Defining Abuse and Ways of Dealing with It

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“Abuse is any action that intentionally harms or injures another person” (Natasha Tracy, 2019). It is a single or repeated common occurrence and in many cases is committed by someone the person knows. Situations of abuse can happen to both men and women, adults or children. It can come in many forms but whether it be physical, verbal, psychological, emotional, sexual assault, or even rape being derived from what was once intimate relationships, or whatever the case, is not only wrong, but morally wrong and illegal in many countries.

Physical abuse can be defined as the use of physical force against someone else with which causes or could cause harm to that person. In a relationship, physical abuse often starts gradually, maybe with a push or a slap, but then progresses and intensifies over time, turning into shoving and choking. It is important to note that physical violence is illegal. Victims of physical abuse may avoid certain topics because they know that their partners would get angry and lash out, leaving them afraid of their partners and making them think they can’t do anything right. Physical abuse involves violent acts such as, scratching or biting, throwing things, force feeding or denying the abused food, reckless driving, using any weapons that can physically harm the abused, physically restraining the abused and any other actions that hurt or threaten the abused. After the abuser commits the action, it is common for them to feel remorse and apologize for their assaults. They may beg for forgive and promise that they will never do it again which makes it more difficult for the victim to leave the relationship.

“Verbal abuse is the only type of abuse that can affect every single person with any type of communication ability or understanding” (Kellie Holly, 2019). Verbal abuse can be any type of language or behavior that seeks to take control of its victims and make them doubt their perceptions or their abilities in oneself, eventually persuading them to subjugate themselves to the abuser. Offensive language that humiliates and assumes power over someone else, such as the homeless person belittling you for not giving them money, is verbal abuse but our minds also interpret body language into words that we can internally hear loud and clear, one such example would be the middle finger. The silent treatment is another form of verbal abuse, indicating that you are not important enough to acknowledge. If someone lives alone and their self-talk, the voice in their head, brings them down by making them doubt themselves, then they are verbally abusing themselves by letting their inner critic take the wheel.

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Psychological abuse sometimes referred to as psychological violence, emotional abuse or mental abuse is behavior aimed to cause emotional or mental harm. While common, few understand it and cannot see it happening within individuals because there are no visible signs. It can stay hidden for years and can be just as devastating as physical abuse. It can affect someone’s inner thoughts and feelings as well as exert control over one’s life. Victims may feel uncertain about the world around them and even unsafe in their own homes. Psychological abuse can destroy intimate relationships, friendships and even the relationship with oneself. It can also impair the development of children into healthy adults. With psychological abuse, the abuser may wish to test the waters and start off with small actions but before long it builds into something that can be very frightening, and threatening to the health of the victim. Signs of psychological abuse include name calling, swearing, yelling, insulting, mocking, ignoring, isolating the victim from meaningful events or activities and even threatening them or threatening to take away something that is important to them. Kelly Holly, author of ‘Verbal Abuse in Relationships Blog’ states that “You’re so cute when you try to concentrate! Look at her, man, she’s trying to think,” is an example of psychological abuse in relationships. She also points out that psychological abuse can include social, financial, spiritual and sexual components, such as, “In what world does buying that make sense?” or “How dare you spread around our personal family business.”

Abusive behavior can be derived from mental as well as medical illnesses. In some cases, previous victims of severe abuse go on to being abusive themselves because rather than being the out-of-control, helpless victim, they would prefer to be the in-control abuser. They may have antisocial or narcissistic personality disorder accompanied by anger or impulse control issues with the addition of substance abuse issues on top of that which all contributes to their behavior. Abusers who were abused as children may not have developed empathic abilities properly and might not see people as people but rather objects that were solely there for their convince. In addition to this, abusers may not see that the victim has an independent, personal life and would expect the victim to dedicate everything to them. Abusers commit the action for varying benefits, some of which are for the financial or sexual gratification that they would receive or simply because of the allure of power they wish to have over someone else’s life. Whatever the situation, abusers solely seek to control their victims and in most cases they would be unaware of their actions or dimly aware and not care. Abusers deflect accountability for their words and actions unto someone else, such as their victims, stating that they were the cause for their behavior or their outburst. They gaslight their victims and make them sound crazy.

Although very difficult, victims of abuse must learn to speak out because it is the best way to get help and support. While they can speak to trustworthy friends or family there are also a number of services that offer support. They could speak to social workers, counselors, local social services or contact various hotlines to help with situations of abuse (Refer to Figures 1 & 2). Victims of abuse may be left with lingering fears of being abused again so it is important that they get proper help and support. “Victims of abuse must know that the abuse is wrong and that the abuse is never their fault” (Natasha Tracy, 2019) they should know that the violent behavior is the abusers responsibility and that the violence is never acceptable or justifiable.

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