Abuse Research Articles & Resources
Imogen SharmaLast updated:
Erin L. George, MFTMedical editor
The Gale Encyclopaedia of Medicine defines abuse as "any action that intentionally harms or injures another person." (1) Abuse is typically carried out by a perpetrator who has a close relationship with (or is a caregiver for) the victim.
Although the federal government provides guidance, each state is responsible for making laws regarding abuse and neglect. (2) Broadly speaking, there are several categories and types of abuse, including child abuse, domestic abuse, and elder abuse. Children, adults, and seniors can be victims alike.
There are also different forms of abuse, such as physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse. It is unacceptable for anyone to subject another individual to harm or injury. People who experience the effects of abuse might be traumatized physically and/or mentally. The physical scars and psychological wounds can last a lifetime.
MONDAY, March 2, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Many American teens -- both boys and girls -- fall prey to physical and sexual abuse while dating, a new survey finds. Among teens who said they dated, one in five girls and one in 10 boys said they'd been abused at least... Read More
MONDAY, Jan. 26, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Childhood neglect is associated with changes in the brain's white matter, a small study shows. "Our findings have important implications for public health related to early prevention and intervention for children reared in conditions of severe neglect or adverse contexts more generally... Read More
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Adults who experienced childhood abuse or neglect have a higher risk of migraine headaches, suggests a study published online Dec. 24 in the journal Neurology. "Childhood maltreatment can have long-lasting effects, like associated medical and psychological conditions including migraine in adulthood,"... Read More
I dated a man for several months who after about 4 months accused me of several things that simply weren’t true. He was sure... Read More
I had a pretty tough childhood, my father was a violent alcoholic, in and out of prison, who beat my mum and brother, my mother... Read More
Kent stirred his coffee as Donna shared the details of her hectic week. She was incredibly overwhelmed. Kent empathized. He’d just finished telling Donna and the rest of the group... Read More
Hitting the gym might be the last thing you want to do if you’re coping with anxiety and depression, but don’t underestimate the healing power of exercise to soothe mental... Read More
Trying to make decisions while we are riding an emotional roller coaster never ends very well. Whether we are gripping the lap bar in terror or raising our hands and... Read More
The federal definition of child abuse is "any recent act or failure to act that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, exploitation, or presents an imminent risk of serious harm." (3). It refers specifically to abuse or neglect by parents and other caregivers, with the "child" being a person under the age of 18.
Each state has its own statutes and laws regarding child abuse, with notable differences between specific locations. (4) For example, 27 states don't include an inability to financially provide for a child as neglect, whereas 17 states exempt reasonable physical discipline from the definition of abuse, so long as it doesn't cause bodily injury. (5)
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), elder abuse is the "physical, sexual, psychological, or financial abuse or neglect of older adults who may be unable to defend or fend for themselves. Perpetrators of elder abuse can include strangers, family members, caregivers, or guardians appointed by a judge." It’s important to recognize the signs of elder abuse if you’re concerned about a loved one. (6)
Some states have criminalized specific acts as elder abuse, while others rely on definitions under criminal law. (7) (8)
Physical abuse is physical aggression, causing indirect physical harm, withholding necessities, and threatening physical harm against a person. (9) Using violence to assert dominance is inexcusable under any circumstances and should be reported to the appropriate agency. (10) (11) There's plenty of support and guidance available for survivors of physical abuse. (12) (13)
Examples of physical abuse:
Signs someone might be a victim of physical abuse: (14)
Nonphysical acts that aim to frighten, control, or isolate someone are counted as emotional abuses. They shouldn't be considered harmless or acceptable just because there's no physical sign of injury. (15) Emotional abuse can impact a victim's well-being for their entire life, impairing their relationships and ability to function at work or school.
Examples include: (16)
Indicators of emotional abuse:
There are many valuable resources available for people who experience emotional abuse. (17)
When someone is verbally abusive, they use words or body language to assert dominance over another person. They could be verbally coercive, undermining, critical, or make someone question their perception of reality. Verbal abuse is usually part of a broader attempt from an abuser to exert control over a victim, and the indicators are similar to those for emotional abuse. (18)
Examples of verbal abuse: (19)
Sexual abuse is the act of forcing someone to engage in sexual activity that they do not consent to. Many factors influence consent, including whether the victim is inebriated (an intoxicated person can't give consent). Someone who is asleep cannot consent to sexual activity, and coercing a sleeping, underage, or impaired person into sexual activity is non-consensual. (20)
Under no circumstances can a minor give consent to intercourse, sexual touching, or viewing/being involved in the making of pornographic imagery. If an adult engages in any of the above with a minor, they're breaking the law and inflicting serious harm.
Victims of sexual abuse can safely seek guidance and assistance from a local rape crisis center, law enforcement agency, or charity to help them overcome sexual abuse. (21)
Domestic violence is abuse at the hands of a loved one, such as an intimate partner, parent, guardian, or any member of the household. (22) Physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, financial, and digital abuse are forms of domestic violence.
It's never appropriate for someone to abuse a position of trust and power to cause harm, exploit, or control family members. Plenty of resources are available for anyone who has experienced domestic abuse, and the route to justice varies between states. (23)
Examples of abusive behavior from a partner or family member:
It's crucial to understand that abuse is never okay and help is available. There are numerous local and nationwide nonprofits that can help victims of abuse find the support they need to heal.