What Is Physical Abuse?

On my blog I have found myself talking about issues few people are willing to confront. And yet, it is right below the surface of everyday life for millions of young people. It's real. It hurts. And does untold damage. I'm talking about abuse, physical abuse. Please keep reading this blog no matter how painful it is for you.

Remember, either you have been or are being physically abused, or you know someone who is. If this blog helps one person start the journey of healing, it's completely worth it. Maybe that one person is you.

A girl who commented to me about her abuse shared this: "I still struggle from day to day trying to figure out my life and what I did to deserve it."  The fact is, she did NOT deserve it. No one deserves it. I want you and this abuse victim to know there is hope. Regardless of what you've been through, no matter how you've been treated, you can still live a joyful, fulfilling life.

So, what is physical abuse? There's nothing pretty about physical abuse. It is painful even to talk about it. In fact, there is much confusion and denial over even what it is. But it can include:

  • striking, slapping, kicking, biting
  • punching, pinching, pushing, pulling
  • cutting or shooting
  • locking in or out of a room or false imprisonment
  • strangling or any kind of torture
  • drowning
  • exposure to freezing cold, heat (burning), or electric shock

We're not talking about accidental injury. This is done intentionally by someone who is asserting authority over you to cause feelings of intimidation, pain, injury, or other physical suffering or harm.

Who Is an Abuser and Why Does He/She Do It?

Why do they do it? Typically, physical abuse is caused by a person's inability to control their anger or frustration. This anger usually is about things that have nothing to do with the person they are abusing, but rather things such as their job or personal stresses, loneliness, depression, lack of friends, psychiatric disorders, having been abused themselves, or many times, alcohol or drug abuse. Physical abuse can happen to anyone. And it is next to impossible to recognize an abuser from outward appearances.

He could be the charming guy who lives next door, or the attractive teacher at school. In most cases, the person causing the abuse is a parent but can also be an older sibling, relative, guardian, or partner.

The blame for abuse lies completely with the abuser. I received a comment from a person whose parents abused her. Every person who has ever been abused needs to read this comment. Something I learned that really helped me while I was growing up, was that I had to realize it wasn't my fault - that I didn't make them act that way and that I didn't deserve what was being done to me. It's so easy to fall into a trap of self-blame. You feel like you're more of an adult than your parents are, so you accept responsibility for things that are actually their responsibility. "I should have known better than to say that "you tell yourself, or" they wouldn't get so angry if I didn't mess up all the time." But those are LIES. The TRUTH is that your parents are sick people. And it's not your fault that their sickness is affecting your life.

If you are being physically abused, the most important thing you can do is find someone you can trust and seek his or her help. No healing from physical abuse takes place without this first very important step.

This is one of the most powerful comments I have ever received. Please heed the advice of Jeremy: "Abuse is wrong no matter what! Please don't stay quiet. Speak up and tell someone. I promise you will have a better life if you tell than if you stay quiet. I lost my twin brother to suicide because of not being able to talk to someone about his problems because of the abusive home situation. PLEASE SEEK HELP FROM PEOPLE WHO CARE!!" 

You can always chat with a HopeCoach at TheHopeLine. If you are in immediate danger, contact the police (911) as soon as possible. You can also call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

Remember there is always hope. Even if you have been physically abused, you still have the ability to control how you feel and your response. Read the words of someone who was seriously abused: "They may do things to try to make you feel angry or helpless or hopeless, but you don't have to give them that part of yourself. You don't have to believe what they tell you or allow them to break your spirit. How they treat you is their choice; but how much you let them control the way you feel - that's your choice. If you can learn to control your own feelings, regardless of what they do or don't do - that's what will help you survive." 

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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