Woman sitting in front of fence“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

Words hurt badly. Words can be violent. They can entice violence—violent actions, violent thoughts, violent assumptions. Verbal abuse can be a severe form of domestic violence. Words can be violating.

When someone has had violent words hurled at them whether in person or online it’s an instant trauma—whether we know it or not. Although the psychic or physiological impact may not present itself immediately, without a doubt some part of our core instantly absorbs that shock. Sadly, we live in a society where the shock value has seriously eroded – it’s wearing off at speeds faster than light. When too many of us get to, or have been in, a place where we ask ourselves not “if” we will be verbally assaulted today but “when” this highlights the pervasiveness of the issue.

No, it’s never just a joke, and no, your comment isn’t for my good. No matter your intention, your look of solace and empathy or your vitriolic voice, it’s never just words. Your ‘bad day’ shouldn’t mean my bad day.

From our homes, to our schools, workplaces, medical offices, to public transit and seemingly arbitrary spaces it appears that some of us still believe that old saying about sticks and stones. Some of us haven’t yet realized that words not only hurt, but they can scar our spirits. Actually us survivors we’ve always known this – it’s our perpetrators who refuse to own it.

I’m a survivor of a scarred spirit. It takes many years and many supports to work through trauma, to live with memories of traumatic words and to live through when those memories resurface some days greater than others.

Today, let’s think about the power of words.

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