While most people think of spousal abuse as physical violence, verbal abuse is just as common. It can be harder to spot verbal abuse, but that doesn’t make it any less abusive. Verbal abuse may start out as subtle insults about matters such as a spouse’s weight, appearance, personality, or intelligence. This type of abuse may escalate to threats of physical violence or death threats. Verbal abuse may happen in private or in public with the intention of further humiliating the victim. Many people brush this type of abuse off, but it can be damaging to a person’s self-esteem and mental health. It is especially harmful to children to listen to one parent verbally abuse another.

What is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse can take many forms. It may include verbal abuse, such as insults and threats, but it may also involve other actions. One of the most common types of emotional abuse is gaslighting. In this type of emotional abuse, an abuser will try to confuse a victim into second-guessing their memory of events or question their perception of abuse. Gaslighting makes the victim think they imagined the abusive outburst itself or the severity of the outbursts. Emotional abuse in the form of gaslighting may look like the following: blaming the victim for something they did not do, telling the victim no one will believe them, accusing the victim of overreacting or being “too emotional” when abused, hiding objects from the victim to make them think they have misplaced things, and asserting control over finances or other means of independence.

What About Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence typically means physical violence between married or long-term domestic partners. Since this form of abuse shows physical marks on the victim’s body, it is easier to prove in a concrete sense. This is not to say that verbal and emotional abuse are not related to domestic abuse. In many abusive relationships, an abuser will use all three forms of abuse to harm and control their victim. It is also worth noting that the non-physical types of abuse (verbal and emotional) may one day escalate to physical violence with some abusers. Domestic violence is also a more significant threat to the victim and may require immediate legal intervention with a domestic violence restraining order.

How Can a Lawyer Help?

When someone experiences abuse from a spouse, they may be confused about their legal options. A reliable family law lawyer may be able to help answer questions about the possible avenues for legal recourse. In most states, verbal and emotional abuse doesn’t carry criminal charges in the same way that physical domestic violence does in a court of law. However, verbal and emotional abuse may still be a factor in divorce proceedings, especially for matters such as gaining sole custody of minor children to limit their exposure to an abuser. If a spouse is experiencing verbal and/or emotional abuse, a divorce is often worth considering, and a trusted divorce lawyer will be able to help an abused spouse gain legal freedom from an abuser. Contact our law firm today at (310) 271-7675 for more information on how we can help.