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Abuse

The media would lead us to believe that Abuse is increasing. No one really knows because so much has always been hidden under the radar and never reported. Counselling4you has worked with all types of abuse for many years, we are very experienced in this field and if you have a question/problem we will treat it with the greatest care, compassion and confidentiality.

Abuse can be experienced inside or outside of a family home and can take many forms. It may be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, neglect, or be any combination. Abuse can affect anyone, regardless of religion, colour, age, sexual orientation or social standing. It happens in wealthy or poor families, at work, in church, in social environments, in fact anywhere.  Often the most damaging abuse is at home, sometimes parents abuse each other, which can be hard for a child to witness. Some parents abuse their children by using physical, emotional or verbal cruelty as a way of discipline.

Physical Abuse

This is often the most obvious form of abuse. It may be any kind of hitting, shaking, burning, pinching, biting, choking, throwing, whipping, paddling, beating, or other actions that cause physical injury, leave marks, or produce significant physical pain. Both males or females regardless of age can experience abusive physical punishment, boys are beaten more often than girls but girls are sexually abused more.

Sexual Abuse

Is ANY form of sexual contact/touch between an adult and a child or between a significantly older child and a younger child. If a person is abused by a member of his or her immediate family it is called incest. Sexual Abuse is not only limited to children, if one person violates another person's boundary (space) in order achieve any physical contact without permission it is still abuse. This type of abuse can often be difficult to observe, especially with children because there may be no visible physical signs.

Emotional Abuse

Can also be difficult to observe because there are no physical marks or signs.

With children, emotional abuse means denying them what they need to grow/evolve into a fully functioning adult. Such as love, approval, attention, encouragement, affirmation, being listened to and so on. Denying them this emotional support will leave emotional deficit and cause emotional scars which can bring about long term emotional damage. This can compounded by wilful and direct manipulation by constantly belittling, threatening, humilliatiing or dismissing a child until the child's self-esteem and feelings of self-worth are damaged/destroyed.

With adults it can mean yelling at each other, expressing anger, calling each other names, etc. Sometimes expressing anger can be healthy providing it can be released in a safe and regulated environment. Emotional abuse generally occurs when the yelling and anger go too far which can also lead to physical abuse. One can generally explain emotional abuse as one person trying to gain power, control and/or leverage over another person by the use of emotional blackmail, physical threats, false promises and manipulation.

Neglect

Is probably the most difficult type of abuse to detect, it generally is the extension and exaggeration of emotional abuse (above).

Neglect is;

  • When parents continually fail to take care of and meet the basic needs of the children in their care.
  • Not providing enough emotional support or deliberately and consistently paying little or no attention to a child.
  • Not providing food, housing, clothes, medical care or supervision.
  • Not providing adequate love, time, touch, attention, care, affection, mirroring, support, respect, appreciation and so on.
  • Neglect will affect the child's developing social brain and may leave long term emotional problems.

Recognising Abuse

Abuse does not just happen in families. Bullying is a form of abusive behaviour that may happen in a peer groups of any age. Bullying someone by intimidation, threats or humiliation can be just as abusive as beating someone up. People who bully others have often been abused themselves. But being abused is still no excuse for abusing someone else. Abuse can also take the form of hate crimes directed at people just because of their race, religion, abilities, gender, or sexual orientation.

It may sound strange, but people sometimes have trouble recognising that they have been or are currently being abused. For example, someone who has lived with it for many years. A person might think that it is just how it is, or that there is nothing that can be done about it. People who are abused might mistakenly think they bring it on themselves by misbehaving or by not living up to someone's expectations.

Someone growing up in a violent or abusive family may not know that there are other ways for family members to treat each other. A person who has only known an abusive relationship may mistakenly think that hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, or angry name-calling are perfectly normal ways to treat someone when you are angry. Seeing parents treat each other in abusive ways may lead a child to think that this is a normal relationship. It is important for people who grow up with abuse to know that it is not a normal, or healthy, or an acceptable way to be treated or treat people.

Why Does It Happen?

There is no one reason why people abuse others, although there are some factors that seem to make it more likely that a person may become abusive. Growing up in an abusive family, for example, can teach someone that abuse is a way of life. Fortunately, though, many people who grow up in abusive families realise that abuse is not acceptable and are able to break patterns of abuse.

Some people become abusive because they are not able to manage their feelings properly. For example, people who are unable to control their anger or people who cannot cope with stressful personal situations (like the loss of a job or marital problems) may lash out at others inappropriately. Certain types of personality disorders or mental illness can also interfere with a person's ability to relate to others in healthy ways or cause people to have problems with aggression or self-control. Obviously, not everyone with a personality disorder or mental illness becomes abusive. Substance abuse, such as alcoholism or drug use, can also play a role by making it difficult for the abuser to control his or her actions.

Of course, just because someone may have a problem, does not automatically mean that person will become abusive. If you are one of the thousands of people living in an abusive situation it can help to understand why some people abuse, and to realise that violence is all about the person doing it, not the fault of the person being abused. Even if someone close to you has behavioural or other problems that cause him/her to abuse others, these do not make the abuse acceptable, normal, or excusable. Abuse can always be corrected, and everyone can learn how to stop.

What Are the Effects of Abuse?

Most long term effects of abuse are those that we receive as babies/children

Abuse can start in the womb. The baby's developing social brain will be dependent on the mothers, habits, welfare, mental and physical health, relationships, living conditions, diet etc. What the mother experiences, so does the unborn baby.

Any or all forms of abuse in our early years can have long term and disastrous effects on our decision making abilities, our relationships, emotional and physical welfare, in short, every aspect of our teenage or adult life.

The effects of abuse are far reaching and will depend on the severity and frequency of the abuse. Although there are common themes, everyone will suffer in their own unique way.

The majority of the problems relating to abuse are covered on the Problem page on our web site.

From bed wetting, to self-harm, night terrors, addictions, guilt, food issues, shame, anxiety, anger, depression and so on.

Many people who are abused distrust others. They may feel a lot of anger toward other people and themselves, and it can be hard to make friends. Some abused teens become very depressed, some may engage in self-destructive behaviour, such as self-harm or abusing. They may even attempt to take their own lives.

It is "normal" for people who have been abused by those they love to not only feel upset but also confused about what happened to them. They may feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed and blame themselves, especially if the abuse is sexual. But abuse is never the fault of the person who is being abused, no matter how much the abuser tries to blame it on them. Abusers often try to manipulate the people they are abusing into either thinking the abuse is their fault or to keep the abuse quiet. An abuser might say things like: "This is a secret between you and me," or "if you ever tell anybody, I'll hurt you or your mum," or "You are going to get in trouble if you tell". "No one will believe you and you will go to jail for lying." This is the abuser's way of making a person feel like nothing can be done so that he/she will not take any action to stop or report the abuse. People who are abused may have trouble getting help because it means they would be reporting on someone they love, someone who may be wonderful much of the time and awful to them only some of the time. Therefore abuse often goes unreported.

What Should Someone Who is Being Abused Do?

People who are being abused need to get help. Keeping the abuse a secret doesnot protect a person from being abused, it only makes it more likely that the abuse will continue. If you or anyone you know is being abused, talk to someone you or your friend can trust, a family member, a friend, a trusted teacher, a doctor, or an adult who works with youth at school or in a church. Many teachers and counsellors, for instance, have training in how to recognise and report abuse.

Sometimes people who are being abused by someone in their own home need to find a safe place to live temporarily. It is never easy to have to leave home, but it is sometimes necessary to be protected from further abuse. People who need to leave home to stay safe can find local shelters listed on the internet/phone book or they can contact an abuse helpline. Sometimes a person can stay with a relative or friend. People who are experiencing abuse often feel weird and alone, but they're not.

No one deserves to be abused. Getting help and support is an important first step to change the situation. Most people who have experienced abuse find that painful emotions linger even after the abuse stops. Working with a counsellor is one way for a person to explore the complicated feelings and reactions that being abused creates. This process can help to rebuild feelings of safety, confidence, and self-esteem.