Physical, Emotional and Sexual Abuse

Abuse is the intentional harming of one person by another

Although abuse can occur between any two people, it typically involves a relationship in which the abuser can control and coerce the other person. For that reason, it is often occurs between partners or is perpetrated on children by adults.

Abuse is depressingly common. The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimates that one in five adults experienced at least one form of abuse before they were 16 years old. The same organisation estimates that 6% of adults experience domestic abuse each year, with women around twice as likely to experience it as men.

There are many different types of abuse

This involves one person forcing or manipulating another into sexual activity. It may involve physical contact, such as sexual touch or rape, or it may be non-contact abuse, such as showing pornography to a child. Non-contact abuse can happen in person or online. If children are being sexually abused, they may not understand what is happening or that it is wrong, and may feel unable to object even if they do.

Physical abuse involves intentionally harming another person through physical means. It may include acts such as kicking, hitting, slapping, poisoning, shaking, burning, biting, choking, pinning someone down or drowning them.

This is deliberately trying to make a person feel bad emotionally. Some of the ways a person might emotionally abuse another are humiliating them, gas-lighting them (convincing them that they are wrong about things so that they start to doubt their sanity), using degrading language, not allowing them to have friends or ignoring them.

Neglect occurs when an adult with responsibility for another person (usually a child) does not take care of that person’s needs. It may include not feeding them, leaving them alone when they are unable to look after themselves, failing to provide medical care during illness, not responding to their emotional needs or failing to provide the stimulation or education they require to develop.

Financial abuse is controlling another person’s money or financial assets. Examples of financial abuse are monitoring someone else’s credit card bills, coercing them into handing over wages, taking their bank cards or threatening other abusive behaviour if they spend money without permission.

The term “domestic abuse” is used when any form of abuse happens between people in an intimate or family relationship. They need not live together and the abuse need not happen inside the home. UK law now recognises witnessing domestic abuse as a form of abuse in its own right. The term “domestic violence” is often used, but there need not be physical violence involved for it to be domestic abuse.

This is any abuse that happens online. It is widely associated with social media but can also take place through others platforms such as emails, texts and online gaming sites. Examples of online abuse are cyber-bullying, online emotional abuse, grooming and sharing private sexual imagery without permission (“revenge porn”).

The impact of abuse

Abuse can have a devastating effect on a person’s life. Many people never talk about the abuse they have experienced to anyone. Instead they carry their secret around with them, and with it heavy feelings of shame and guilt. Often, they blame themselves, whereas in fact it is never their fault.

It’s common for survivors of abuse to find it harder to study or to thrive in their careers. Sadly, experiencing abuse as a child also makes a person more likely to find themselves in abusive relationships as an adult. This isn’t surprising when you think about the messages that abuse gives a person about how relationships work and their own self-worth. Survivors of abuse may also experience mental and physical health problems or may turn to self-harm, drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their feelings around the abuse.

Both face-to-face and online counselling are available to those who have experienced abuse.

Take the first step in dealing with abuse

At One Therapy London, we work with individuals and couples who have experienced abuse in the past or are experiencing it currently. We know how valuable it is for survivors of abuse to be heard, but we also know that that needs to happen at their own pace. For many, thoughts of the abuse have been locked away and there is great fear attached to “opening Pandora’s box.”

So we take things slowly and there is no pressure for anyone to talk about anything before they feel ready. Invariably there is a mixture of feelings around the abuse – sadness, anger, shame, confusion and more.  There may also be really confusing feelings towards the abuser, particularly if it is a family member. These feelings can be expressed and processed in therapy without judgement.

The first step is to make an appointment for an initial consultation. We know it can be terrifying for survivors of abuse, but we also know how important it is to take that first step on the path to healing.

Abuse comes in many forms and is common in childhood and throughout all stages of life.

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