What is Abuse?
Abuse is a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by another person or persons. It is an attempt to control the behavior of another person, a misuse of power which uses the bonds of intimacy, trust and dependency to make the victim vulnerable.
Abuse may consist of a single act or repeated acts and can occur in any relationship and results in the victim undergoing severe trauma.
In simple terms, to abuse is to treat badly. But, it is like an octopus– with various types and each equally distressing.
- Verbal Abuse is the most common form of abuse. It occurs when one person uses his words or body language to inappropriately criticise and demean another person, making the person feel that he is not worthy of love and respect (criticising, name-calling, put-downs, threatening, blaming). This pattern of behaviour that can seriously interfere with one’s positive emotional development and can significantly detriment one’s self-esteem.
- Physical Abuse happens when physical force is used to intimidate another person. It could be anything from slapping, pushing, kicking, punching, hitting, spitting, pulling hair, choking, throwing things, hitting with an object, etc. It is physical abuse even when a person threatens to physically abuse another (could also include injuries that have not received medical attention).
In many cases, the abuse starts as a child, who is not even aware that he is being abused, and later just accepts it as his fate. Emotionally, the victims are very fragile, lack self-esteem and will even cow down to be abused. They will even hide their bruises to protect their perpetrator as fear works in the favour of the perpetrator.
- Emotional Abuse does not leave physical scars but it can have a huge impact on one’s emotional well-being. Most people who are experiencing abuse of any kind will also be experiencing psychological abuse. Examples of this type of abuse include insulting, humiliation, blaming, controlling one’s behaviour, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse/excessive criticism , ridiculing one’s beliefs, race or religion, using constant put downs, threatening suicide if one leaves the relationship, etc.
- Sexual Abuse includes any sort of unwanted sexual advances on a person by the abuser. Molestation, incest, inappropriate touching, rape are all examples of sexual abuse– any non-consensual sexual activity is sexual abuse. (Denial of a partner’s sexuality also counts as sexual abuse.) At times, the abuser threatens or emotionally abuses the victim in order to sexually abuse him/her and it may go on for years until anyone knows.
In our society, the victim is often made to realize that he/she ‘asked’ for it or ‘deserved’ it. It is also important to acknowledge that even men are abused sexually but hardly speak up because of the stigma attached to it.
- Financial Abuse is often wrapped neatly in normal relationships and goes unnoticed. It occurs when one is not allowed to have money or any control over money. Worse forms of financial abuse happen when an individual is not allowed to have a job he/she wants, is deprived of every single penny and is dependent on the other for their survival. Financial abuse insidiously crushes the victim’s confidence and self-reliance.
- Isolation occurs when an individual is isolated from their family, friends, and community as a way for their partner or someone else to stay in control. It is a pivotal tactic of abuse, executed by the perpetrator on the victim and most of the time, the individual doesn’t realise that he/she is being isolated unless it’s too late. The perpetrator may be extremely jealous of any contacts one has and forbid one to have contact with anyone, or monitor phone calls, mail or daily activities, limit one’s social outings, hover around whenever at a social gathering and may even use intimidation or threats to control them.
- Neglect: It includes ignoring or not providing health, social care or educational services, neglecting to fulfill the basic emotional needs of a person or even withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition, etc
If the victim has been abused since childhood, the he/she will assume that everyone in this world is treated the same way — and that assumption always works in the favor of the perpetrator.
Any form of abuse is equally traumatising and and affects the victim’s overall physical, emotional and social well-being. Being in an abusive relationship can break a person’s confidence; may cause anxiety , depression , low self-esteem ; cause one to become withdrawn; and even make it difficult for them to have normal inter-personal relationships. Abuse might also result in the individual developing disorders like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, etc.
Internalising the fact that no one ever deserves to be abused and that the victim is never to blame is essential. We see people being psychologically abused and claiming that they ‘deserve’ it or blaming themselves for all the wrong that happened to them.
- Few don’t even realise that they are being abused. It is important to talk about the dilemmas you face and confide in someone you trust and who is able to take a stand for you. This way you won’t feel alone
- Don’t take the abuse passively or respond aggressively. It is important to be assertive while expressing that you will not be abused.
- Once you have identified you are being abused, Do not give in to the perpetrator’s demands. If the situation spirals out of control, reach out to the Police for help. The law is against sexual, physical and verbal abuse.
Ultimately, you must understand that you are never alone in this — help is available and that it is possible to survive from abuse and thrive. All we have to do is identify if we are being (or have been) abused and learn to cope from it. Psychotherapy is an effective tool when it comes to identifying abuse and chart a proactive plan to handle and confront abuse.