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Abuse Resource Center



Do You Want to Leave Him?

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, read our Leave Abuse Plan of Attack Guide on how to (safetly) leave your partner. We cover topics like how to change your bank accounts, hide your phone number, find emergency shelter, etc.

If you are a single mother in an abuse relationship or married and need information about how to survive as a single mother, we encourage you to check out this single mother help website.

The word 'abuse' is everywhere these days. There are stories of child abuse, domestic abuse, alcohol abuse, substance abuse and more. But what exactly is abuse?

The dictionary definition of the term is:

  • to use wrongly, or improperly.
  • to misuse.
  • To misuse authority
  • to treat in a harmful, injurious or offensive way
  • to speak insultingly, harmfully or unjustly to or about someone
  • to commit a sexual assault

Anyone can fall victim to abuse. It isn't confined to any age group, gender, position in society or level of intelligence and education. This also applies to becoming an abuser. No one can tell an abuser from the outside. And, although some victims of abuse bear physical scars, others are damaged in ways that cannot be detected by merely looking. Abuse can be overt, or insidious. Whatever form it takes, though, help can be found. Whether you are being abused, have suffered abuse in the past that affects your life now, are an abuser or feel that you may be about to become an abuser, you can reach out for help. Equally, advice can be given to friends and families or simply concerned members of the public who know or suspect that abuse is taking place.



Often, women with children (who are married or in a relationship with the father of those children) are the biggest victims of domestic abuse because their circumstances (being responsible for taking care of children and the financial and emotional difficult of leaving their partner). We encourage you to check out SingleMoms.org for guidance on single mother hood (financial, emotional, and parenting help).

 

Domestic Abuse 101 – The complete guide to domestic abuse - why it occurs, types of abuse, how to recognize it, and how to escape it

Domestic Violence – Domestic Violence -- what you can do about it

Types of Abuse – The major types of abuse and what to do about it

Domestic Violence Statistics – A list of some of the major domestic stats for the UK and the US

Domestic Violence Facts – Facts about Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Shelters – Information about Domestic Violence Shelters

Domestic Abuse versus Domestic Violence – Domestic Abuse vs. Domestic Violence -- what is the difference?

Effects of Domestic Violence – What are the physical and psychological effects of domestic violence on the victim?

What is an Abusive Relationship? – A guide on how to tell if you are in an abusive relationship?

Parental Abuse – Help for victims of parental abuse

What is Domestic Violence? – Defining what domestic violence means

What is Domestic Abuse? – Defining just what domestic abuse really is

Sibling Abuse Help – Help for victims of sibling abuse

What is Abuse? – Getting out of an abusive relationship isn’t easy, but help is available. Learn how to protect yourself while you explore your options.

Women Abusing Men – Not all domestic abuse is men abusing women; women can, and do, abuse men. This article explores the issue of women abusing men

Cycle of Abuse - A Picture Graph of the Cycle of Abuse

Why Women Stay - Why do women stay in abusive relationships?

The Abuser Profile –Find out the template of an abuser

The Power Wheel - A visual diagram of the Power Wheel Dynamic

Support Groups for Domestic Violence - Victim of domestic violence and in need of finding a support group? Read this article!

RESOURCE LIST FOR ABUSE - Resources and links for those looking to escape abuse, find an emergency abuse hotline, or to find abuse counceling from experts

Domestic Violence Resources - Some resources for domestic violence victims

Forumulating An Emergency Plan – If you are in an abusive situation, you should have an emergency plan in case you do suddenly have to leave. Here is how to put one together and what you need to know.

Children and Domestic Abuse – Children often suffer the most when domestic abuse occurs, if not directly than certainly indirectly

Teenagers and Abuse – The issues of family abuse and how it affects teenagers

Leaving An Abuse Partner: The Plan of Attack – It's a big step to leave, but often a necessary one. Read this for a concrete, step by step strategy for leaving an abusive partner while protecting your privacy and assets.

Help for Battered Women – Recovery from abuse is possible

Counseling Resources – Counseling resources relating to domestic abuse

Sexual Abuse Help Center – Articles and resources relating to Sexual Abuse

Spousal Abuse Help Center – Articles and resources relating to Spousal Abuse

Emotional Abuse Help Center – An section devoted to helping victims of emotional abuse

Are You In an Emotionally Abusive Relationship? – Find out if YOU are in a emotionally abusive relationship

Emotional Abuse Test – A test to self-diagnosis an emotional abusivive relationship

How to Treat Emotional Abuse – Learn how to treat emotional abuse

Verbal Abuse Help Center – A complete guide to treating, diagnosing, and protecting against Verbal Abuse

Child Abuse Help Center – Help for victims of child abuse

Financial Abuse Help Center – Help for victims of financial abuse

Addictions Help Center – Help dealing with major addictions

Drug Addiction Help – Help dealing with drug addiction / drug abuse

An Overview of Abuse

Forms of Abuse

Forms of Abuse

A healthy relationship is when two people develop a connection based on:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Stalking
  • Digital abuse (cyber bullying)
  • Financial abuse
  • Abuse of power

Categories of Abuse

  • Domestic abuse (abusive relationships)
  • Abuse of the elderly or disabled
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Self abuse
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Bullying and cyber bullying by peer groups

Abuse can take many forms. When we talk about abuse, we may mean any of the following:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Stalking
  • Digital abuse (cyber bullying)
  • Financial abuse
  • Abuse of power

These basic forms of abuse can then be further defined into several broad categories:

  • Domestic abuse (abusive relationships)
  • Abuse of the elderly or disabled
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Self abuse
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Bullying and cyber bullying by peer groups

One of the problems with abuse is that it tends to take away a person's self confidence. Victims of abuse can begin to feel as though they have somehow brought the abuse upon themselves; that they are responsible for the situation or even actually to blame for it. This may happen as a result of the abuser telling them this (common in domestic abuse) as an extra form of control and intimidation. Or, it can happen as a result of a loss of self worth through the process of abuse. Even abusers can begin to hate themselves, although they are powerless to stop what they are doing. All of this means that abuse is often hidden. Both the abused and the abuser are afraid to bring attention to the problem, and so the cycle gains severity and momentum. It takes courage to 'come clean' about abuse, but whichever position you are in it is the only way to stop it.



Recognizing Abuse

The first step to dealing with abuse is to recognise that you are trapped in the cycle: i.e., to admit to yourself that there is a problem. Many victims of abuse exist in a state of denial for a long time. They rationalise that an odd slap or shove doesn't constitute abuse. It does. Abuse comes at many levels, and even the lower levels of abuse can be damaging and dangerous. A push can cause serious injury, especially if the victim is standing near to hard objects, at the top of the stairs, near a window or beside a road. Abusers are out of control, and although 'just a push' may seem insignificant to them, they don't stop to think through the consequences.  A child, directing insults at another child, may have no idea of the potential harm of their actions. What is taken as 'sticks and stones'  by one child can send another spiralling down into fear and self loathing. So, recognizing abuse is the first step to stopping it and recovering from it.

What Constitutes Abuse?

Are You Being Abused?

It can be tough to think of yourself as being "abused", but it's important to realize when and if you are being abused. Don't be a doormat, KNOW your rights and KNOW what a healthy relationship actually is.

To help with the recognition process, take a look at the various abuses that take place in the forms of abuse listed earlier.

  • Physical abuse: Physical abuse can take place within a number of contexts. It can be part of domestic or spousal abuse in a relationship. It can be part of bullying in the school playground or elsewhere between children. Physical abuse can also affect the elderly (in care homes, in the home, or elsewhere). Physical abuse is usually taken to mean some level of violence being involved. Physical abuse can also include neglect.

Recognizing physical abuse for what it is can be easy...or hard. Of course, physical abuse can mean slaps, punches, kicks, beatings, stabbings burnings...but it can also include pushing, shaking, poking with a finger or shaking. Then there is neglect. This typically involves the vulnerable members of our society: the elderly, the infirm, the disabled and the young. It's harder to recognise sometimes as it is all about what those in a position of responsibility (parents, teachers, doctors, carers) do not do, rather than what they actually do. Neglect (in the context of physical abuse)  involves a failure to provide for the physical needs of someone. It can mean a failure to provide adequate nutrition, shelter, supervision and safety, clothing or medical treatment. Physical harm can also occur though neglecting to give sufficient attention to a vulnerable person.

  • Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse can be even harder to qualify and recognise. It includes being made to feel inadequate, name calling and verbal abuse, but it can also involve neglect. Emotional abuse can be tied up with physical abuse, or the removal of comforts or even comfort objects. A woman whose partner stays out at night without informing her could be a subject of emotional abuse too. Different situations constitute emotional abuse for different individuals, complicating the issues further. However, as a guide, if you feel at all threatened within a relationship, or afraid to make your point in a discussion or be able to say when something is upsetting you, you are probably a victim of emotional abuse. An unreasonably jealous partner who tries to control your life and affects your everyday interactions with others is guilty of emotional abuse. Emotional abuse takes a lot of different forms, and the abuser is very often unaware of the harm of his actions. 
  • Sexual abuse: Again, sexual abuse can be mild or severe in terms of the actions that take place, but any level of sexual abuse is wrong and both victim and perpetrator need help to stop the cycle. Sexual abuse can be anything that makes a person feel uncomfortable violated, afraid, embarrassed or is performed against their will. Any inappropriate (without freely given permission) touching of the body or sexual zones ...or even the threat of this...is sexual abuse. Coercion into sexual acts not of your choosing, even within the context of an otherwise loving relationship is sexual abuse. Even sexual remarks, which don't involve physical touching, can be termed sexual abuse. Again, the perpetrator is often in denial and cannot accept that what they are doing is wrong, feeling that they are just expressing love or that if you loved them, you would want to please them by doing as they wish. Women in an abusive relationship can be made to feel that they are frigid or simply lacking in the ability to truly love their partner.
  • Stalking: Stalking is another form of abuse. It can be anything from mildly annoying, to terrifying and downright dangerous. Stalking also takes many different forms. It can occur over the internet or on the telephone, or in reality. If you are receiving unwanted and constant mail, email, phone calls or someone is following you or watching your house, you are being stalked. A stalker may be someone you know, like an ex lover or work colleague, or may be a total stranger. If you experience stalking, it is necessary to seek help immediately. Don't assume it will go away, or that a low level threat will remain so. Many stalkers escalate their behavior over time.
  • Bullying: Bullying is typically an abuse that takes place between children or teenagers, although it can also occur in the adult world. Again, there are many levels of bullying. Some children who bully others have really no perception of how upsetting their behavior is, so the bullies can need as much help as the victims. Bullying can be emotional, verbal or physical. It can cause actual physical harm and mental anguish. Sometimes bullies pick a victim for reasons like being gay or being perceived to be gay, being overweight, poorly dressed, or anything that somehow marks them out as 'different'. Or, there can be no apparent reason for the bullying.

A child who is being bullied may become withdrawn, start skipping school or display other signs of distress. Some children become very adept at hiding their distress from their families and teachers, however, so you do need to be vigilant. Bullying is very common. A report by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states that as many as half of all school age children are bullied at some point, while around 10% experience serious, regular bullying.

  • Cyber bullying: Cyber or digital bullying is a form of bullying that takes place over the internet or a mobile phone. The bullied child receives unwanted, sometimes threatening calls, emails and posts to social networking sites. It can be even more psychologically damaging than physical bullying as the child feels unable to escape from the bullies, even in the supposed 'safety' of his own home. If your child becomes unusually defensive about his computer, or about his mobile phone, he may be being cyber bullied.
  • Financial abuse: Financial abuse is any abuse involving money. It can be perpetrated by an individual or an organization. If someone forces you to take money from your account to give to them, takes money from you, pressures you into giving them money, borrows from you and refuses to repay the loan, forces you to sign something without explaining the full implications or allowing you to read the small print, takes your benefits or charges for services you have not received or requested, it is financial abuse. Financial abuse can also involve cowboy traders who undertake work and leave a substandard job after receiving payment.
  • Abuse of power: Virtually all instances of abuse involve some level of abuse of power. Most abuses are committed as a way of controlling the victim. However, abuse of power in a more specific sense means abuse of any type by a person in a position of trust and responsibility. This may be someone like a doctor, a teacher, a care worker, a carer or parent. It may also be an employer.

Specific Abuses

Specific abuses may be categorized as the following:

  • Domestic abuse/spousal abuse: This takes place within the context of a relationship, between a couple.  It is commonly thought to be the abuse of a woman by a male partner, but it can also occur between same sex couples or be perpetrated by a woman upon her male partner. This type of abuse has many levels, and may or may not escalate over time. Control, insecurity, jealousy and low self esteem may be at the root of the problem. The abuse can be emotional or physical, but is never excusable. Often the abuser is in denial of the situation and perceives his (or her) behavior to be 'normal' or in some  way justified. This situation can become more complex as frequently the abused begins to believe that she has deserved the abuse for some real or imagined reason.
  • Abuse of the elderly or disabled: This type of abuse can also involve neglect and financial exploitation. It is often perpetrated by those in a position of authority, and so is also categorized as an abuse of power. It typically takes place in care homes, hospitals or in the victim's own home. The elderly or disabled victims are often afraid or unable to report the abuse, making it essential for those in contact with them to be extra vigilant. Once more, abuse of the elderly or disabled can take the form of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or financial abuse.
  • Child abuse:  Child abuse, like all other abuses, is never acceptable in any form. Whether it is physical or emotional, sexual or takes the form of neglect, it can leave scars that are difficult to heal and affect the rest of a young person's life. Sometimes the abuse is overt and easy to spot, but in many cases the abuser has an incomplete understanding of the child's needs and rights. Many who have themselves been abused as children can become abusers themselves as they grow older and have children. These types of abusers may even believe that they are expressing their love for the child in the only way that they were brought up to understand.
  • Self Abuse: Self abuse, often called self harm, is common among teenagers and young people. Most commonly, this takes the form of cutting the skin, but it can involve any type of self inflicted injury. Contrary to popular opinion, self harm is not usually an attention seeking ploy. Rather, it is often done in secret, with the sufferer going to considerable lengths to cover up the damage. Self harmers find a sense of short lived relief from their problems by cutting or inflicting an injury on themselves. Self harm can become an addiction, and always requires help as it  can also represent a serious threat to physical as well as mental health.
  • Substance abuse: Substance abuse can involve the misuse of prescription drugs, recreational drugs or alcohol. It may or may not go hand in hand with other mental health disorders or emotional problems. Substance abuse can result from many different causes. It may be that the sufferer has succumbed to peer pressure to become involved in taking drugs or drinking, or it may come about as a result of an addiction to pain killing drugs originally prescribed for legitimate health reasons. Sometimes the addiction comes about due to emotional problems as the sufferer turns to substances to seek relief from emotional pain and stress. 

Why Does Abuse Happen?

There are as many reasons for abuse occurring as there are types of abuse.

  • Child abuse: This can occur as a result of a parent's inability to cope with the pressures of being a parent. Often, this type of child abuse takes the form of neglect, or hitting and shaking as the parent or carer spirals out of control and simply cannot deal with the child's behavior or needs. It can also occur when a new partner joins the family, and is thrown into an environment with which they are not equipped to cope properly. New partners may also abuse children out of jealousy of the time and love given to the child. Child sex abusers are often the product of an abusive relationship with their own parents, and are mistakenly expressing 'love' in the only way they were brought up to know. People with mental health issues or substance and alcohol abuse problems may also become child abusers.
  • Abuse of the elderly: Abuse of the elderly or disabled can also occur as a result of the carer's inability to cope with the amount of care required by an aged or disabled person. Dealing with an elderly parent, for example, can not only be physically exhausting but also emotionally draining, especially if a mental illness like Alzheimer's Disease is thrown into the equation. It can be very distressing to see a much loved parent descend into a needy, child like state, and much support can be required for the carer to come to terms with these changes. Parents or carers of disabled children or other family members can also find it impossible to cope with the physical and emotional strain. Once more, if the carer suffers from mental health issues themselves, or has addiction problems, abuse is more likely to follow.
  • Domestic abuse: Domestic abuse or spousal abuse can have a vast range of root causes. An abusive partner may behave in this way to try to gain control over the other partner's behavior and daily life from insecurity in themselves. Abuse in this context is often a control issue rather than a loss of self control. This can be seen to be true as most people who abuse their partner in the home do not behave in this way with others in their lives, and are perfectly capable of controlling their behavior outside the domestic setting. Like other forms of abuse, however, domestic abuse can occur because of mental illness or addiction. It can also be a 'learned behavior resulting from an abusive family background. A man who spent his childhood watching his father beat his mother and rationalise that behavior as justified, for example, may grow up into becoming a 'wife beater', himself through conditioning.
  • Bullying and cyber bullying: As this type of abuse is usually perpetrated by children on other children, it can be a little different from the other forms of abuse. Some bullies have no perception of how their actions are affecting the other child. Others bully as a result of peer pressure, in an attempt to fit in with a group and thus avoid being bullied themselves. Others have  already been bullied, and simply perpetuate a cycle of learned behavior or bully out of a misplaced revenge on those who bullied them. Some bullies also have a need to control the lives and emotions of others. The child who is doing the bullying usually needs help as much as the child who is being bullied.
  • Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse covers many different situations, and can have just as many causes. It can result from a past of being sexually abused so that the behavior seems normal to the abuser. It can result from a loss of self esteem in another area of the abuser's life, so he or she seeks to control another sexually as a way of re asserting power. It can also stem from mental illness or substance abuse. In some circumstances, excessive exposure to pornography can lead to abuse, as the abuser adopts an unrealistic attitude to sexual relationships. Sexual abuse can occur between partners, in families (perpetrated upon children or even the elderly or disabled), in care homes or hospitals, or be carried out by a stranger such as in rape cases. Sexual abuse is usually about power and control rather than actually about the need or desire for sex.
  • Self abuse: Self abuse or self harm is often a result of emotional pain and stress. A self harmer seeks to assert control over an area of their lives that they feel is lacking in other areas. Or they may inflict injury on themselves to relieve the emotional pain they are suffering, replacing it with a tangible, physical and therefore more understandable pain. Sufferers gain a sense of release by self harming, using the action to express emotions they are unable to express in words or more 'normal' actions.
  • Alcohol and substance abuse: Alcohol abuse in particular, can stem from a normal, acceptable level of alcohol usage but spiral out of control. Some excessive drinkers simply develop a higher tolerance to alcohol and find that they need to drink more and more to gain the feelings of pleasure, euphoria or calm that one or two drinks used to give them, so they simply increase their intake over time. The same can be true of drugs use and misuse. In the case of legal drugs, like painkillers or anti depressants, the body adjusts to require higher and higher doses in order to achieve the desired effect. Sometimes problems can result from lack of attention on the part of the health professional supplying the prescriptions, or from the patient using more devious methods to acquire the drugs.

Escaping the Cycle of Abuse

Whether you are abused, are a self abuser or are abusing others, you need help to escape the cycles of abuse. There are many sources of help, and it's important to know what can be done and where you can turn for assistance. The first step is to admit to yourself that there is a problem, and that you need help. That can be harder than it sounds, as many who are caught up in cycles of abuse keep the problem hidden, not just from others but also from themselves. The pressures of society can make it difficult to admit that you suffer from abuse, and admitting it can feel like admitting to being a failure. The stigma of mental illness can be another difficulty.

If You Are Being Abused:

    The Plan of Attack to Escape Domestic Abuse

    Read the above article on what exact specific steps to take to escape from a domestic abuse situation

  • Domestic abuse: If you are being abused by your partner the simple answer is to leave the relationship. In fact, although this is the advice frequently given by friends and family, it is not always so easy to do. An abused partner can still feel that she is in love with the abusive partner, and not wish to end the relationship, clinging to the hope that he will change and that the abuse will come to an end. She may feel responsible for the abuse, and undeserving of help. She may also feel that she has nowhere to go, and no financial resources with which to begin a new life. Or, she may stay because she is afraid of the consequences should the abusive partner find her after she has left. If children are involved it can become even more difficult. However, whatever the situation, there are things that you can do to escape. Everyone has the right to live a life without abuse or fear of abuse.  If the problem is containable, i.e.; if you are sure that your abusive partner will not pursue you and you have some financial resources of your own, you can of course, simply tell him to leave. But if things are rather more complicated,there are people that you can turn to. You could try speaking with your doctor or social worker.  Help and advice can be found through Domestic Violence programs in your locality. There are domestic violence shelters where you can go, taking your children with you. These programs and shelters will help equip you to move on to an abuse free life by providing temporary shelter, employment or education programs, counselling, legal help, financial assistance and support groups.
  • Child abuse: If you are a child or teenager who is being abused you may feel that there is nothing that you can do to change your situation. But there is. If you are able, you can speak to your doctor, teacher, minister or anyone in a position of authority that you can trust. Sometimes there may be a family member or parent of a good friend who can help. But, if there is no one that you feel able to ask for help, you can call a helpline (contacts given in Resources List following). There are also websites that you can use to find email or postal contacts. You can get help and you can escape this abuse, whether it is emotional, physical or sexual. You are entitled to a safe and happy life.
  • Abuse of the elderly or disabled: In many cases, the abused is unable to speak up for themselves. However, if you are an elderly or disabled person who is aware that you are being abused, you have as much right as anyone to speak up and ask for help. There are national and local helplines available for you to call, if you are not able to speak directly to your doctor, health worker, care professional or another family member.

If You Suspect Someone You Know Is Being Abused:

It can be difficult to decide when to speak up, if you know or suspect that someone you know is being abused. If the abuse appears to be low level you may feel it is better left to the abuser and abused themselves to sort out. You may feel that you don't want to 'interfere' in someone else's business. You may assume that the abused person is capable of speaking up for themselves to request help if help is needed. It can seem like a fine line to walk.

If the person being abused is a friend or family member, you can, of course, try speaking to them first to offer help. However, many abused people are not able or are unwilling to admit what is happening to them. In the case of the abuse of a child or an elderly or disabled person, it is probably necessary to seek outside help immediately. However, even in other cases, such as spousal abuse, do not assume that the abused is capable of self help. If you suspect abuse you can follow the same steps as outlined above for people who are being abused. You can speak to a health professional or teacher, or contact the national or local help lines as given under resources, choosing the one that is most appropriate.

If You Are Abusing Yourself:

If you are trapped in a cycle of self abuse or self harm, you should not be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. You can confide in a responsible trusted friend or adult, or talk to you doctor, teacher or health professional. If you do not feel able to do this, or don't have such a person that you can turn to, again there are websites and helplines that are specifically set up to supply the help and advice you need to recover from your problems. If you are feeling suicidal, there are also helplines that you can call for instant emergency support and counselling, depending on where in the world you live.

If You Are Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol:

Anyone who is experiencing addiction problems with substances, drugs (legal or otherwise) or alcohol has a number of choices. Sometimes self help can work, and it may be possible to make the changes to your lifestyle that you need to make without recourse to outside help. However, as addiction can be a real, physical thing as well as an emotional one, willpower alone is not always enough. Research has shown that success in conquering alcohol or substance abuse problems is more likely if you have some form of outside support too. It is also true that withdrawing from alcohol or substance abuse can be dangerous and even life threatening, so it's best to undertake any program with the help of a trained advisor or health professional.  You can turn to a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous  or ask your doctor for information about local groups. If medical intervention is needed, a doctor can prescribe the appropriate treatments.

If You Are An Abuser:

If you are a person who is abusing someone else, in whatever way, you first need to accept that you have a problem that requires help. No form of abuse is acceptable, and while some may seem more serious than others they can all escalate and all need to be addressed. Once you have accepted that there is a problem, you are part way to solving it, so well done. You need to know that in many cases (in serious cases, like cases of child abuse, rape or violence there may be consequences to face, but seeking help will always count in your favour), help is available to you.

 

Resource List

The list below is not comprehensive, but provides links to known available help. For local help, internet search your state, province or county. These organizations should not ask for money in return for help. If any do, search again for charities and organizations that offer the help for free.

See our full RESOURCE FOR ABUSE HELP

General Resources For Moms/Parenting/Single Parents

SingleMom.net -- single mother financial help, parenting help, career help guides.

SingleMoms.org -- web's number one site for single mother help isssues

TheScienceMommy.com - Science Help

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