The four types of abuse and their effects. There are different types of abuse but each are just as painful – inside and out.
Abuse is the misuse, excessive use or improper use of a person or object. It’s not uncommon to abuse television, a car or even a computer or video game system. When the object doesn’t work as we want it to it may be kicked, thrown, hit or smashed and the only person who suffers is the owner of the object. When the abuse is of a person, everyone involved suffers.
It is estimated that over 12 million cases of abuse occur in the United States each year. However, as abuse takes many forms – each with their own ramifications, secrets and shames – abuse is not always reported so the statistics regarding the number of abuse cases may actually be incorrect or incomplete.
Sexual, Emotional, Mental and Physical abuse are the four main types of abuse as listed in most medical journals, as they are the types most commonly reported when seeking medical attention, treatment or intervention. These four types of abuse are responsible for 98 percent of the total abuse cases reported in the United States.
According to Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, sexual abuse is “rape, sexual assault or sexual molestation wherein the active person forces themselves onto the abused which may be of the same or opposite sex and of any age.” In the event of sexual abuse, especially abuse that spans a period of time, the victim tends to experience feelings of loss of control over their own bodies and their own lives.
Although there may not be any physical signs of sexual abuse – with the exception of rape where bruises, abrasions and tears of the sexual organs may occur – there are behaviors which may indicate an occurrence of sexual abuse. Victims may react by feeling that sex and acts of sex are “dirty, wrong and unhealthy” and will avoid all intimate contact with others or they may feel that they must use sex as a way to express emotions such as love, acceptance and caring and will become involved with various sexual acts, often times developing into deviate sexual behaviors. Victims of sexual abuse should seek medical intervention to ensure they have not developed a sexually transmitted disease. In addition, victims of sexual abuse will need counseling with a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in sexual abuse in order to learn coping mechanisms for the feelings of being out of control and the attitude regarding sex and intimacy.
Emotional abuse is defined as “the debasement of a person’s feeling so that he perceives himself as inept, uncared for and/or worthless.” Often times parents, caregivers or teachers will say things regarding a child’s behavior, performance or skills that will make a child feel that they are “no good,” “useless,” “stupid,” or “good for nothing.” These words, whether said to a child, an adolescent or even to an adult, can harm the ego, self-esteem and self-worth of a person. Victims of emotional abuse develop feelings of shame, embarrassment and guilt as they feel they are a bother or a burden to those around them. These feelings often lead to depression, isolation and suicide. Although emotional abuse leaves no physical injuries, the damage done to the mind, heart and spirit can be extremely extensive. Those suffering from emotional abuse may need to seek medical intervention for antidepressant medications as well as therapy to deal with the feelings of worthlessness, loneliness and isolation. A psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in emotional abuse would best be able to help those in these abuse situations.
Another common term for mental abuse is “mind games.” Mental abuse is when one person uses another person’s insecurities, phobias and fears to “force” another to do what they wish. Withholding various items, feelings, affection, or personal and physical needs such as food, sleep, water, comfort, warmth and elimination in order to make one person do another’s bidding is also a means of mental abuse. Examples of mental abuse include a husband withholding children in order to force a woman to have sex with him; not allowing someone to go to sleep in an attempt to get them to confess to something or share information; not allowing a person the use of bathroom facilities due to inappropriate behavior; or forcing someone to deal with a fear – such as one of spiders or snakes – as punishment. The effects of mental abuse include depression, emotional withdraw, social isolation, self-mutilating behaviors, extremely low self esteem, addictions to drugs and alcohol, excessive anxiety, sleep disorders, or suicide. Treatment for mental abuse must begin immediately in order to lessen the after affects and possible complications – especially self-abusive behaviors and suicide. Therapy sessions that include the individual and the family if involved should be done with a certified, licensed psychotherapist as well as a psychologist. If the mental abuse is prolonged and repeated, therapy may take a great deal of time and participation by all members of the family or parties involved.
Of all types of abuse, the most obvious and easily diagnosable is physical. Physical abuse is defined as “one or more episodes of aggressive behavior, usually resulting in physical injury with possible damage to internal organs, sense organs, the central nervous system or the muscle or bones of another person.”
Common signs or indications of physical abuse include:
- Physical evidence of abuse and/or neglect including evidence of previous injuries
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