Just What Do We Mean by ABUSE Anyway?For most people, the word abuse implies violent and
malicious behavior. In fact, most mistreatment does NOT
fall into that category.
ALL MISTREATMENT LEAVES EMOTIONAL SCARS
There are several basic types of mistreatment, but one thing
that all types of mistreatment have in common is that they
all cause great mental suffering.
It’s important to realize that this damage occurs even if the
abuse is committed out of ignorance or exhaustion or any
other mitigating factors.
Children have no way of discerning between intentional or
unintentional harm. To them, it all hurts just the same.
PHYSICAL MISTREATMENT AND NEGLECT
Physical abuse includes any kind of corporal punishment:
hitting, pushing, slapping, burning, biting, and even
yanking. You often see parents yanking their children by
the arm as if they were dragging something by a leash.
These behaviors may or may not leave physical scars, but the
emotional scars always remain.
There is also neglect, which is a deprivation of basic
necessities: food, clothing, shelter, medical attention or
Leaving children alone who are too young to be in charge of
themselves and their own safety is not only dangerous. It
The child might assure the parents that it’s okay with him
because he senses that that’s what his parents want. In
reality, the child may be terrified of staying alone and
even more afraid to say so.
WITNESSING PHYSICAL ABUSE IS EQUALLY ABUSIVE
Most people do not recognize that just witnessing physical
abuse is also horrifying and extremely damaging. If the
parents beat up on each other and the kid is forced to watch
or hear or even witness the aftermath, no one gets out of
that scenario unscathed.
SEXUAL ABUSE IS NOT CONFINED TO INTERCOURSE
Sexual abuse occurs when a child is forced, tricked, or
threatened to engage in any kind of sexual behavior. It is
not limited to penetration or fellatio or fondling. It includes
even watching or listening to any kind of sexual activity.
Most people do not realize that sexual violation also occurs
when there is a distortion of boundaries:
• Grown-ups walking in on kids without regard for their
• Grown-ups being too seductively clad or unclad
• Ogling the child in a state of undress
• Making sexual observations about someone’s body
These are all inappropriate behaviors and they leave the
child feeling very confused and uneasy. They might not
understand why they feel bad, but it becomes a great source
of discomfort from there on out.
EMOTIONAL ABUSE IS DIFFICULT TO DETECT
The most difficult type of abuse to identify is emotional or
psychological in nature. It is very subtle and difficult to
recognize because so much of it is a non-behavior, such as
giving someone the cold shoulder or the silent treatment, or
simply not being present.
The fact that a parent may be doing something legitimate
like working and not just hanging out in some bar does
nothing to alter the fact that the child is deprived of his
parent’s company, guidance and affection.
A parent can be physically present but emotionally
unavailable. Some parents may have too many
responsibilities and not enough time or energy for their
children. Others are simply ill-equipped to offer proper
nurturance or psychological support. The term emotional
orphan comes to mind.
Another thing that makes emotional abuse hard to pinpoint is
the fact that the victim is not outwardly mangled.
Emotionally abusive behaviors include:
• belittling, criticizing
• blocking, stifling
• too demanding of perfection
• domineering, controlling
• name-calling, ridiculing, mocking
• not taking interest, ignoring
• not showing affection or physical contact
• constant complaining about providing necessities
• general absence or unavailability.
Threats of abandonment or withdrawal of love are very
frightening and a very cruel form of discipline.
Other forms of psychological abuse are over-protection,
adulation and overly doting behaviors. And then there is
over-reliance on a child, referred to as emotional incest,
where the child is used to fulfill a void left by an absent
All of these behaviors distort healthy development and
growth. Muddled boundaries make it difficult to form and
sustain healthy human relationships later in life.
Now, using these parameters, it’s safe to say that the vast
majority of people have been abused to one degree or
another. Unfortunately, these types of behavior are far too
common and many of us have been affected more deeply
than we care to admit.
However, until we acknowledge the truth of our personal
history, we will continue to expend tremendous amounts of
psychic energy trying to squelch the pain of these
In the meantime, it is my hope that a greater understanding
of how much long-term damage these behaviors cause might
prevent us from perpetuating such mistreatment. With a bit
of attention and intention, the abuse can stop here.
About the author:
Rosella Aranda, international marketer, editor, author,
helps entrepreneurs escape their limitations. See her
newest ebook at http://www.SabotageThyselfNoMore.com/
For more on how to harness your mental power, visit