Note: It is very important that victims suffering abuse contact the appropriate authorities immediately. Experts recommend that victims report the attack to police by calling 911, and get immediate medical attention. The safety of the abused victim should be considered first and foremost in all cases. The monograph below contains suggestions based on expert opinion, however, every abuse case should be treated individually. The information below should not be used or followed in place of qualified professional help.
Abuse is a term used to describe the mistreatment of a person. A person can be abused another person physically or emotionally. It is important to note that the victims do not cause the abuse. Abusers are responsible for their actions, even if they are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. However, these substances may make the abuse worse.
Domestic abuse: Domestic abuse typically occurs when an individual emotionally, verbally, or physically mistreats his/her spouse or intimate partner. However, victims may also include children and/or other family members. In some cases, abusers may also mistreat family pets. When the abuser inflicts physical harm onto the victim, it is called domestic violence. Domestic violence, which is considered a crime, is the most common cause of injury to women ages 15 to 44. In severe cases, domestic abuse can lead to murder.
Although adult males can be victims of domestic abuse, women are five to eight times more likely to be abused than males. Domestic abuse can occur during a heterosexual or homosexual relationship or after a relationship has ended.
The abuser uses fear, intimidation, and humiliation in an effort to control the victim. Over time, victims may become isolated from their friends and family members, making it even more difficult to leave the relationship. The abuse may be difficult to recognize at first and become progressively worse as time goes on.
Abuse typically occurs in cycles. When the abuser gets angry, tension grows and there is a breakdown in communication. Then the abuser verbally or physically mistreats the victim. Afterwards, abusers are usually apologetic. In some cases, the abuser will deny that the abuse ever took place. Sometimes the abuser may behave pleasantly and kindly towards the victim most of the time. This often makes it difficult for the victim to leave the abuser.
Individuals who are being abused are advised to leave their relationships. Abuse survivors are encouraged to seek the help of a friend, family member, or support group. Staff at emergency shelters can help victims file for court-ordered protection from the abuser, if necessary. If the abuser seeks treatment, including counseling, he/she may be able to change his/her behavior. However, the victim should avoid contact with the abuser until the abuser has received treatment and has shown that he/she is no longer abusive. Victims are also encouraged to seek counseling.
Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse occurs when an individual engages in any activity that is sexual in nature against the will of someone else. This may include exposing genitalia, touching or feeling individuals in an uncomfortable way, as well as vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Individuals who sexually abuse others are commonly called sexual predators.
In general, sexual abusers violate others because they feel the need to exert power, control, and/or humiliation over someone else.
Children may be sexually abused by a friend, neighbor, caregiver, teacher, stranger, or family member, including a parent, stepparent, aunt/uncle, or sibling. The abuser is usually older than the victim and he/she intimidates the victim into engaging in sexual activities. When children are sexually abused, it is often called molestation. Adults who sexually abuse children are called pedophiles.
Children are not emotionally prepared to handle sexual encounters. Even a two or three year-old, who does not know that sexual activity is wrong, will most likely develop psychological problems after being sexually abused. That is why each state in the United States has its own laws regarding the age of sexual consent. These laws prevent older individuals from sexually taking advantage of children and adolescents.
Adults may also fall victim to sexual abuse. The abuser may be a family member, spouse, intimate partner, or stranger. Sexual abuse may occur in combination with domestic abuse. It may also occur as an isolated incident. If the victim is forced to have vaginal, anal, or oral sex, it is called rape.
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