Abuse refers to deliberate acts of physical, emotional, or sexual violence that are enacted with the intent to injure, manipulate, exploit, or demean another person. The term encompasses much more than outright physical aggression, and includes the arsenal of control tactics that abusers use to dominate their victims. These maneuvers may involve intimidation, withholding praise or affection, or manipulating the abused to feel dependent upon the abuser and/or wracked with guilt and self-blame.
Categories of abuse are typically defined according to the type of maltreatment that is committed (e.g. Physical or Sexual Abuse) or the nature of the relationship that exists between the abused and the abuser (e.g. Child Abuse or Intimate Partner Violence). Common classifications of abuse that emphasize the manner of mistreatment include:
Intentional misuse of force with the explicit goal of causing bodily injury or to intimidate (via hitting, punching, burning, scalding, cutting, biting, pinching, holding at gun- or knife-point, drugging, poisoning, strangling, improper use of restraint, more+).
The use of language (screaming, cursing, criticizing, insulting, threatening, or name-calling) or revoking love (rejection, ignoring or withholding affection, or isolating) to deprive you of your dignity or to make you feel worthless and invalidated.
Any form of sexual contact, advances, or exposure that occurs without your consent (touching, fondling, sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, incest, voyeurism, exhibitionism (frotteurism), or technology use (social media/texting) to disseminate sexual information about you without your permission or for the purposes of blackmailing you to perform sexual acts).
Profiting from the misappropriation of another individual’s money, property, or labor (particularly in relationships between caregivers and their service recipients).
Purposefully failing to provide for the needs (medical, food, hygiene, shelter, etc.) of a dependent (such as a child, an elder, or a person with a developmental disability), who is in your care.
Other classification systems that define abuse underscore the context of the relationship in which the abuse occurred, and may include:
One of the terrible legacies of being abused is that emotional damage of having been mistreated tends to linger—long after the abuse has ended and the visible wounds have healed. Physical and psychological indicators of abuse may include:
Although the psychological effects of abuse can be long-lasting—healing from trauma is both possible and attainable!