Bespoke Therapy

Abuse

Abuse can take many forms. It may be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal or a combination. Family violence can affect anyone, regardless of religion, colour, culture, wealth, social standing, in single parent or two-parent households. Sometimes parents abuse each other, which can be hard for a child to witness. Some parents abuse their children by using physical or verbal cruelty as a way of discipline. Both girls and boys can experience abusive physical punishment by a parent, boys are beaten more often than girls but girls are sexually abused more often. 

Physical abuse is often the most obvious form of abuse. It may be hitting, shaking, burning, pinching, biting, choking, throwing, whipping, paddling, beating, or other actions that cause physical injury, leave marks, or produce significant physical pain. 

Sexual abuse can be any type of inappropriate sexual contact between an adult and child under 16, or between a significantly older child and a younger child. It can also be by any adult taking advantage of another adult, either the same or opposite sex without his or her permission. If a person is abused by a member of his or her immediate family, this is called incest. This can be difficult to recognise because there may be no visible physical signs. 

Emotional abuse can also be difficult to recognise because there are no obvious physical signs. People do yell at each other and express their anger inappropriately, however, sometimes expressing anger can be healthy providing it can be released in a safe and regulated environment. Emotional abuse generally occurs when the yelling and anger are excessive or when a parent constantly belittles, threatens, or dismisses a child until the child`s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth are damaged. Just as physical abuse can cause physical scars, emotional abuse can bring about long-term emotional damage. 

Neglect is probably the hardest type of abuse to define and detect. 

This is when parents fail to take care of the basic needs of their dependant children. Neglect occurs when a child doesn`t have adequate food, love, boundaries, housing, clothes, medical care, or supervision. It also happens when a parent does not provide enough emotional support, or deliberately and consistently pays very little or no attention to a child. It is also often the case where the parent/s treat their children very differently, for example one or more children being treated "normally" and one child being singled out and treated very badly. This can have a huge impact in every area of the childs development and may cause significant disfunction throughout their life in education, relationships and careers. It is not neglect if a parent doesn`t give a child everything he or she wants, like a new computer or a mobile phone. 

Abuse doesn`t just happen in families, of course. Bullying is a form of abusive behaviour that may happen in a peer group - among people of any age. Bullying someone by intimidation, threats or humiliation can be just as abusive as physical abuse. People who bully others have often been abused themselves; this is still no excuse for abusing someone else. Abuse can also take the form of hate crimes directed at people just because of their race, religion, abilities, gender, or sexual orientation. 

It may sound strange, but people sometimes have trouble recognising that they are being abused. For example, Grace (fictitious) has been abused but she doesn`t think of it that way. Recognising abuse may be especially difficult for someone who has lived with it for many years. A person might think that it`s just the way it is (the normal) and that there`s nothing that can be done about it. People who are abused might mistakenly think they bring it on themselves by misbehaving or by not living up to someone`s expectations. Someone growing up in a violent or abusive family may not know that there are other ways for family members to treat each other. A person who has only known an abusive relationship may mistakenly think that hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, or angry name-calling are perfectly normal ways to treat someone when you`re mad. Seeing parents treat each other in abusive ways may lead a child to think that`s a normal relationship. It`s important for people who grow up with abuse to know that it is not normal, or healthy, or an acceptable way to treat people. 

There is no one reason why people abuse others, although there are some factors that seem to make it more likely that a person may become abusive. Growing up in an abusive family, for example, can teach someone that abuse is a way of life. Fortunately, though, many people who grow up in abusive families realise that abuse is not acceptable and are able to break these patterns. 

Some people become abusive because they are not able to manage their feelings properly. For example, people who are unable to control their anger or people who can`t cope with stressful personal situations (like the loss of a job, a death or marital problems) may lash out at others inappropriately. Certain types of personality disorders or mental illness can also interfere with a person`s ability to relate to others in healthy ways or cause people to have problems with aggression or self-control. Obviously, not everyone with a personality disorder or mental illness become abusive. Substance abuse or alcoholism can also play a role in abuse by making it difficult for the abuser to control his or her actions. 

Of course, just because someone may have a problem doesn`t automatically mean that that person will become abusive. If you are one of the thousands of people living in an abusive situation, it can help to understand why some people abuse - and to realise that violence is all about the person doing it, not the fault of the person being abused. Even if someone close to you has behavioural or other problems that cause him or her to abuse others, these do not make the abuse acceptable, normal, or excusable. Abuse can always be corrected, and everyone can learn how to stop. 

If someone is abused, it can affect every aspect of that person`s life, especially self-esteem. How much abuse damages a person depends on the circumstances surrounding the abuse, how often and how long the abuse occurs, the age of the person who was abused, and lots of other factors. Every family has arguments; in fact, it is rare when a family doesn`t have some rough times, disagreements and anger. Punishments and discipline - like removing privileges, grounding, or being sent to your room - are normal in most families. It becomes a problem, when the punishment is physically or emotionally damaging. Abused teenagers often have trouble sleeping, eating, and concentrating. They may perform poorly at school because they are angry or frightened or because they don`t care or can`t concentrate. Many people who are abused distrust others. They may feel a lot of anger toward other people and themselves, and it can be hard to make friends. Some abused teens become very depressed, some may engage in self-destructive behaviour, such as self-harm, eating disorders or abusing. They may even attempt to take their own lives. 

It`s normal for people who have been abused by the people they love to not only feel upset but also confused about what happened to them. They may feel guilty and embarrassed and then blame themselves, especially if the abuse is sexual. But abuse is never the fault of the person who is being abused, no matter how much the abuser tries to blame it on them. Abusers often try to manipulate the people they`re abusing into either thinking the abuse is their fault or to keep the abuse quiet. An abuser might say things like: "This is a secret between you and me," or "If you ever tell anybody, I`ll hurt you or your mum/dad," or "You`re going to get in trouble if you tell. No one will believe you and you`ll go to jail for lying." This is the abuser`s way of making a person feel like nothing can be done so that he or she won`t take any action to stop or report the abuse. People who are abused may have trouble getting help because it means they`d be reporting on someone they love - someone who may be wonderful much of the time and awful to them only some of the time. So abuse often goes unreported. 

People who are being abused need to get help (so do the abusers). Keeping the abuse a secret doesn`t protect a person from being abused - it only makes it more likely that the abuse will continue or even become worse. If you or someone you know is being abused, talk to someone you or your friend can trust - a family member, a friend, a trusted teacher, a doctor, or an adult who works with youth at school or in a place of worship. Many teachers and counsellors, for instance, have training in how to recognise and report abuse. Sometimes people who are being abused by someone in their own home need to find a safe place to live temporarily. It is never easy to have to leave home, but it`s sometimes necessary to be protected from further abuse. People who need to leave home to stay safe can find local shelters listed in the phone book or they can contact an abuse helpline. Sometimes a person can stay with a relative or friend. People who are experiencing abuse often feel weird or alone. But they`re not. No one deserves to be abused. Getting help and support is an important first step to change the situation. Many teens who have experienced abuse find that painful emotions may linger even after the abuse stops. Working with a counsellor is one way for a person to sort through the complicated feelings and reactions that being abused creates, and the process can help to rebuild feelings of safety, confidence, self-esteem and a better life.

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