What Is Abuse?
Amy's finger was so swollen that she couldn't get her ring off. She didn't think her finger was broken because she could still bend it. It had been a week since her dad shoved her into the wall, but her finger still hurt a lot.
Amy hated the way her dad called her names and accused her of all sorts of things she didn't do, especially after he had been drinking. It was the worst feeling and she just kept hoping he would stop.
Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, or a combination of any or all of those. Neglect ó when parents or guardians don't take care of the basic needs of the children who depend on them ó can also be a form of abuse.
Physical abuse is often the most easily spotted form of abuse. It may be any kind of hitting, shaking, burning, pinching, biting, choking, throwing, beating, and other actions that cause physical injury, leave marks, or produce significant physical pain.
Sexual abuse is any type of sexual contact between an adult and anyone younger than 18, or between a significantly older child and a younger child. If a family member sexually abuses another family member, this is called incest.
Emotional abuse can be difficult to pin down because there may not be physical signs. 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. Emotional abuse can hurt and cause damage just as physical abuse does.
Neglect is probably the hardest type of abuse to define. Neglect occurs when a child or teen doesn't have adequate food, housing, clothes, medical care, or supervision. Emotional neglect happens when a parent doesn't provide enough emotional support or deliberately and consistently pays very little or no attention to a child. But it's not neglect if a parent doesn't give a kid something he or she wants, like a new computer or a cell phone.
Family violence can affect anyone. It can happen in any kind of family. Sometimes parents abuse each other, which can be hard for a child to witness. Some parents abuse their kids by using physical or verbal cruelty as a way of discipline.
Abuse doesn't just happen in families, of course. Bullying is a form of abusive behavior. Bullying someone through intimidation, threats, or humiliation can be just as abusive as beating someone up. People who bully others may have been abused themselves. This is also true of people who abuse someone they're dating. But being abused is no excuse for abusing someone else.
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