Verbal abuse gives you a gut response and it feels uncomfortable deep down. That's how I knew. I knew the person meant to harm me by what he said. Wheras when my teenage son says something a bit 'thoughtless' I know he still loves me and he is a kid being insensitive. I don't expect him to be like that when he is a grown up - whatever that is! And if I explain he doesn't keep on repeating the behaviour.
You don't need to only be yelled at and insulted openly for it to be verbal abuse. I had twenty years of it and spent the first fifteen wondering what I did wrong all the time. That's how it gets you. My ex would laugh at what I said, snigger and smirk, he would ignore me, withold any feed back. Verbal abuse can be passive too and it is not just what one person says to another. I was put down by being ignored ot just sniggered at. Devalued by being told I was mad and yes...'just too sensitive'. He laughed at me all through our councelling sessions until she suggested he attend an abuse workshop. Then he said he wasn't an abuser because he didn't hit me. A commom misconseption! There are NO excuse to verbally abuse another person. Just a lack in the abuser.