Verbal abuse (verbal attack or verbal assault) is when a person forcefully criticizes, insults, or denounces someone else. Characterized by underlying anger and hostility, it is a destructive form of communication intended to harm the self-concept of the other person and produce negative emotions. Verbal abuse is a maladaptive mechanism that anyone can display occasionally, such as during times of high stress or physical discomfort. For some people, it is a pattern of behaviors used intentionally to control or manipulate others or to get revenge.
Verbal abuse can be as damaging as other forms of abuse. The hurt of a deliberately aimed unkind word can be an emotional wound which never heals. A society in which individuals habitually need to protect themselves from verbal attack has put up barriers which reduce its humanity.
Should we ban insults? But you can do so much with them – fancy not being able to insult our rulers. Should we then ban insults on the weak? This is attractive, but unfortunately what has usually obtained is precisely the opposite.