Abuse affects a lot of people and can occur in many different situations. There are different types of abuse, including sexual, physical, emotional and substance, and they can happen simultaneously. Abuse is not something to joke about, and not a lot of victims talk about the abuse they endure. No matter what kind of abuse you or someone you know might encounter, it’s important to educate yourself on what each entails and how you can help those who have suffered.
Sexual abuse is any sexual activity—not just penetration—that is unwanted and forceful. The perpetrator, or aggressor, usually knows the person they are trying to have sexual encounters with. However, a person can be sexually assaulted by a stranger or under many different circumstances. Committing sexual assault is a crime and a person, if charged, can go to jail if found guilty in court. Immediate signs of sexual abuse include shock, isolation, nightmares, trouble sleeping, paranoia, mood swings, change in eating patterns and new fears of places and people.
Physical abuse is physical force that results in pain, physical trauma, broken bones, impairment or even death. Physical abuse is often the result of anger, power, mental or substance issues. It can happen to anyone, by anyone—family, friends, partners or strangers. If it happens in the home, it’s called domestic violence, whether it happens to a child or partner. Signs of physical abuse include bruising, cuts and wounds, broken bones, burns, bite marks, and other physical injuries.
Emotional abuse happens most often in relationships, whether they be romantic, familial or work-related. Abuse can come from anger, power or self-confidence issues. Aggressors can sometimes feel like they are the victims themselves, so their mind justifies their victimization. Emotional abuse takes the form of neglect, yelling at or putting others down and manipulation. Signs of emotional abuse include public humiliation, constant put-downs and criticisms, extra-marital affairs, withdrawal of affection and isolating the other person from family and friends.
Substance abuse is when a person becomes reliant on drugs or alcohol. This means they cannot get through the day without the drug and it completely takes over their daily life and decisions. Substance abuse not only harms the person with the problem (physically, mentally and emotionally) but the people around them, as well. There can also be long lasting physical and mental health problems for people with substance abuse problems, including withdrawal, change in appetite and sleep patterns, troubles sleeping, loss of job and/or relationships, mental deterioration or heart and lung complications.
If you or someone you know has been abused or has an abuse problem, talk to an adult, doctor or someone you trust, such as a teacher, counsellor, parent or friend. There is action you can take once you share your story or find out if someone is being abused. The first step is always finding out what happened and making sure the abuse does not continue.
Feature image Mike Bitzenhofer