuse them as such. Primarily because we may not exactly know what they have gone through in life. But at least we can help save the young from getting trapped in an abusive environment.

Why am I particularly singling out the young people here? It’s because they are the most vulnerable ones. Setting a good environment for them would help them be good citizens in the future.

How we can help minimize verbal abuse on children and teens

Many experts have recommended certain steps to alleviate a victim’s situation. Such recommendations include:

● Asking the victim what was wrong. Generally, you can notice some major personality changes in the victim. In Daniel’s case, he manifested the changes on his academics
● Expressing concern for the victim. This was what Fitzpatrick needed
● Listening and validating the issue
● Offering help

And, if I may, I would like to add one more element to this. The fundamental thing we could do to minimize verbal abuse is to bridle our tongue. When we refrain from uttering bad words, we wouldn’t hurt another. An author once said, “careless words are a problem because they reflect a careless heart”.