Abuse can take many forms:
No one should live in fear of the person they love or in fear for their personal
safety. Yet abuse can happen to anyone, at any age, in any life situation.
And not all abusive relationships involve physical violence. It is common for
emotional abuse to be downplayed or overlooked—even by the person being
Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, results when one person in a
marriage or intimate relationship tries to control the other person. Domestic
abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.
Physical abuse refers to the use of force against someone in a way that injures
or endangers that person. Physical assault or battering is a crime, regardless
if it occurs inside or outside of the family.
Emotional abuse impacts the victim’s self-esteem and sense of independence.
You may feel powerless to leave the relationship or that without your abuser,
you have nothing.
Sexual abuse is defined by any situation in which you are forced to participate
in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity, even by a spouse or intimate
partner. Sexual abuse is an act of aggression and violence. People whose partners
abuse them physically and sexually are at a higher risk of being seriously
injured or killed.
Child abuse refers to any activity that damages a child physically or emotionally.
From bruises and broken bones to emotional abuse and neglect, child abuse can
impact a child for the rest of their life.
With domestic abuse or violence, perpetrators use guilt, fear, shame and intimidation
to wear you down and keep you under their control. Your abuser may also threaten
to hurt you or those around you. Domestic violence is the extreme of domestic
abuse, wielded for the same purpose.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, your safety is in jeopardy. Establish
a safety plan that includes:
- Escape routes and a safe haven such as the home of a friend or
shelter where you can feel secure.
- Keep a survival kit ready with a change of clothes, credit cards,
medicines and legal documents that show jointly owned assets and bank accounts.
- Avoid arguments in areas that may have potentially weapons, such
as the kitchen or garage.
- Start an individual savings account and send statements to a trusted
relative or friend.
- Call the domestic abuse hotline in your community for information
on resources and your legal rights. Hotline advocates are ready to advise,
assist you in a crisis so you stay safe.
Experts estimate that up to three million women are physically abused by their
husbands or boyfriends each year. The National Violence Against Women survey
found that 21.5 percent of men and 35.4 percent of women living with a same-sex
partner experienced intimate-partner physical violence in their lifetimes,
compared with 7.1 percent and 20.4 percent for men and women, respectively,
with a history of only opposite-sex cohabitation. Transgender respondents had
an incidence of 34.6 percent over a lifetime according to a Massachusetts survey.
Studies on domestic violence show that one-third to two-thirds of abusers
do reform with help. But first, the violence must stop.
The CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey,
released again in 2013, reports in its first-ever study focusing on victimization
by sexual orientation that the lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence,
or stalking by an intimate partner was 43.8 percent for lesbians, 61.1 percent
for bisexual women, and 35 percent for heterosexual women, while it was 26
percent for gay men, 37.3 percent for bisexual men, and 29 percent for heterosexual
men (this study did not include gender identity or expression).
If the abuse has been going on for a long time, both partners should seek
help separately before entering therapy together. Victims need to address the
trauma they have experienced. Abusers must learn why they act violently and
how they can stop. Only then can a couple consider reconciliation. When children
are involved, family therapy can be helpful too. Marriage and Family Therapists
(MFTS) can help you cope with the aftermath of physical and emotional abuse.
Signs & Symptoms
Abusers use a variety of tactics to exert control and power. These include:
- Humiliation – Abusers do all they can to make you feel bad
or lowly in some way. The goal is to have you believe you are worthless,
no one else would want you, so that you are powerless to leave.
Isolation – An abusive partner will often keep you from seeing family
or friends, or going to work or school. You may need to ask permission to
go anywhere or see anyone.
Dominance – Abusers treat their targets like a servant, child, or a
possession. They make all decisions without input, tell you what to do, and
Threats – Abusers use threats to keep their partners in line. They
may threaten to hurt or kill you or other family members. They might also
to commit suicide, file false charges against you, or report you to child
Intimidation – Your abuser may try to scare you into submission with
threatening looks or gestures, by smashing things in front of you, hurting
your pets, or keeping weapons on display.
Denial and blame – Abusers place blame for their behavior elsewhere – on
a terrible childhood, a bad day and even the victims of their abuse. They
may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred.
Gaslighting — is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted
or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is
presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception,
Tips & Recommendations
If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, start a dialogue:
- Set up a time to talk in private.
- Point out the things you have noticed that make you worried.
- Tell the person you are there whenever they feel ready to talk.
- Reassure the person that you will keep whatever is said between
the two of you confidential.
- Offer to help in any way you can while being mindful of your own
Expressing concern will let your friend or loved one know you care and
may even save their life. Many victims need encouragement to open up and
address the abuse.
Physical abuse, assault or battering is a crime whether it occurs inside or
outside of the home. Victims should be aware police officers have the power
and authority to protect you from physical attack and your attacker.
Warning signs of physical abuse:
- Frequent injuries that are dismissed due to “accidents”
- Inappropriate dress aimed at hiding bruises, lacerations or scars
(such as wearing sunglasses indoors or pants and long sleeves in the summer)
- Frequently missed work, school, or social occasions without explanation
Rape occurs when sexual intercourse is non-consensual, or one person forces
another to have sex against their will. It can occur when the victim is intoxicated
from alcohol or drugs, or threatened with violence. It is a felony offense,
the most serious type of crime that a person can commit. People, regardless
of their gender identity, sexual orientation or age, can be raped. Sexual assault
is never the victim's fault--ever.
Signs & Symptoms
Studies show that 76 percent of sexual assaults committed against women are
by a current or former husband, lover, friend, or date. There is an average
of 293,066 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.
In the U.S., it is estimated 17.7 million and 2.78 million men have been victims
of sexual assault or rape. Every 2 minutes, another American is sexually assaulted.
After rape, the victim may suffer from a variety of physical and psychological
after-effects. Victims may experience:
- Feelings of worthlessness
They may also have trouble with:
- The inability to enjoy sex without intrusive memories of the abuse
- Falling and staying asleep
Tips & Recommendations
Rape victims should receive comprehensive care that addresses both the short
and long-term effects of rape. Frequently a victim's intimate relationship,
if there was one prior to the assault, falls apart within one year of the rape.
This adds another psychological burden on the rape victim. Men who experienced
childhood sexual abuse are at much greater risk for serious mental health problems
such as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, alcoholism
and drug abuse, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, problems in intimate relationships,
and underachievement at school and work.
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTS) can help you cope with the lingering
psychological effects of trauma and rape.
1 (Dube, S.R., Anda, R.F., Whitfield, C.L., et al. 2005).
Just as physical abuse can leave scars, emotional abuse is devastating to
one’s self-esteem and long-term wellbeing. In reality, emotional abuse
can be even more damaging than physical abuse. Examples include:
- Blaming and shaming
- Controlling Behavior
- Threats of physical violence or other repercussions
Someone who is being emotionally abused may:
- Be depressed, anxious or suicidal
- Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident
- Exhibit major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes
Child abuse can occur on many levels, but the common element is the emotional
effect on the child. Children need structure and clear boundaries. They need
to know their parents are looking out for their safety. For abused children,
the world is an unpredictable frightening place with no rules. From a slap
or harsh comment, to the uncertainty on when the next meal may come, the result
is the same: a child who feels unsafe, uncared for and alone.
Examples of child abuse include:
- Telling a child they are “no good," "worthless" or "a
- Constant shaming and humiliating a child
- Making negative comparisons to others
- Ongoing yelling, threatening, or bullying
- Ignoring or rejecting a child as punishment
- Withholding affection-- no hugs or kisses
Giving a child the “silent treatment”
- Exposing a child to the abuse of another-- be it a parent, sibling
or even a pet
Signs & Symptoms
Warning signs of emotional child abuse. The child may:
- Demonstrate a lack of attachment to the parent or caregiver
- Seem excessively withdrawn or fearful
- Be constantly anxious about doing something wrong
- Show extremes in behavior (extremely obedient or extremely defiant;
extremely passive or extremely aggressive)
- Act either inappropriately adult-like (taking care of other children)
or inappropriately infantile-like (rocking, thumb-sucking, temper tantrums)
Warning signs of physical child abuse:
- Frequent injuries such as bruises, welts, or cuts
- Injuries appear to be from a hand or belt
- Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something
bad to happen
- Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid
to go home
- Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved
shirts on hot days
Tips & Recommendations
Tips for talking to an abused child:
- Don’t interrogate or asking leading questions. Let the child
explain to you in their own words what happened.
- Avoid denial and remain calm. If you display denial or shock to
a child, they may be afraid to continue and will shut down.
Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong. It takes a lot for a child
to reveal abuse. Reassure them that you take what is said seriously and that
it is not the child’s fault.
Safety comes first. If you feel your safety or the child’s would
be threatened if you intervene, contact the authorities.
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTS) can help you or your child manage your
feelings and cope with the lingering effects of abuse.
Bullying is a form of unwanted, unprovoked aggressive behavior in which someone
intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying
can take the form of making threats, sexual harassment, spreading rumors, attacking
someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
There are four main types:
- Verbal bullying
- Social bullying
- Physical bullying
- Sexual harassment
Bullying is based on a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is
repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.
Here are some facts about bullying:
- Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year.
- Approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying.
- 17% of American students report being bullied 2 to 3 times a month
or more within a school semester.
- By age 14 less than 30% of boys and 40% of girls will talk to their
peers about bullying.
65% of LGBT students heard homophobic remarks like “fag” or “dyke” frequently
or often; 85% were verbally harassed in the past year.
- Over 67% of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying,
with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent
- 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their
- 90% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying.
- 1 in 10 students drop out of school because of repeated bullying.
- Physical bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle
school and declines in high school. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains
Cyberbullying includes sending hurtful or threatening e-mails or instant messages,
spreading rumors or posting embarrassing photos of others. Cyberbullying among
preteens and teens has increased dramatically in recent years as young people
spend more time socializing online, according to the Second Youth InternetSafety Survey.
Young people who are victims of cyberbullying are more likely to report social
problems and interpersonal victimization. Being victimized also increases their
chances of harassing peers online themselves.
Signs & Symptoms
Oftentimes children will not tell an adult about bullying for various reasons
such as fear of backlash from the bully, rejection from peers, or fear of punishment
from the adult who may judge them for being weak. Stopbullying.gov lists some
warning signs that may indicate a bullying problem:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
Tips & Recommendations
If you suspect your child is being bullied, you can intervene by using these
- Talk about what bullying is and tell them bullying is unacceptable.
- Discuss how your child can stand up to it safely, such as using humor
and saying “stop” directly
Talk about what to do if those actions don’t work, like walking away.
- Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near safe
adults or safe groups of kids.
- Encourage kids to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied
or see others being bullied.
- Check in with kids often. Listen to them, know their friends and
ask how school is going.
- Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests,
and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them
from bullying behavior.
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTS) can help your child manage his or her
feelings and cope with the lingering effects of bullying.