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Information thread: Defining abuse

Open Discussions About Child Abuse

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Information thread: Defining abuse

Postby seabreezeblue » Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:30 pm

This thread is purely for information purposes and although many countries have laws to protect people from the acts detailed in this thread, it is advised that if you are searching for advice on legal matters, you should consult a lawyer or other appropriate authority (such as the police) in your home country.

Abuse comes in many forms and can be physical, sexual, emotional or neglectful. Abuse does not discriminate against age or gender and it is found in all parts of the world.
Defining what is and what isn't abuse can at times be incredibly difficult to do, most especially for the person who is wondering if they have been abused themselves. This thread aims to provide a brief overview of the different types of abuse in order to provide a resource for members of Psychforums who may be wondering if their past or present situation could be classified as abusive. This is not an exhaustive list of abusive behaviours, most especially on the emotional abuse definition, so if anyone has any questions that this thread hasn't covered then please feel welcome to start your own thread to ask a question, or simply to get support from other members who have walked the same path as you and would like the opportunity to support you on yours.

Physical abuse;

Physical abuse is the act of harming another person, either by deliberate or accidental means. Examples of physical abuse include hitting, kicking, shaking, biting, burning, poisoning, drowning, suffocating, strangling, or otherwise causing physical harm to the individual concerned.
Physical harm may also be caused when a caregiver deliberately induces or fabricates an illness and either harms them through their actions or causes otherwise un-needed medical procedures and examinations to be performed. An example of this would be to place too much salt in someone's food or to refuse to give them a drink until they pass out from dehydration.

Sexual abuse;

* for the purposes of this thread, 'child' also includes those people in a vulnerable group such as someone with dementia or a learning disability that significantly reduces their ability to give informed consent.
Sexual abuse can be defined as any sexual contact that the person either did not agree to or was not capable of agreeing to. A child/minor is never capable of agreeing to a sexual act with an adult or a significantly older child and it is never acceptable to blackmail or otherwise coerce someone into an activity that they do not wish to participate in. This point also includes threatening to commit suicide or threatening to expose real or fabricated details about the person that they do not freely wish to reveal in order to ensure their compliance.

Sexual abuse includes;
Rape; Forcing or coercing someone to engage in penetrative sex of any type (vaginal, anal or oral), this includes using an object to penetrate. Deliberately causing unwanted pain during sex. Sexual touching of the body, whether through clothes or not. Showing pornography to children; this point includes cartoon pornography. Using children to create pornography. Intentionally engaging in sexual activity in front of children. Encouraging a child to engage in any form of sexual activity. Encouraging or otherwise making a child engage in prostitution. Forcing or blackmailing any other person to engage in prostitution.
It is also considered to be sexual abuse (as well as assault) if the person knows they have a sexually transmittable disease/infection, does not disclose this information to their partner, does not take reasonable precautions (condom) and then passes it on.


* In the case of food, water or adequate clothing, in order for failure to provide these things to be classified as neglectful, this has to occur in an environment where these items are possible for the caregivers to procure. It would not be reasonable to consider a situation neglectful if the caregivers were simply unable to provide these items.

Neglect can be defined as causing harm to a child by failure to provide for their basic needs. There are basic needs which every child is entitled to; food, housing, clothes, medical care, supervision, emotional support and love.

Neglect includes;
Failure to remove them from a situation or person that causes them harm.
Not providing enough water, clothing or nutritionally appropriate food; A child is being neglected in this manner if they fail to thrive, become dehydrated or malnourished.
Not providing clean, adequate clothing for their size or for the weather conditions; this includes a child having to wear dirty clothing or clothing that is restrictive to their growth, such as shoes which are too small. This point also includes a child having no access to a coat or warm clothing in cold weather.
Not seeking adequate medical attention for the child.
Not providing adequate supervision for the child's age; This point includes leaving a small child at home alone or allowing them to go outside when they cannot reasonably cater to their own care and safety needs.
Failure to provide emotional support or provide the child with the attention they need. This type of neglect includes rejection; refusal to speak to, look at, or hug the child. A denial of the child as a separate person with valid needs, opinions and desires outside of those of the caregiver. Refusal to allow the child education facilities or normal social interactions with other people, including friends and family.
Emotional neglect can also include allowing a child to witness a form of violence without taking reasonable steps to remove them from the situation.

Emotional abuse;

Emotional abuse is the most difficult type of abuse to define. This is because it doesn't leave any physical signs but rather, it leaves emotional wounds that may stay with the person for the rest of their lives and cause difficulties in relationships with others, as well as in their own sense of identity and feelings towards themselves.

Emotional abuse comes in many forms, both obviously emotionally abusive (overt) and the harder to spot, covert abuse. This form of abuse can be bewildering and subtle, with many people not realising that they are being abused or blaming themselves because the abuser has worn them down over a prolonged period of time.
Emotional abuse includes behaviours such as; Constantly criticising, shouting, insulting, swearing, belittling, accusing. ''Joking'' is a common behaviour seen in overt abusers, with the abuser saying something hurtful and then wrapping it up as ''i was only joking, you're way too sensitive''.

Negative body language is commonly used by abusers to keep their victims feeling insecure and to hurt them further; an abuser uses sneering looks and turns away from their victim to indicate distaste. The abuser brings a cloying, almost tangible feel to the atmosphere when they are displeased; the abuser refuses to look in their victims direction and they refuse to speak to them.

Outside the home environment or when the abuser has visitors, they can often seem like respectable and reasonable, even likeable individuals. Neighbours, work colleagues and other acquaintances often never get to see the selfish, controlling, mean spirited and self absorbed individual that the victim knows. Accounts from people who have been emotionally abused often state that no-one outside the home ever knew.
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