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:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Harassment, Intimidation
  • Threats to harm or abandon the person
  • Humiliation, blaming
  • Controlling and coercion
  • Gaslighting
  • 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
  • Restraint
  • 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
  • Stealing 
  • 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
  • Indecent exposure
  • 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
  • Human trafficking
  • Stalking or other acts of abuse without the knowledge of the victim
  • Pedophilia
  • 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:

  • Forced marriage
  • Cyberbullying
  • Hate crime
  • Discrimination
  • Domestic abuse
  • Neglect

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
  • Muscle tension
  • Various aches and pains
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Difficulty concentrating

Repeated and long-term effects of abuse can have extremely detrimental effects on a person. Over time it can contribute to:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Social withdrawal
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • 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. 

  • Physical signs
  • 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
  • Fearful behaviors
  • Sudden onset of bed-wetting
  • Attempts to run away
  • School failure
  • Headaches or stomach aches with no medical cause
  • Extremely passive or aggressive behavior
  • Desperately affection behavior
  • Stealing food

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. 

  • Medical care
  • Reach out for support such as family or friends
  • Physical activity
  • Healthy diet
  • 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

International Resources:

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.;jsessionid=D1A793C54703C44D28E2E95590DBBF36?sequence=1

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Violence against women - A WHO fact and guidesheet aimed at addressing key issues revolving around COVID and violence against women



Coalition Agaainst Trafficking in Women - international organization working to end the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls.

End Violence Against - Organization that aims to support victims through knowledge, online training, disseminating resource information, and public education

Resources for the Arab Region: 

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: 

The National Family Safety Program - Helps with family and children's issues in the Kingdom for any kind of violence or abuse. - 

Child helpline - 116111

Domestic Violence helpline - 1919

Kingdom of Bahrain:

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


Phone Number: 17874614

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. 

English - (+973) 3844 7588

Arabic - (+973) 6671 0901

Sultanate of Oman

Ministry of Social Development hotline to protect women and children from domestic violence - 1100

United Arab Emirates 

Ministry of Community Development - Government Authority in different emirates aimed to respond to any domestic violence claims and emergencies 

Arabic Website:

English Website:

Contact Information:

Abu Dhabi - Phone Number: 024028263/025673666 Email: [email protected] / [email protected]

Al Ain - Phone Number: 037151555 Email: [email protected]

Dubai - Phone Number: 046082660 Email: [email protected]

Sharjah - Phone Number: 065488008 Email: [email protected]

Ajman - Phone Number: 067484844/0508973223 Email: [email protected]

Umm Al Quawain - Phone Number: 0569962299/067063001 Email: [email protected]

Fujairah - Phone Number: 092233322/092051545/0506909995 Email: [email protected]

Ras AlKhaimah - Phone Number: 072433550 Email: [email protected]

Dubai Foundation for Women & Children - Licensed non-profit shelter in the UAE for women and children victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and human trafficking. 

Arabic Website:

English Website:

Contact Information

Helpline: 800111

Phone number: 04-6060300

SMS: 5111

Email: [email protected]