What is Abuse?
If you are like most people you may think abuse is physical violence – having force used against you, having bones broken, being attacked, punched or kicked. This is true of course, but other types of abuse exist which are as bad as, and can be worse than, physical violence. There are four types of child abuse; physical, sexual, psychological, physical and emotional neglect. Although listed as five distinct categories they all over lap. For example a child may experience physical violence and also be forced to watch his parent being physically abused, resulting in psychological damage. All four types of abuse have things in common; they are detrimental to the well being of the child involved and can have serious consequences in the child’s development with far reaching problems right into adulthood. All types can be stopped, either the perpetrator or the victim has the ability to stop the abuse and get help (we will discuss this later). Thirdly, all forms of abuse are illegal – some groups still maintain that sex with children should be encouraged.
Physical Abuse: Slapping a child’s bottom is probably not abuse, stubbing a cigarette out on a child’s bottom is. The woolly area between these types of punishment are distinguished by guidelines set out by the law. Physical child abuse is defined as any corporal punishment that either leaves marks or is potentially dangerous to the child. Unfortunately, the law does not define emotional abuse as a result of this physical violence. One of our readers, Mark, was continually slapped across his face by his Father. The slapping which was continuous and for no good reason would sometimes last all evening. Although he suffered no permanent physical damage as a result of the abuse his emotional scars go deep. Mark now married with two children becomes aggressive and angry, and although not violent does use his power to intimidate and frighten his own children.
Sexual Abuse: Is in fact a sexual act. That act cannot be ignored. Yet it is much more than a sexual act, if adults who were sexual with children merely wanted to quench their thirst for sex there are many lower risk methods of acquiring satisfaction. In most cases it is not the touch itself that is harmful it is the meaning behind the touch that hurts. Sexual abuse can be an expression of power, compulsiveness, an act of vengeance, or a desire for control, which often dangerously comes masked as an act of love.
Psychological Abuse: Is hard to define it includes, name calling, humiliation, rejection, putdowns, being degraded, being belittled, being made to feel ashamed of oneself, isolation, being corrupt, threatening behaviour, witnessing marital violence, forced to perform acts beyond the child’s control.
Physical and Emotional Neglect: This is what didn’t happen to you as a child as opposed to what did happen to you. Physical neglect is not receiving the proper level of care for a child, for example no shoes, lack of proper clothing, lack of food, lack of shelter and lack of medical care. Emotional neglect involves not getting loved, not receiving sympathy, affection or empathy. All of which are essential for the child’s upbringing.
Perpetrator: The next issue we need to address is the person who committed the abuse. Most people relate child abuse with adult abusers; teachers, parents, school teachers, community leaders etc. However this isn’t always the case. A high percentage of children are abused by their own siblings. This type of abuse has the same affects and issues on the victim as abuse that is perpetrated by an adult. Therefore, throughout this site, mentions of childhood abuse are not perpetrator specific, unless stated in the text.