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Section 1
Verbal Aggression in Violent Relationships

CEU Question 1 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Introduction | Domestic Violence
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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New Content Added: To update the content we have added Domestic Violence information found at the end of the Table of Contents.

On this track, as an introduction to battering, before I start a discussion of physical abuse I would like to talk briefly about emotional abuse. Have you found, like I, that batterers use emotional abuse as a grooming process for the physical abuse to follow? I’m sure you have found like I that grooming is a way the abuser has of “testing the waters” for the tolerance level and boundaries of his victim.

The Grooming Process Unfolds
Here’s how this grooming process unfolded for Shannon, age 31. Shannon mentioned some of the comments her husband, Aaron, made regularly. Shannon stated tearfully, “He teases me a lot. He makes fun of the way I drive, the way I walk… He even criticizes the way I make the bed in the morning. I know he’s just affectionately teasing me. Aaron probably thinks my stupid little ways are cute, but after a while it does make me really feel stupid. I am not sure I can do anything right.” Shannon later revealed an incident during which Aaron shoved her onto the bed face down followed by a couple kicks because he felt the bed wasn’t properly made.

What is your first step in helping your possible potential battered woman that may be being groomed? Have you found, like I, that a way to help this type of client is to simply increase her awareness of the emotional abuse? I reminded Shannon that what she was calling "affectionate teasing” might in fact fall into one or several of the following four types of verbal abuse… I broke them down this way for Shannon… belittling, mimicking, insulting, and ignoring.

4 Types of Verbal Abuse

1. Belittling.
I find it helpful to discuss with clients like Shannon to be aware of actions or verbalizations that are resulting to making her feel smaller or ashamed of herself or her actions. I told Shannon that belittling could include laughing, smirking, and jokes like the ones Aaron would make about her driving. At one point, Shannon stated, “Sometimes he repeats things to me very, very slowly, as if I didn’t get what he said the first time, and as if I am a four-year-old.” I asked Shannon whether she thought it might be possible that Aaron was actually belittling her by treating her as if she were a child, rather than affectionately teasing her?

2. Mimicking.
After explaining belittling, I asked Shannon to consider whether or not Aaron’s jokes ever included mimicking. I gave her examples such as imitating a frustrated tone in her voice, or mocking something she said. Shannon burst into tears and exclaimed, “Yes, yes, my God, he does that and I felt it was okay because I am such a horrible person.”

3. Insulting.
As you know, all verbal abuse is not as subtle as some examples of belittling and mimicking. I asked Shannon what she thought about the idea that regularly insulting a loved one is not loving behavior, and is in fact abusive. I pointed out to Shannon that when Aaron tells her she can’t make the bed correctly, his communication results in an insult her competence.

4. Ignoring.
As you know, emotional abuse, which may be actually a grooming behavior for physical abuse to occur in the future, is not always verbal. Ignoring Shannon’s words, actions, and needs can of course be an abusive behavior. Shannon just felt that Aaron’s ignoring her was another indication of how unworthy she was of his time.

As you know, this list does not include every way that a person can be groomed for physical abuse through emotionally abuse. However, I find it is helpful in simply giving clients an idea as to what kinds of behaviors are included in emotional abuse. This short, simple list helped Shannon to recognize and admit that a problem with emotional abuse existed in her relationship. I reminded Shannon that even though each of these behaviors seems small on its own, these small behaviors can actually end up being a grooming process for Aaron’s later physical assaults.

In this track we've looked at how physical abuse can start for your client via emotional abuse as a means of grooming them for the violence of physical abuse. .

In the next track we will discuss what one client calls the “dog collar” of control and a client Personal Power Exercise.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Adams, A. E., & Beeble, M. L. (2019). Intimate partner violence and psychological well-being: Examining the effect of economic abuse on women’s quality of life. Psychology of Violence, 9(5), 517–525.

Cotti, C., Foster, J., Haley, M. R., & Rawski, S. L. (2020). Duluth versus cognitive behavioral therapy: A natural field experiment on intimate partner violence diversion programs. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 26(2), 384–395.

Derrick, J. L., Testa, M., & Leonard, K. E. (2014). Daily reports of intimate partner verbal aggression by self and partner: Short-term consequences and implications for measurement. Psychology of Violence, 4(4), 416–431. 

Hammett, J. F., Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (2020). When does verbal aggression in relationships covary with physical violence? Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication.

Jacobson, N. S., Gottman, J. M., Waltz, J., Rushe, R., Babcock, J., & Holtzworth-Munroe, A. (2000). Affect, verbal content, and psychophysiology in the arguments of couples with a violent husband. Prevention & Treatment, 3(1), Article 19a.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 1
What are four types of emotional abuse that a batterer may use to groom his victim for future physical abuse? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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