Here’s a quick cheat sheet for some important links…
Are You Being Abused? Find Out Here:
If you don’t know if you are being abused, find out here what qualifies as abuse. Abuse comes in many forms — it’s not always physical violence.
Do You Want to Leave Him? Here’s How to get started:
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, read our Leave Abuse Plan of Attack Guide on how to (safety) leave your partner. We cover topics like how to change your bank accounts, hide your phone number, find emergency shelter, etc.
Other Abuse Topics
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 abusive 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
Abuse can take many forms. When we talk about abuse, we may mean any of the following:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- 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
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.
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.
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:
Make sure you check out our 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 adviser 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 favor), help is available to you.
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 issues relating to finance, money, and general parenting tips.