For those of you who read my posts regularly you will find that I am picking up the second topic under the header “phoenix rising”, the first having been “addiction” – today I would like to talk to you all about abuse and how to survive it. How any type of abuse can influence you, change you, break you, push you over the edge until you end of on the dark side of the mind. I want to talk to you about the different types of abuse and the according coping mechanisms. I want to show you that no matter how bad it is, you can survive it. How do I know? Well. I did.
What Is Abuse?
There are many definitions of abuse out there; I can personally relate to this one pretty well: “Abuse is an attempt to control the behaviour of another person. It is a misuse of power which uses the bonds of intimacy, trust and dependency to make the victim vulnerable”.
Abuse can come in many forms; it can involve only adults, adults and children, or only children; it can involve two people or a whole group of people. It happens everywhere, everyday, all around us and the worst we can do is close our eyes to it and pretend it doesn’t exist.
Types Of Abuse
- Physical abuse: can involve pushing, shoving, slapping, kicking, punching, hitting, spitting, pinching, pulling hair, choking, throwing things, hitting victims with an object, and using or threatening to use a weapon.
- Sexual abuse: forced unwanted sex, demanding the partner wear more (or less) provocative clothing; forced sex in any form; insisting the partner act out fantasies, and denial of the partner’s sexuality.
- Verbal abuse: a form of abusive behaviour involving the use of language (criticizing, name-calling, put downs, threatening, blaming); it is a pattern of behaviour that can seriously interfere with one’s positive emotional development and over time, can lead to significant detriment to one’s self-esteem, emotional well-being and physical state.
- Financial abuse: occurs when you are not allowed to have money or any control over money including debts being made in your name but also being made dependent on someone else’s money so that that person can control you.
- Isolation: a type of abuse where a person, usually a partner or a parent, sometimes a friend or even a boss, executes control over you by isolating you from your family, friends, and community; your partner may be extremely jealous of any contacts you have, forbid you to have contact with anyone, or monitor your phone calls, mail or daily activities; in their control over you, the abuser can be intimidating or threatening to a point where you feel the need to hide any outside world contact from him/her.
- Emotional/psychological abuse: can cause anxiety and depression and cause you to withdraw from everyone or everything around you. Examples of this type of abuse include insulting your family or friends, ridiculing your beliefs, race or religion, using constant put downs, threatening suicide if you leave, threatening to go to any lengths to take away everything from you that matters if you leave.
Child Abuse – The Dark Side Of Our Society
The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect. A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.
Child abuse is any action by another person – adult or child – that causes significant harm to a child. It can be physical, sexual or emotional, but can just as often be about a lack of love, care and attention. We know that neglect, whatever form it takes, can be just as damaging to a child as physical abuse. An abused child will often experience more than one type of abuse, as well as other difficulties in their lives. It often happens over a period of time, rather than being a one-off event. And it can increasingly happen online.
Types Of Child Abuse
- Domestic abuse: any type of controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour between people in a relationship. But it isn’t just physical violence – domestic abuse includes emotional, physical, sexual, financial or psychological abuse. Abusive behaviour can occur in any relationship. It can continue even after the relationship has ended. Both men and women can be abused or abusers. Domestic abuse can seriously harm children and young people. Witnessing domestic abuse is child abuse, and teenagers can suffer domestic abuse in their relationships.
Neglect: is the ongoing failure to meet a child’s basic needs and is the most common form of child abuse. A child may be left hungry or dirty, without adequate clothing, shelter, supervision, medical or health care. A child may be put in danger or not protected from physical or emotional harm. They may not get the love, care and attention they need from their parents. A child who’s neglected will often suffer from other abuse as well. Neglect is dangerous and can cause serious, long-term damage – even death.
Sexual Abuse Of Children
A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This doesn’t have to be physical contact and it can happen online. Sometimes the child won’t understand that what’s happening to them is abuse. They may not even understand that it’s wrong.
There are 2 different types of child sexual abuse. These are called contact abuse and non-contact abuse.
Contact abuse involves touching activities where an abuser makes physical contact with a child, including penetration. It includes:
- sexual touching of any part of the body whether the child’s wearing clothes or not
- rape or penetration by putting an object or body part inside a child’s mouth, vagina or anus
- forcing or encouraging a child to take part in sexual activity
- making a child take their clothes off, touch someone else’s genitals or masturbate
Non-contact abuse involves non-touching activities, such as grooming, exploitation, persuading children to perform sexual acts over the internet and flashing. It includes:
- encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts
- not taking proper measures to prevent a child being exposed to sexual activities by others
- meeting a child following sexual grooming with the intent of abusing them
- online abuse including making, viewing or distributing child abuse images
- allowing someone else to make, view or distribute child abuse images
- showing pornography to a child
- sexually exploiting a child for money, power or status (child exploitation)
Would all of the above have met your own criteria for abuse? Are you aware, do you look around you with your eyes wide open to spot abuse where it happens and to help prevent it? The following may be signs to look out for in a person/child:
- suddenly behaves differently
- problems sleeping
- eating disorders
- wets the bed
- soils clothes
- takes risks
- misses school
- changes in eating habits
- obsessive behaviour
- thoughts about suicide
Abuse often happens, begets and thrives inside of vicious circles. It can be extremely difficult to realize where abuse is happening because it is often well hidden; just as it can be extremely difficult to step away from abuse if you are a victim – you are scared, fear consequences, fear that you or someone you love will get hurt; the abuser is controlling you into believing that even if what you are sufferring is bad, everything that will happen once you tell is worse. I have only one piece of advice for you in this: DO NOT BELIEVE IT. The circle can only be broken with transparency. Abuse can only be prevented by apprehending the abuser. Abuse will cause a myriad of emotions from fear to shame to desperation. An abuser wants to execute his or her power over you. Don’t let them! What they tell you is a lie. What they do is wrong. Don’t let them break you, don’t let them win!
Effects Of Abuse
If you are a suvivor of abuse or your partner is you may wonder does that neccessarily always causes psychological or medical illness to occur. Not always – but: it does make it much more likely to occur. And the list of disorders that abuse is a strong conributing factor to is long and sad. A victim of abuse can develop:
- Emotional or psychological problems secondary to their abuse, including anxiety disorders and various forms of depression.
- They may develop substance abuse disorders.
- If abuse has been very severe, the victim may be traumatized, and may develop a posttraumatic stress injury such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or acute stress disorder.
- If abuse has occurred from a very early age and has been substantial, a personality disorder may occur
(such as borderline, narcissistic, or histrionic personality disorders or in some cases, a severe dissociative disorder such as dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder).
- Sexual disorders may be present. Sex may be experienced as particularly undesirable, or physically or emotionally painful. Alternatively, sexual promiscuity may be observed with the increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy that such behavior carries.
- Severe abuse can even lead the victim to contemplate suicide or carry out suicidal impulses.
- Abuse can result in poor self-esteem, which can lead to a lack of close and trusting relationships or to body image issues (particularly for sexual abuse victims), which in turn can result in eating disorders, which can be seen as victims’ attempts at self-control in one small part of life when they otherwise feel completely out of control and vulnerable.
Be Survivor Not Victim
Abuse is never OK. There is never a good enough “excuse” to abuse someone or to watch it happen without doing anything about it. We as a society need to learn to address this topic without shame or the stigma of secrecy. If you are a victim of abuse, whether that is in the past or ongoing – talk about it. Please. You can only stop it from happening to you or others when you talk about it. Find a person you trust – a family member, friend, teacher, medical professional – and talk. Find a support group and talk. Share you experiences and share the names of the abusers. If they do / did it to you chances are they are doing it or will do it to someone else. Your abuser tries to take away your power – take it back. And trust me when I say I know what I am talking about. The power lies within you. You can step away. You can walk away. You have the power to stop this – don’t let anyone ever tell you different! And if you witness abuse, the same holds true. Talk, act, do. I know its hard. I know you think its impossible. It isn’t. I promise.
Before closing this subject I feel like I need to look at a special type of abuse that has only developped in the recent decade or so and is based on all of us leading more of a virtual life – online abuse. Online abuse is any type of abuse that happens on the web, whether through social networks, playing online games or using mobile phones. Children and young people may experience cyberbullying, grooming, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or emotional abuse.
Children can be at risk of online abuse from people they know, as well as from strangers. Online abuse may be part of abuse that is taking place in the real world (for example bullying or grooming). Or it may be that the abuse only happens online (for example persuading children to take part in sexual activity online).
Children can feel like there is no escape from online abuse – abusers can contact them at any time of the day or night, the abuse can come into safe places like their bedrooms, and images and videos can be stored and shared with other people. Please be aware that that happens – and not just to children! Adults can become victims of online abuse, too! Again I advice this: be aware. Open your eyes. Don’t look away. Do. Act. Help. Support. Talk.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below and I’d be happy to answer! You can also always shoot me a PM at firstname.lastname@example.org