This month, I wanted to talk about abuse and the cycle/effects of violence. I strongly believe that it’s rare for a woman to develop a healthy lifestyle after being the victim of abuse as a girl, especially in regards to both romantic and platonic relationships. However in order to talk about the cycle and the way that it affects our relationships, I thought it best to start with a brief overview of the different types of abuse that I believe affect us. As it’s a heavy subject matter with a ton of information readily available to us, I thought I’d break it up throughout a few different posts. So if this resonates with you, remember to follow up throughout the month to follow along. Also remember that you are not alone and that there are a lot of available resources out there- please seek help if you need it!
What is abuse?
In the simplest of definitions, abuse is mistreatment. Any way that the basic standard of life is violated can be considered abuse, and it’s much more common than people are aware of. Most acts of violence are usually intentional and therefore fall into the category of abuse. When someone commits abusive acts, they are basically devaluing the victim and disregarding not only a moral code of life, but the victim’s rights as a human being.
It can be difficult to recognize cases of abuse.
The first step would be to have a basic understanding of what qualifies as abuse. For this reason, many situations of ill-treatment have gone unnoticed. Having a better comprehension of abuse can help to lesson or possibly even prevent it from taking place.
There are four basic categories for abuse. Any act of abuse can be categorized as either physical, sexual, psychological or neglect.
1: Physical abuse
Physical is usually the most obvious and therefore the easiest to catch. This can range from a simple slapping to a more serious injury that would require hospitalization. Usually a victim is left with visual wounds, however that isn’t always the case. It is possible to physically abuse someone without leaving any marks.
2: Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse includes any sexual acts that occur against the victim’s will. Any such act without consent, regardless or what is suggested, falls into the category of sexual abuse. Acts such as rape, molestation and harassment are all considered sexual abuse.
3: Psychological/Mental abuse
Psychological abuse is sometimes more difficult to understand and can go on for long periods of time. Mental, emotional and verbal torment all fall under this category, meaning it can be very broad. Victims usually suffer damage to their self-esteem and self-worth due to put-downs, manipulation, insults and confusion. The victim will most likely suffer from self-doubt and even self-blame.
Neglect takes place when a victim is not given the necessities for life. In such cases, the abuser is someone the victim is supposed to rely on, who fails to be able to provide for the victim. The best example I can think of for this would be a parent who fails to provide for their child. Typically, victims of neglect are children or dependent elders.
In many cases, abuse falls into the realm of domestic violence.
This is when the abuse takes place inside of the home, usually between family members. It is not limited by age or gender; anyone can be a victim just as anyone can be an attacker. Many cases of neglect fall into the category of domestic violence due to the dependent nature of the abuse, however all types of abuse can be found in different cases of domestic violence.
Abuse takes place in other institutions as well. Take a look at organizations such as schools, homes, religious settings, office buildings, etc. While it is not guaranteed that victims will suffer long term effects, it is very likely. These effects can be small and go unnoticed, they can be very detrimental to the victim’s life, or anywhere in between.
Again, this is a heavy topic.
As someone who has experienced all four types of abuse, I know personally that it can be a lot to process. For that reason, I don’t want to go into everything all at once. That’s why I kept my descriptions of each type short in this post. I will be going more into detail over the next few weeks, breaking it up to be able to go further without being overwhelming. Once I’ve done that, I’ll go more into the effects on our relationships as well as how a cycle of violence appears in the lives of those who have been abused.
There’s a quote in one of my favorite books that has stuck with me since I first read it over ten years ago:
“Doesn’t anyone realize that one touch, one time will destroy a child’s life ten times faster than a pack-a-day habit?”
This was from Such A Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess. As soon as I read that line, I knew it would stick with me for the rest of my life. While simple, I thought it was a really great way of showing just how damaging abuse can be. This particular book was referencing sexual abuse, but I think it also can apply to other types of abuse. And while I agree that it will destroy a child’s life, I think it can just as strongly affect adults who experience abuse as well.
When someone is abused, whether physically, mentally, sexually or through neglect, it affects them to their core. While sometimes there is a need for physical healing, there is almost always a need to mental healing. This involves a lot of hard work and can take a really long time. One of the biggest things that can help victims in this case would be support. Whether from a professional, support group, family and friends… knowing that you’re not alone and that you matter can make a world of difference.
And so if you or someone you know has been abused in any sense of the word, please make sure that you seek out some support. Find a way to keep yourself and those you love safe.
The national domestic violence hotline is available 24 hours at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233). They can help in many ways, from answering questions and talking through your options to helping you find a temporary shelter.
If you’re having suicidal thoughts, you can dial 988 for immediate access to mental health crisis services.
And if you believe you are a witness to abuse, please speak up. If you are unsure, call one of the above numbers or talk to someone you trust. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Please remember that you are not alone and that your life has value.
I’ll be back next week to go more, starting off by going into more detail on physical and sexual abuse.