The ‘Killing me Softly with his Words’ Campaign

The ‘Killing me Softly with his Words’ campaign raises awareness of verbal abuse which entails name-calling, insults, humiliation, intimidation, threatening comments and mind-games. The Sonas poster campaign aims to highlight the damage and the continual ‘chipping away’ of a person that results from receiving constant negative messages.

Killing me Softly with his Words Poster

“As the poster shows, verbal abuse can in effect slowly deaden someone from the inside out,” said Rachel Mullen, chairperson of Sonas Housing. “If a woman is experiencing physical abuse she can name what is happening and there are bruises and scars to prove it. Verbal abuse can have a hugely debilitating effect emotionally and psychologically but because of the lack of tangible evidence it can be harder for women to name it or to show its impact. No one goes to A&E because they have been humiliated and ridiculed and it’s difficult to file a complaint to the guards to say that your partner isolates you from your friends.”

Continual verbal abuse can be just as destructive as physical abuse, with victims saying that because of its hidden nature it can actually be worse. Reports show that psychological abuse, particularly ignoring and ridiculing victims, contributes to depression and low self-esteem. Psychological abuse has also been linked to anxiety, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. This is consistent with evidence from Sonas Housing which shows that 35% of domestic violence victims who apply for a Sonas house experience mental health problems as a result of living in abusive situations. The stress caused by living with long-term abuse can also have long-term health consequences such as high blood pressure and asthma.

According to Women’s Aid one in five women experience domestic abuse in Ireland, with this figure considered to be an under-representation given the hidden personal nature of the issue and the fact that, according to the HSE, a woman experiences at least 35 separate incidences of abuse before disclosing to another person.

“It is important for victims of domestic violence to recognise verbal abuse as a part of the overall pattern of abuse they are experiencing” said Deirdre Murphy, manager of Meath Women’s Refuge. “Women living with controlling partners may have internalised a lot of the verbal abuse and believe they are the problem because they have been continually told that by their abusive partner. What makes it even more difficult to recognise is that often an abusive perpetrator may quickly switch between verbally abusive and more caring behaviour which means the woman is often unsure of what to expect and continually off-balance.”



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Listen to Sandra's Story

A woman’s story of her experience of living with domestic violence. Listen, while her story is told.

(reconstruction with Actor’s voice)


Most men celebrate and respect women – they don’t control them. Good men protect and care for children.

Today men are proudly standing up and declaring zero tolerance on domestic violence of any kind. It’s time to help make Ireland the safest place for women and children.

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