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Useful Strategies Against Verbal Abuse

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Reply Date

Oct 22, 2018

Question

I’m a 20 years old single girl. I am still studying. My parents divorced when I was 11 years old. After that, I lived with my mother and never got the chance to know my elder sisters and brothers.

Now, since I have come to pursue my studies, I live with my sisters. They have been mocking and disgracing me so much, yet they claim to be best sisters. Both my dad and mom work, but I don’t want to be a burden on them so I started earning my own money. I spend for my needs and for my studies while giving some money to my sisters. However, I find it so difficult to live with them. They say I’m so selfish and greedy because I don’t spend money as they do on things. They also claim I don’t give things to them. I feel I don’t have value in their eyes.

These thoughts have made me really weak, and since I didn’t have a good childhood, I feel I fell into depression. I don’t want to live with them like this, but I can’t leave them and go to some other place because they would dishonor me in the whole society. Please tell me what to do. I’m really confused.

Counselor

Answer


Strategies against verbal abuse


In this counseling answer:

“Let your sisters know that you will not allow them to treat you this way anymore. (e.g. “I am not going to let anybody treat me like that anymore.”) Keep your statement short and to the point. Don’t justify, and don’t apologize, and don’t negotiate. Simply state your boundaries.”


As-Salamu `Alaikum dear sister,

It seems you are suffering a lot in the current situation. May Allah help you and provide you with the strength and wisdom to be able to deal with the situation you are in.

What you are talking about dear sister is some sort of verbal and emotional abuse done by your sisters on you. Of course, I don’t have enough details to be able to know what could be the reason behind such actions. However, if they have reasons for what they do, they should convey this to you in a way that doesn’t hurt your feelings, embarrass you or belittle you. So, as we are now facing some form of verbal/emotional abuse, you should be able to learn some strategies as to how to respond and protect yourself and be able to live the life you want.

Firstly, you have to put in mind that an abuser does this out of weakness and not strength. An abuser abuses other people to cover his own insecurities, thus, you have to know and believe that they are in the weaker position. In sha’ Allah, you are capable of putting limits and setting boundaries for how you like to be treated. You deserve to be treated with respect.

Another thing to recognize is that there is a difference between healthy negative emotions and unhealthy ones. When a victim has beliefs about him/herself that he is in the weaker position and cannot protect himself, he will have unhealthy negative emotions like rage, self-hatred and anxiety. And such unhealthy feelings make the victim do some counterproductive behaviors that can encourage the abuser to continue his abuse, and hence the victim will be stuck in this abusive situation. An abuser wants to feel his influence on the victim and that he can control him, so if the victim reacts out of rage and anxiety, the abuser feels he has reached his goal, and as he is in control, he continues to abuse.

However, when you deal with your sisters from a strong position and with a belief that you are strong and capable of protecting yourself, your negative emotions toward their abuse will not be harmful to you. You will still feel frustrated, and this is normal as no one is happy when abused, but at least you will not be harming yourself and encouraging them to continue their abuse.

Now, let us see what the strategies you could follow to deal with the abuse you are experiencing.

Set your boundaries; let your sisters know that you will not allow them to treat you this way anymore. (e.g. “I am not going to let anybody treat me like that anymore.”) Keep your statement short and to the point. Don’t justify, and don’t apologize, and don’t negotiate. Simply state your boundaries.

Put consequences; state what you will do if they don’t treat you with respect and continue to be abusive. (e.g. “If you insult me and speak to me disrespectfully, I will leave the room; I will not talk to you until you are able to speak to me with respect.”) Enforce the consequence every single time they abuse you. You have to be consistent so as to get results. You have to expect that the boundaries you put would be violated again and again. So, just try to control yourself, detach yourself from them and apply the consequences that you have stated.

Have a support system; It is highly important to have a support system; someone who is trusted, supportive, wise and objective to help you through this process. This can be someone in your family, a friend, a friend of the family, a counselor, etc. Discuss the situation with your supporter(s) and what you can do to solve it.

Get counseling for yourself; It is very important to go to a counselor as well. A counselor can work with you step by step on becoming the person you want to be and creating the life you want to have. She can work with you on the depression you have and the childhood difficulties you have gone through. Through counseling, you will be able to build self-confidence and self-esteem and learn better ways to deal with an abusive situation.

In the end, I would like to tell you that those are your sisters, part of your family; therefore it would be very nice that you have good relations together. However, you have to first protect yourself and set your boundaries. So, if you feel there is a chance that you can talk and discuss the situation with them or any one of them when everybody is calm, you can take this opportunity to tell them:

  • how you feel when they abuse you (e.g. “I feel sad, hurt, and angry when you insult me.”)
  • state how you would like them to treat you instead.
  • state that when the negative behavior stops, you look forward to a renewed relationship.

If you believe this will trigger them to abuse you, then don’t talk to them alone. Make sure you have someone from your support system with you.

I pray Allah I have been able to provide you with some useful advice and support. Feel free to send us back if you feel you need any further help.

Salam,

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

Read more:

Do You Have Abusive Parents? Here Are 4 Things You Can Do

Verbal Abuse is Also Abuse

How Does Islam View Emotional Abuse?




About Layla Al Qaraqsi

Layla Al Qaraqsi has worked with islamonline.net since 2008. She has been the editor of the counseling section till May, 2013; then a counselor and writer since March, 2015. She has also worked in early childhood psychosocial development;and managed a support group in Egypt. Layla has been studying psychology and counseling since 2011 in the Islamic Online University (IOU) of Dr. Bilal Philips, University of North Dakota, and in several specialized psychological institutions in Egypt including Tawasol Center, one of the offline projects of Islamonline.net. Her studies also included group psychotherapy, psychodrama techniques, mindfulness.  You can contact her via: [email protected]

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