What is abuse?

As an umbrella term for a series of problems, abuse is infuriatingly vague. Abuse is an obviously pervasive problem in today’s society, even more so than many people may realise. Most clinicians deal with the variety of abuses by dividing them into categories and types. The most commonly recognised of these are physical and sexual abuse. Ironically, these are also the more rare cases. Abuse can also be emotional in nature and while not as outwardly damaging, can still have devastating long term results. Often, abuse is not present in simply one form, but appears hand in hand with several different behaviours that can often be categorised with other kinds of abuse.

Who’s at risk?

It is important to remember that no one is safe from abuse. While it is often aimed toward the weak in a society – children, pregnant women, and elders being particularly problematic – it can easily become a harmful dynamic present in almost any relationship. Stereotypically, we often think of abuse as a problem in lower income families, but statistics show that it can happen to anyone, anywhere. While women are estimated to be the largest target group of abuse, men are also certainly affected and can be in even more danger because of their general unwillingness to report the crimes that have been committed against them.

Signs of Abuse

  • Anxiety
  • Post traumatic stress disorder
  • A severe reaction to being chastised or scolded
  • Dissociation
  • One person completely controlling another
  • Unexplained marks or bruises on the body
  • Repeated injuries that cannot be explained
  • Limping, broken bones, or bruising

Why does it happen?

At its most basic, abuse is a struggle for power in a relationship through unhealthy means. Whether it’s between a parent and child, spouses, or even friends, an abuser is seeking to control the target of their abuse through physical, sexual, or emotional means. When a person finds themselves in an abusive situation, it can often sneak up on them or surprise them. Often, they will even deny the realities of their situation because of their fear or any of the other emotional complications that can result from being the target for abuse. It is important to remember that abuse is never the target’s fault – it is an act perpetrated by the abuser against the target’s will and a violation of their very basic rights. It has little or nothing to do with anything the target has done, and is much more about the abuser’s need to control the world around them.