What is Abuse?

What many have failed to understand, including myself, is that the term “abuse” is extremely broad. A proper understanding of what constitutes abuse is essential to raising awareness and support for abuse victims and their families.

Physical abuse includes any act of force against an individual’s physical body. That includes anything from hitting to biting to forced drug use.

Sexual abuse is any type of sexual contact which is not consensual. Rape is typically the first type of sexual abuse that comes to mind. However, sexual abuse is not limited to a full sexual assault; it can also be unwelcome fondling or touching. In fact, verbal abuse and sexual abuse can overlap if and when unwelcome sexual advances (verbal) are being made, to the point that the recipient feels threatened.

Emotional abuse is typically a verbal attack upon a person’s worth or abilities. However, it can also include manipulative behavior which causes emotional distress. Similarly, mental abuse is any verbal or active assault of a person’s psychological health. Threats are the most common form of mental abuse but it can take many forms.

Finally, verbal abuse, which often coincides with all of the above categories, is any verbal attack which threatens a person’s physical, sexual, emotional, or mental well-being.

Abuse, regardless of its form, does not discriminate. In other words, abuse is not dependent upon or defined by a person’s gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, economic status, or geographic location. Abuse can happen to anyone.

For more information on the types of abuse, including dating violence and stalking, check out the resources found through U.S. Department of Justice:

Office of Violence Against Women

Note: while the URL is for the Office on Violence Against Women, the definitions and effects of abuse apply to men and children, as well.


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