There are many forms of abuse of various severity which includes maltreatment such as physical, emotional, sexual abuse, and neglect. Preventing and responding to any kind of abuse is important to prevent it. Any mistreatment or intentional harm to a child under 18 is considered child abuse.
Abuse comes in multiple forms and differs in severity, impact, and methods. As a general definition, Abuse refers to a pattern of behaviors that are used to gain, maintain and control power over another person. It’s important to recognize that abuse takes on many different behaviors, and may not necessarily be physical or sexual abuse.
Abuse can be directed at anybody, in any type of relationship, such as romantic, familial, or even workplace relationships. Therefore it is important to see the abuse for its impact and learn to recognize the emotional stress or physical cruelty that their victims endure. In some cases, even recognizing abuse can be difficult if a person has lived with it for many years, or is being abused by someone they know and trust.
Although Abuse may occur to anybody, some individuals are more prone to becoming victims of abuse themselves due to a variety of reasons. Special care must be taken to account to safeguard people from abuse and prevent further abuse from occurring.
Forms of Abuse
Emotional Abuse: Known as a difficult form of abuse to recognize (to both the victims and others) and may take on many forms. Emotional abuse is a way to assert control over another person by the use of emotions. This is done through bullying, criticizing, embarrassing, shaming, and other manipulative patterns of behavior.
This is a common form of abuse that exists in any kind of relationship, such as friendships, family, co-workers, and most commonly, married and romantic relationships. Common behaviors that occur in emotional abuse cases are as follows:
Threats to harm or abandon the person
Controlling and coercion
Isolating the victim from friends/family
Undermining the victim’s concerns/emotions
Accusations of cheating, and other signs of jealousy/possessiveness
Physical Abuse: It is the intentional act to cause injury or trauma to another person through the use of violence. This is another common form of abuse that can occur to anybody and in any setting. Physical abuse typically begins gradually and becomes increasingly worse over time. Violence against women remains pervasive worldwide and can start at a young age.
The WHO has reported that 1 in 4 young women (ages 15-24) in a relationship will have already experienced violence by an intimate partner by the time they reach their mid-twenties. This highlights that violence in intimate relationships is the most prevalent and common form of violence against women, affecting 641 million women worldwide. Stigma against reporting such incidents of abuse remains a central point of concern for abuse and must be addressed in order to shed light on the topic.
Examples of Physical Abuse:
Hitting, slapping, pushing, choking, and other forms of violence
Denial of food or water
Misuse/forced use of medication/substances
Denial of treatment
Financial Abuse: This form of abuse occurs as another way to extend one’s control over a victim. This serves as another method of maintaining that control over someone, thereby always requiring the abuser to have any access to finances.
Fraud, such as creating a bank account with a victim’s names
Adding themselves into a joint account with the victim
Spending another person’s money inappropriately and without their consent
Borrowing money or making payments without repaying them back
Control over where the victim can and cannot work
Pressuring or forcing a victim to quit their job
Using social and cultural excuses to justify victims to quit their job, such as taking care of children
Criticism of financial decisions the victim makes
Requiring the victim to justify every transaction they have made
Confiscating a victim’s paycheck
Sexual Abuse: This is unwanted sexual activity that is intentionally done through the use of force or coercion against the victims’ will. This is also done through forced physical interactions or a form of sexual harassment like intimidation, or bullying in a sexual nature. It can be a wide range of behaviors, that can vary from mild forms of inappropriate behavior to serious and violent behavior. Sexual abuse does not necessarily involve physical contact and takes on many forms.
Examples of Sexual Abuse are as follows:
Unwanted looking or touching
Being shown pornography
Rape and unwanted sexual acts against one’s will by one or more perpetrators
Use of a position of trust, such as a doctor, lawyer, manager, for exploiting or demanding sexual favors
Stalking or other acts of abuse without the knowledge of the victim
Sexual harrasment or grooming of a minor
Drug-facilitated sexual abuse, when alcohol or drugs are used to intentionally compromise an individual’s ability to consent
Child abuse refers to any type of abuse that has been committed to a child under the age of 18. Some forms of child abuse contain therein everything mentioned above. They however tend to center around the following:
Physical: child’s body is injured by a show of force
Sexual: any sexual activity that a child cannot understand or consent to
Neglect: physical, emotional, educational, medical, or supervisory
Additional types of abuse:
Causes of Abuse
It is important to note that abuse in any form is wrong, under all circumstances. It is important to attempt to gain an understanding why someone would abuse someone else, or for a victim to comprehend why it was done to them.
While there is no excuse for any form of abuse, these risk factors have been found to have an impact when a person perpetrates abuse towards another:
Having a Mental Health disorder
Addiction to drugs and alcohol
Poverty and Financial problems
Growing up in a household that had regular abuse between the parents
A history of being abused or neglect as a child
Symptoms or Signs of Abuse
Depending on the type of abuse being prepetrated, signs of abuse can differ wildely. Sometimes spotting signs of abuse are easier than others. As the abuse occurs there might be feelings of confusion, shame, fear, and hopelessness. The following signs of abuse are intended to be a blanket list. These symptoms result in physical and behavioral side effects such as:
Moodiness or mood changes
Various aches and pains
Repeated and long-term effects of abuse can have extremely detrimental effects on a person. Over time it can contribute to:
Difficulty making or maintaining relationships
Struggle to control emotions
With children, it is more difficult to recognize when abuse has occurred, and they are often afraid to admit to anyone that they are being abused.
Bruises to torso, ears, or neck
Any injury not consistently explained with the way the injury happened
Failure to gain weight
Genital pain, bleeding, discharge
Sudden onset of bed-wetting
Attempts to run away
Headaches or stomach aches with no medical cause
Extremely passive or aggressive behavior
Desperately affection behavior
Diagnosing effects of Abuse
Identifying abuse or neglect is a tricky process because it requires evaluation for physical and behavioral signs. These diagnostics method also differ depending on the reason for seeking a diagnosis. For example, In cases of a reported rape, authorities would order a physical examination to victims of the abuse. Child physical abuse examinations may take on a different form entirely.
Some of the methods of collecting these information include:
Information about the medical and developmental history
Observing interpersonal interactions
Description or observation of behavior
Lab tests, X-rays, or other tests
Physical examination including evaluation injuries, this can occur in cases of sexual abuse, child abuse, and physical abuse
Only a fully licensed medical professional can make these evaluations.
Treatment is important for the victim of the situation and ensuring their safety and protection. Additionally, the focus is placed on reducing the long-term physical and psychological consequences of abuse.
Reach out for support such as family or friends
Strong social support circle
Psychotherapy is used as a way to cope with the abuse. Different psychological conditions may rise due to the abuse, and therefore treatment dedicated towards those symptoms, as well as the over abuse need to be addressed. Some methods available are as follows:
Trauma-focused CBT: able to manage feelings related to traumatic memories
Group therapy: social support may help manage the shame with the abuse encounter and feels less isolated
Art therapy: boost confidence and expression through artwork
Narrative therapy: reframe your identity outside of the victim phase
Mindfulness techniques: identify triggers of the situation
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): helps process traumatic memories
It is reported that 1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. 37% of Arab women have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime. More than 6 in every 10 women survivors refrain from asking for support or protection. In the Arab region, males are often shown leniency or given no punishment if the victim is married to the rapist, or is forced to marry after the sexual abuse has occurred.
There are many challenges that are present when it comes to statistics on sexual assault. These challenges cover many different aspects of legal, social, cultural, economic, and religious factors which makes reporting both extremely challenging, difficult, and varying from country to country. Some of these challenges are:
What is considered non-consensual sex by legal definition
Whether or not spousal rape is acknowledged by the country’s laws
What the pre-requisite for counting an incident as rape, such as a court proceeding or a report by a doctor. A victim that has not reported a rape immediately after the fact may not be considered, since any immediate evidence may be washed away or thrown out by a court.
Some countries only track male-on-female rape, some countries count all sexual assaults regardless of gender
The marrying or forced marrying of a victim to the perpetrator after the sexual abuse
Due to these challenges, it is important to highlight resources available to victims of abuse both internationally and the Arab World
WHO Clinical Handbook, "Health care for women subjected to intimate partner violence or sexual violence" - A handbook for health-care providers to help care for women who have been subjected to violence of any kind. It provides suggestions of how to provide and intervene in cases of abuse, and how to provide and become a resource to maintain safety and offer the treatment needed to protect women.
Family Guidance Service - Government centers that provide psychological counseling, individual and group counseling, and play counseling for children. These centers are also concerned with Family care program to implement the provisions of visibility and visitation for the children of divorced.
Dar Al-Aman: Free temporary shelter for women who experience domestic violence, and minor children
Shamsaha - An organization that offers a 24/7 crisis care, for all Women living in the Kingdom, as well as internationally. They also offer programs that increase awareness, reducing stigma associated with topics surrounding violence, inequalities and discrimination against women.