What Is Abuse and What To Do About It
When I first started in my radio career talking to teenagers and young adults, I quickly became amazed at what my audience wanted to talk about. Many of them wanted to talk about abuse in their family. I had no choice. I had to face the problem head on. For example, not long ago, I received a comment from an anonymous listener:
I come from a family with lots of abuse and confusion. My dad left barely over 2 years ago. He sexually abused me, my brother and sister. I can’t trust anybody. How am I supposed to trust again? Every time I let my guard down, I get hurt again.
Not only was this listener revealing the deep dark secrets of her family, she was also speaking of the horrific consequences of those secrets. No doubt, you have been abused in some way, or know somebody who has. This is something I must write about with the hope that what I have to say will help and encourage you in some way.
First, if you think you or someone you know is being abused, PLEASE chat with one of our HopeCoaches. All chats are free and confidential.
No one knows just how many people have been abused in some way in their home. But the numbers we do know are staggering:
- There are nearly 3 million reports of child abuse made annually.
- The rate of child abuse is estimated to be 3 times greater than is reported.
My guess is the problem is even greater than what you and I think it is.
WHAT IS ABUSE?
Abuse simply put, is when one person causes physical, sexual or emotional injury or harm to another. Federal law defines it as: Any act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or, An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
4 Specific Types of Abuse
- Physical Abuse This abuse is usually the most easily identified. It can include any kind of non-accidental hitting, shaking, burning, biting, choking, throwing, or any behaviors that cause physical injury, leave marks, or create significant pain.Li commented what it’s like living in a physically abusive home: You feel like everything is your fault and that nothing you do is right. I was abused until I was 8 years old. First, I was emotionally and somewhat physically abused by my mother, and then strongly physically abused by my stepmother. While going through this, I had no one to turn to but my best friend.
- Sexual Abuse
Any type of sexual contact between an adult and anyone younger than 18, or between a significantly older child and a younger child is considered sexual abuse. This includes penetration or external touching of intimate parts, oral sex, indecent exposure or any other sexual act performed in your presence for sexual gratification. It can also include the showing of pornography to someone younger than 18.Emily says she has lived in an abusive, hazardous family situation her entire life. My dad started sexually abusing me at 6 years old, and it went on until I was 11. It was hard to deal with. I used to pretend that it didn’t happen, but it did, and there isn’t anything I can do about it. I never figured out a healthy way of dealing with it. I was anorexic for years. I used to cut myself. I was suicidal. I hated my life.
- Emotional and/or Verbal Abuse
Emotional abuse happens when yelling and anger go too far or when parents constantly criticize, threaten, or dismiss kids or teens until their self-esteem and feelings of self-worth are damaged. It also includes constant family conflict. Emotional abuse can hurt and cause major damage just as physical or sexually abuse does.Jessie describes the verbal abuse in her family: My father yells at me whenever I question why. I am beginning to get bitter toward him because he seems to not trust me at all, and he seems to treat me like a slave and its hard to handle. I have tried talking to him but once again he yelled at me and I began to cry. I never yell at my dad but sometimes I would like to.
You are considered to be neglected when your parent’s whereabouts are unknown, if you’ve been left alone in circumstances where you suffer serious harm, or your parent has failed to maintain contact with you. This also happens when you don’t have adequate food, housing, clothes, medical care, education, or supervision.This is something Maria deals with. My dad was at a neighbor’s house, drunk. He didn’t call home or my cell to check on me. He didn’t answer his cell when I called, nothing. I get home from school at 3 and my mom gets home from work at 9:30. My dad left the same time as my mom and didn’t come home until nearly an hour later than my mom. The house was wide open. ANYTHING could’ve happened to me.
Do you identify with any of these forms of abuse? It is difficult admitting that you are being abused; especially if it’s something you have lived with for many years. You might just think it’s the way things are and there’s nothing that can be done about it. You can also mistakenly think you bring abuse on yourself by not acting right, or by not living up to someone’s expectations. The kinds of abuse listed above are not normal or healthy ways to treat people.
If you think you or someone you know is being abused, PLEASE chat with one of our HopeCoaches. All chats are free and confidential.