What is abuse?
Abuse is defined as the physical or emotional control of another or others against their will and or agreement. The following are forms of adult abuse but in no way cover all. We could add to the list infinite item.
- Physical – causing harm physically to another. Punching, slapping, scalding, restraint, misuse of medication and or withdrawal of treatment.
- Emotional/psychological – verbally abusing, threatening, intimidation, coercive manipulation, humiliation. Online/social media.
- Sexual - assault, non-consensual sex of any kind, verbal abuse, innuendos, inappropriate touching/caressing. Photographing, videoing without consent and online sexual abuse of any kind.
- Neglect – withholding or withdrawing medical intervention/ treatment. Ignoring required care, preventing access to food, drink, sleep.
- Financial – theft, fraud, manipulation for financial or material gain. Wills, property and inheritance.
- Discriminatory – disability, race, sexual identity, creed, religion, culture.
- Institutional – residential care, prisons, hospitals.
- Employment – bullying, conditions, pay, workload, threat/s of dismissal.
I guess we can all recognise abuse either to ourselves or others. We may even have identified abuse but not defined it as abuse. Abusers like bully’s work on the premise of fear to enable abuse. Many victims tolerate abuse for countless years.
I hear numerous questions/statements in therapy from abused clients, but for the sake of clarity here are the main ones:
- "Why did I not do something earlier?"
- "How could I be so foolish/ stupid?"
- "Why me?"
- "Is it my fault?"
- "I feel so guilty."
- "I wanted to protect..."
- "He’s/she’s ok when they're sober."
- "Why did I go back?"
- "I wouldn’t have put up with that in my old job."
- "I was unable to say anything, I just froze."
- "He/she said it wouldn’t happen again, but it did, over and over again."
The first step in any form abuse is to disclose the abuse. This may be in confidence to a counsellor. Just sharing the secret of abuse dilutes the intensity. You may experience feelings of shame/guilt and have thoughts of betrayal. These are all common. But remember if we do nothing, the likelihood is nothing changes. Secrets and neglect often underpin poor relations and low self-worth.
So, keep it simple – if you’re the victim; trust, disclose, share, talk about it. Like photographs, negatives develop in the dark. By disclosing in confidence, you can start to make sense of what’s happened/happening and only then will you begin to feel more confident and think about change.
I have helped support and facilitated change/s in many victims of abuse. But the first step is down to you. If you’re reading this article and identify as being abused, take the first step to a happy healthier life you deserve.