James W.D. Stewart

James W.D. Stewart

Embrace "The Suck"

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There are many sad stories posted.  Some are difficult, even painful, to read.  There are also a number of hopeful stories which suggest which truly negative situations, such as abuse, can be overcome.  As I consider the various comments, I'm struck by how people handle similar situations so differently…  By how some people are able to transform themselves, over time, so as to leave an abusive situation — others, don't seem to be able to get unstuck from the bonds that hold them in-place.

It's not always the case that people can leave an abusive situation.  Some people are trapped economically and/or politically.  Some people cannot leave easily because, to do so, will cause them to have to leave their children behind; for instance.  Other people cannot provide for themselves easily.  These sorts of situations are difficult to do anything about — at least, in the short term.  However, there are also many reasons that people use to justify staying in abuse situations that are, potentially, under their control to change.

It strikes me that part of becoming able to leave an abuse situation involves learning to change the way that you think about yourself.  In particular, the way that abused people relate to the idea that they're victims seems to be important.  As a way to organize my thoughts on this subject, I've come up with three stages that some abuse victims seem to move through as they work their way through their difficulties.



Some Thoughts About Abuse, Anger, and Victimization

Count Words — Reading Time
by James Stewart
Updated:    Grammar
Location:  Greater Sudbury Public Library, 74 Mackenzie St., Sudbury, Ontario, P3C 4X8, Canada


There are many sad stories posted.  Some are difficult, even painful, to read.  There are also a number of hopeful stories which suggest which truly negative situations, such as abuse, can be overcome.  As I consider the various comments, I'm struck by how people handle similar situations so differently…  By how some people are able to transform themselves, over time, so as to leave an abusive situation — others, don't seem to be able to get unstuck from the bonds that hold them in-place.

It's not always the case that people can leave an abusive situation.  Some people are trapped economically and/or politically.  Some people cannot leave easily because, to do so, will cause them to have to leave their children behind; for instance.  Other people cannot provide for themselves easily.  These sorts of situations are difficult to do anything about — at least, in the short term.  However, there are also many reasons that people use to justify staying in abuse situations that are, potentially, under their control to change.

It strikes me that part of becoming able to leave an abuse situation involves learning to change the way that you think about yourself.  In particular, the way that abused people relate to the idea that they're victims seems to be important.  As a way to organize my thoughts on this subject, I've come up with three stages that some abuse victims seem to move through as they work their way through their difficulties.


I've had my own personal experiences with abusive relationships over the years, and more recently, have been witness to varying abuse as a third-party.  Such recent events are what prompted me to write this article.  Originally, I'd not intended for it to be as long as it ended up being…  Once I started writing it, the words simply kept flowing.

A friend, who I'll refer to as Claire Powers, recently left an abusive and controlling relationship with a fucktard whom I'll reference as Jonathon Driscoll.  Jonathon had prevented Claire from leaving their apartment one day and, as a result, she put her own head through the wall more than once…  If that's not fucked-up.  When I'd learned of what happened to Claire, I discretely spoke with specific CMHA workers who'd be able to offer her the assistance that she'd need.  While I didn't know if she'd sccept their help, it was offered nonetheless.

Claire was, at this point, now staying at a woman's shelter.  Some time later, the CMHA staff alerted me to the fact that Claire was in the ER — she'd attempted suicide.  They'd asked me about giving her a ride from the hospital to the shelter.  As I'd recently sold my car, and not knowing certain things at the time, I called a friend whom we'll call Usher Kline.  I asked him to immediately, regardless of whatever he may be doing at the time, go to the ER and fetch Claire; bringing her to the shelter where I'd meet them.  Had I known then, what I now know of Usher, I'd never have even considered sending him to meet her.

Relatively, I've not known Usher all that long.  And, in fact, it was him who'd initiated conversation with me back when.  While I'd seen him around town, here and there, I'd not had any particular urge to befriend him.  Quite recently, after doing some research of my own into him and his past, I'm utterly fucking disgusted…  Both, with him for who and what he is, as well as with myself for not recognizing it much sooner.  Granted, I've had a lot on my mind lately, but there was a time in my life when I'd have pegged him for what he is almost instantaneously.  It takes the heart of a warrior to find deception and take it down.  Being the warrior that I am, I fully intend to do exactly that.  I'll go to the end's of the mother-fucking Earth to expose this fucking shitbag for what he truly is…  A predator — a disgusting, piece of fucking shit, predator.

What really pisses me off though, is that others seemingly witnessed behaviours and/or sensed certain things themselves, but did nothing about it; nor did they bother to advise me of what they knew.  When I finally realized WTF was going on, and approached the CMHA staff myself, they finally admitted to me that they'd witnessed predatory behaviour by Usher.  And, tell me again, why the fuck did they do nothing about it?  Everything is "not my problem" nowadays; let somebody else deal with it.  Sadly, I've experienced such ignorance, all to fucking often, throughout my life.  One of the primary problems of the world today…  Turn a blind-eye and claim ignorance — even, when you could've done something to prevent it and/or stop it from happening again.

In the car with Usher, when I'd called him that evening to pick-up Claire at the ER, was another friend, whom I'll call Darrell Rasmussen.  While he didn't readily tell me anything until just a few days ago, he witnessed Usher rubbing all up on Claire at the hospital.  She's just tried to kill herself, is confused and crying, and he's trying to feel her the fuck up.  Darrell tells me that he felt very uneasy, and was creeped-the-fuck-out when he witnessed this, but didn't say anything though — the problem with the "it's not my problem" mentality.  Nevertheless, Darrell did eventually tell me what he'd seen anyhow.  There were, seemingly, several other instances of some inappropriate behaviour from Usher that Darrell had witnessed too.  I'll not get into detail here about those, but you get the fucking point.

Another friend, whom I'll call Aaron McClain, also told me that they'd witnessed some shit going on themselves.  But, again, they'd not readily made it known to me either.  Apparently, while Aaron was thought to be asleep, Usher was rather inappropriate with Claire…  Thinking that Aaron knew nothing of what was happening.  To be quite honest, I blame neither Aaron nor Darrell for not readily being forthcoming with me about what was happening.  As I'd said before, It takes the heart of a warrior to find deception and take it down.  That's not to imply that either of them are weak or anything like that, but not everybody is able for one reason or another to do what needs done.  At the end of the day, it's because of people such as myself that others don't have to do and/or experience certain things themselves.

Claire had confided in me that she was contemplating another suicide attempt.  She made it very clear to me, in no uncertain terms, that Usher was pushing her to it again…  The first time, it was Jonathon, and now it was Usher.  She'd just gotten herself out of an abusive and controlling relationship with Jonathon, and now, Usher was trying to take advantage of her at her most vulnerable.  Quite frankly, I can think of nothing that disgusts me more than a shitbag predator such as him.  The safest place on the planet, for Claire or anybody else that is remotely close to me, is in my vicinity.  I'm the gimp that I am today due to protecting and fighting for people that I didn't personally know…  To what extent do you think I'd go to protect somebody that I give a damn about?  If I'd done nothing and/or turned a blind eye to what she'd told me, would it be murder or suicide?  If I'd have done nothing, and anything were to have happened to her, would I be responsible?  Legally speaking, probably, not…  Morally, however, most fucking definitely.

Aside from what Claire had told me in-person, I'd received some somewhat disturbing text messages from her as well.  Her and I had agreed to meet-up one night to discusss what's happening with her and how to best help her.  Claire was getting her life back on-track, had goals, and was on her way to achieving them.  When Usher entered her life, that all changed.  While I'm not entirely certain, I don't believe that she'd been to school once since.  She was trying to get herself clean, and as I later came to find out, Usher had offered to not only get her drugs, but to "watch her" when she does them and to "take care of her" after…  A sexual predator offering to shoot-up a recovering, and rather vulnerable, addict and to be alone with her — having the perfect opportunity to do something without her ever even knowing that it had happened.

So, the night that Claire and I are to meet-up, I get a text message from her saying that she's getting herself ready to leave.  I let her know that I'm going to pack-up my stuff, as I was sitting at Tim Hortons doing some work, and would be there to meet her in about 15 minutes.  I get there, and she's nowhere to be found.  Being a woman's shelter, I couldn't exactly just walk-up to the door and ask if she's there or not.  So, I patiently wait for her where I'd told her that I'd be waiting.  While waiting, it starts to rain — hard.  But, having been Army, I can wait forever-and-a-day to complete an objective if important enough.  Her safety and well-being, I'd definitely qualify as more than important enough.  With that said, I stood there in the rain, for no less than about 3 hours, before heading off to use the washroom and get Internet connectivity to see if I'd had any messages from her.

When I'd arrived at the location where I was going to use the washroom and Internet, one of the security guards whom I'll refer to as Donnie Harris, advised me that Usher had left a mere several minutes before my arrival.  He proceeded to let me know that Claire was in the vehicle with Usher.  Prior to learning of this, I was going to head back to where I'd told her I'd meet her; I would've waited all night, and longer, if required.  However, given this new information, I wasn't going to waste my time out in the cold rain nor getting sick for her to just never show up.

Almost 48 hours had passed since we were to meet, and I'd not been able to get ahold of her.  At that point, I was extremely concerned for her safety and well-being.  I sent her another text message, advising her that if I didn't hear from her that she was safe, I'd go to the police and request for them to do a personal well-being check on her.  I gave it several more hours, and having still not heard anything from her, I (along with Aaron and Darrell) went to the police station.

Initially, the woman on the phone taking the report, quite literally, said something along the lines of "it's not our problem, what do you want us to do".  Oh, I don't know, your fucking job would be a good start.  I hung-up the phone and went back to the information desk.  I made it unmistakably clear in absolutely no uncertain terms, that if anything were to happen to Claire which could've been prevented, I'd personally hold every single fucking officer on-duty that day, starting with him, accountable — he could interpret that however he wanted.  I wasn't fucking around, had reason to be very concerned for her safety, and like I'd said — there isn't much that I'd not do for somebody that I at all care for, male or female alike — I'd go to the ends of the mother-fucking Earth.  At that point, the information officer asked me to have a seat while he went to see what he could do.

A very short time later, the staff sergeant came out to speak with me directly.  I told her everything, Darrell told her what he'd personally witnessed, and I showed her the text messages on my phone from Claire.  She agreed to look into it for me, and right fucking quick-like, at that.  While she may not be able to come back to me with any further details, due to privacy reasons, she'd unhesitatingly look into the matter for me.  I'd expect nothing less — I was fine with not necessarily knowing anything, but knowing that her safety would at least be verified by the police.

Honestly, I'd expected for Claire to possibly be mad at me for going to the police.  However, her safety and well-being is of primary importance to me.  She can be mad at me all she wants…  While she may be mad, she'd be safe.  What kind of a friend would I be, had I done nothing, and something were to have happened to her — something that could've been prevented?  Having told me the things that she did, I couldn't just assume her safety; it had to be verified…  The last thing that I'd heard from her was about contemplating suicide, then she disappeared off the face of the fucking Earth for days, and never showed where we were to meet-up.  Anything could've happened to her.

If you're reading this, Claire, be as mad at me as you like; it doesn't bother me.  You know the state that you were in…  You know the things that you'd said to me.  You made some bold and serious statements regarding both yourself and Usher.  Having been a true friend to you, you should've expected nothing less from me, than to one-way-or-another ensure your safety.  In time, perhaps, you'll remove your head from your arse and realize this…  At this point, I can only hope that you stay safe and wish you only the best in life.


Step 1 — Realizing the Occurrence of Abuse

Actually, it actually isn't clear to many people that they're being abused.  Such people, need to first become aware that they're being abused, before they can do anything about that abuse.  The first significant change that people make, happens when they begin to understand that they're in-fact being abused.

Some comments have been written by abuse victims who aren't sure if they're victims or not.  At least, they aren't sure whether they're deserving victims or undeserving victims.  Various people find it OK to be slapped, punched, kicked, and/or pushed…  Even, to the point of damage, if there's some reason why they believe that they deserve this damage.  The distinction between a deserving and an undeserving victim is critical, because (as some people, not including myself, think) if you deserve to be abused, it isn't really abuse…  It's just punishment.  Abuse only becomes easily recognized as abuse when it isn't deserved.

This sort of attitude is always a bit of a shock to me.  I, personally, tend to think that there are absolute standards of abuse…  That it's never really OK for one person to physically and/or emotionally beat on another person; outside of a war-zone, which is another matter altogether.  I can't really think of a situation where it's ever all that appropriate for one relationship partner to physically strike another when that strike's not desired by the receiving party.  But, what seems like clear abuse to me isn't recognized as such by someone who's in the middle of an abusive situation.  So there's an attitude evolution that occurs, wherein, abused people grow to see themselves as abused people…  As true victims.  The shift that occurs here is that they go from seeing themselves as deserving victims to undeserving victims.


Step 2 — Becoming Angry and Leaving the Relationship

The majority of comments are from people who feel undeservingly abused.  The defining feature of such comments is that they're emotional and upset in nature.  These authors express an awareness that their situation's fundamentally unfair…  That there's no reasonable justification for what has been happening to them.  However, the emotion expressed over this unfairness isn't consistent.  Where some authors are angry, others feel hopeless and/or frustrated.

The main difference between whether people end up feeling hopeless and/or angry seems to come down to whether they end up blaming themselves for what's happening, or their abusers, and also to a lesser extent on how much control they feel that they have over their situations.  People can become angry regardless of whether they feel they have control or not, but it's easier and safer to feel angry when people feel that they have a little control versus when they feel they have no control.

Being able to feel angry about being abused is, in general, a good thing.  Anger has the capability of acting as a motivating force.  Anger's ability to motivate is never stronger than situations in which people feel they have been put down unjustly and that they have a right to take action to correct their situation.

So, here's another step in the evolution of understanding what it is to be a victim.  When you identify yourself as an undeserved victim, you may start to feel angry about your situation, and that anger can become (and often does become) the rocket fuel that you need to get yourself out of a terrible abuse situation.  Here's a case where seeing yourself as a victim can have a positive outcome.

Anger as rocket fuel…  I like that analogy, because though anger can fuel someone's escape if that anger is properly channeled, it's always a potentially dangerous thing as well.  If handled poorly, the same anger that can motivate someone to leave a dangerous relationship can also cause that person to attack the person who has abused them, increasing the chances that they're harmed, and making that relationship ever-more volatile and dangerous.  It doesn't help abuse victims much if they attack their abuser directly.  Such action may provoke violent retaliation and/or physical attack.  Legal complications may occur, as well, and it's not always the abuser who goes to jail…  Sometimes the police get it wrong and the abuse victim goes to jail!  It's better to use anger as a motivation to simply leave the relationship.  Perhaps, simple is the wrong word.  It's seldom a simple thing to leave a relationship.  However, sometimes, it needs to be done.


Step 3 — Letting Go of the Anger

The third step, which cannot readily be accomplished until after one has become free of the abusive situation, is to let the victim identity go…  And, with it, the need to be angry.

Becoming a victim — identifying one's self as a victim — is a true achievement for many abuse victims.  It's an achievement of personal independence to realize that you're not simply an extension of someone else…  Not there to be a punching bag, but rather, that you're an independent person who's entitled to be treated decently by others.  The anger that comes from such awareness helps to motivate the courage to escape.  It's not a good thing, however, to live your life angry all of the time.  Prolonged anger is, quite literally, bad for your health.

Ideally, anger motivates people to leave abusive situations and then resolves so that people don't remain chronically angry.  However, it often doesn't work out this way though; as we all know.  Abused people may end up feeling angry about being abused, but still feeling too helpless and scared do something about it.  A sort of paralysis can set-in and the situation may worsen.  Now, not only are people being abused, they're also aware that they're not feeling brave enough to act to save themselves.  Such people become upset with themselves and may start beating up on themselves.  Such people end up beaten up from without and also from within.

Victims that escape abuse may remain chronically angry and self-tortured too.  Having extracted themselves from difficult relationships, such people may remain backwards-looking and focused on the fact that they've been abused, continually picking at their scabs so-to-speak.  It's understandable when this happens, but it's not a good thing, all the same.

Once anger has propelled you out of an abusive situation, its primary reason for being goes away.  To the extent that anger hangs around after abuse is over, it ceases to be useful and simply becomes a mental, physical, and social health problem.  People who spend their time ruminating about past injustices tend not to be happy.  And, life is short…  It's far better to be happy — provided, your circumstances warrant a little happiness — than to be bitter.  And, this remains true even if you have ample reason to be bitter.  When a person remains identified as an angry victim, after having extracted themselves from an abuse situation, they're at that point oppressing themselves.

Abuse memories don't fade easily.  Abuse tends to change people — often, for the worse.  People feel humiliated, taken advantage of, made less than.  They may bear physical and/or emotional scars that will never go away.  The emotional impact of abuse memories may or may not fade with time, but no amount of time will erase the knowledge that abuse has occurred.  Memory is a one-way street.  Stuff goes in, but nothing really gets erased — at least, not until senility sets-in.

Given that abuse memories persist, it's quite a trick for people to shed their victim identity, lose the angry "rocket fuel" approach to life that's served them well in the past and move on towards becoming happier people.  This is a difficult movement to accomplish.  There are various strategies one can take.  A few popular ones are reminding yourself that "living well is the best revenge" — and, then doing your best to live well — and, cultivating a spirit of forgiveness towards abusers to the extent that forgiveness is possible.  Working towards forgiveness is best done when your abuse is safely distant in time and space…  It may be too much to ask when abuse memories are fresh.  It's true that many abusers themselves have been abused, and it isn't therefore very hard to view one's own abuser as someone who has been abused.  However, having been abused isn't an excuse for abusing.  It takes a special sort of person to be able to really forgive someone who has harmed you.

I don't have answers to offer here really…  Just some observations.  It's good for people who are being abused to develop awareness that they're being abused.  It's good for that awareness to turn into a righteous and self-protective anger which one can use to motivate one's self to leave the abusive situation.  However, care must be taken when applying this anger.  It's easy for anger to turn into something self-destructive.  The best use of anger is as a motivator to promote your escape from an abusive situation.  When anger is used as an excuse for attacking an abuser, that's a misuse of anger.  Attacking one's abuser generally becomes self-destructive in a hurry, and it's by definition destructive of the person or people you're attacking.  Once you've gotten away from abuse, your anger will hopefully reduce in intensity — as it's no longer needed.  Anger that lingers on for years after abuse has ended will reduce rather than enhance the quality of your life.  When your anger's no longer needed, it's worthwhile to work hard to let it go.


Introduction to Abuse


What's Abuse?

Abuse occurs when people mistreat and/or misuse other people, showing no concern for their integrity and/or innate worth as individuals, and in a manner which degrades their well-being.  Abusers, frequently, are interested in controlling their victims.  They use abusive behaviours to manipulate their victims into submission and/or compliance with their will.

Physical and sexual abuse greatly exacerbate the risk of substance use disorders.  Abuse has, particularly, far-reaching effects when it occurs during childhood.


Types of Abuse

  • Negligence:  They may neglect dependent victims, disavowing any responsibilities they may have towards those victims…  Causing damage through lack of action, rather than through a harmful and/or manipulative action itself.
  • Physical:  They may become physically violent, inflicting pain, bruises, broken bones, and/or other physical wounds — visible and hidden, alike.
  • Sexual:  They may rape and/or sexually assault their victims.
  • Verbal:  They may verbally abuse them by calling them names, telling them that they're stupid, that they have no worth or won't amount to anything on their own.


Abuse is a commonplace event, even in modern times, taking on many different forms — including, but not limited to, physical, sexual, emotional, and/or verbal abuse — occurring in many different contexts, including the home (i.e. domestic violence, incest, spouse rape, etc.), the workplace (i.e. sexual harassment, etc.), and in institutional (i.e. bullying, elder abuse, etc.) and religious and community (i.e. hate crime, etc.) settings.  It touches victims across the lifespan from children through elders.  Abuse is a serious social and cultural problem affecting everyone — whether as a victim of abuse, a perpetrator, a friend or confidant of an abused person looking for ways to be helpful, or simply as someone who's angered by injustice and wants to work for positive change.

If you're currently being abused, or have been abused in the past, you should know that you don't suffer alone.  Right now, millions of people around the world struggle to maintain their dignity, safety, and/or self-worth in the face of on-going abuse.  Millions more people struggle to recover from wounds they've sustained during past abuse.  You should also know that help is available for victims of abuse  Although, it isn't always easy to access though.  Community abuse resources (i.e. domestic violence shelters, etc.), mental health professionals, law enforcement, and various other organizations, Web sites and printed resources can provide instruction and assistance for people who need help removing themselves from abusive situations.

Victims of abuse often find themselves dealing with serious psychological and physical consequences of having been abused.  There are various forms of counseling, psychotherapy, medical, and self-help resources available for people who've been abused and want assistance and support for managing problems and issues they've developed as a result of being abused.  Such post-abuse issues are sometimes called "abuse sequela" by health professionals.  While no therapy is capable of erasing the effects of abuse, such resources can provide real and meaningful assistance in helping to minimize the negative effects of abuse.

Some people aren't sure if they're being or have been abused.  They may know that they've been harmed, but they may think that they deserved that harm — or perhaps, think instead that some degree of harm is acceptable and/or reasonable, or just inevitable.  Though it's not possible for me to give you a definite answer to any questions you may have about what is abuse and what isn't abuse, consider that people who haven't been abused don't tend to spend much time wondering whether they've been abused, while many people who've been abused — or are being abused — do wonder about it.  If you're upset enough to wonder about it, it's likely — although, not definite — that you've been abused.  I'll explore the definition of abuse in greater detail later within this article.


Abuse Defined

In the most general sense, the term "abuse" describes a particular type of relationship between two things.  An abusive relationship is one where one thing mistreats and/or misuses another thing.  The important words in this definition are "mistreat" and "misuse"…  They imply that there's a standard that describes how things should be treated and/or used, and that an abuser has violated such standard.

For the most part, only human beings are capable of being abusive, because only human beings are capable of understanding how things should be treated in the first place and then violating that standard anyhow.  Animals in nature, and nature itself, may be very violent and/or destructive at times — but, in an unconscious, irresponsible sort of way; they cannot act otherwise.  Natural violence isn't intentional, but all too often, human violence is.

Various types of abuse are possible, including self-abuse and abuse of others.  From a practical and social point of view, abuse that harms other people and/or animals is worse than self-abuse.  If people want to abuse themselves or some inanimate thing they own, they mostly harm themselves.  If, however, they choose to abuse a being — a person or animal which can feel pain — in a similar manner, they end up harming that being.  This is a very bad thing for several reasons…  Firstly, because it harms that other being.  Secondly, because it violates a "social contract" based upon a common understanding — drawn from various religious, ethical, and/or enlightened government principles and/or traditions that hold-out the idea that human beings are not things to be owned, but rather, beings having innate rights and worth as independent creatures who are all roughly equal (under God).  Such standards help to protect people from arbitrary abuse from people who are more powerful then they are.  If it's OK for a strong person to abuse a relatively weaker one "just because", then it's equally OK for an even stronger person to abuse that abuser.  There would be no end to the violence under such a scenario.  By insisting on the relative equality and rights of all beings — even for owned animals, to some limited extent — no one being has the right to abuse another; abusive violence is minimized.  This "social contract" is an important part of the basis of civilization itself.

Abusive actions one person makes towards another are generally intended to control the victim and/or to make the victim submit to the power of that abuser.  Such actions are abusive, because it's against the notion of equality of human worth to say that one person should be able to control another against the victim's will.

Keeping these definitions in mind, some actions are easy to identify as abusive, while others aren't.  For instance, it seems safe enough to say that a spouse should never strike his or her spouse, or put him or her down verbally — such actions are always abusive.  It's also easy enough to say that all instances of forced sexual behaviour — particularly, where children are involved — are abusive, and that neglect of children and/or dependent elder's well-being is abusive.

However, it's harder to define abuse in other circumstances.  It's a parent's duty to teach their children how to behave properly — to not do so, would be neglectful.  It's highly controversial whether corporal punishment (i.e. striking children, etc.) is an acceptable method for disciplining children.  It doesn't seem reasonable to say that all instances of corporal punishment are always abusive.  Some parents who use corporal punishment may do so for very legitimate reasons and under appropriate circumstances.  However, it's equally clear that some parents do cross the line into true abusiveness with their corporal punishment practices.  Seeking out the consensus opinion of respected others in the local community and the nation is, probably, the best means of determining whether an ambiguously abusive action is abusive or not.

There are individual differences between people in terms of their comfort level with "abusive" behaviours as well.  For example, some couples are very volatile with one another — they may scream and yell at each other and fight constantly.  Being subjected to this high-conflict sort of relationship might be an instance of verbal abuse for some more sensitive people.  However, if both partners in a high-conflict marriage are adjusted to that high-level conflict and are OK with it, then their fighting may not actually be abusive at all as applied to their individual situation.  Similarly, people who willingly and consensually practice sexual bondage in the context of their intimate relationship aren't engaging in abusive behaviour, until and/or unless one partner uses it against the will of the other partner.  The important take home lesson here is to note that when it's not clear whether a particular behaviour is abusive or not, it's best to fall back on whether that behaviour feels abusive or not.  If it feels abusive, it's likely to be abusive — at least, for you — and, in any case, you'd be justified in escaping from that abuse.  However, the same behaviour might not be abusive for another person.


Types of Abuse

Becoming aware of the forms that abuse can take helps you to be better prepared to recognize such behaviour as abusive.  Once you're able to label abuse, you can begin to take steps necessary to stop it from happening and/or repeating.

  • Hate Crimes
    • A type of abuse that involves verbal, physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse toward an individual and/or a group of individuals based solely on some characteristic they may share in common with others such as their religious and/or sexual affiliations and/or the colour of their skin.  In Canada, The Criminal Code includes guidance that says sentences shall take into account evidence "that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor".
    • Hate crimes involve scapegoating…  The placing of blame for something that's occurred — or is believed to have occurred, whether or not it really has occurred — on an undeserving individual and/or group, simply because they share characteristics with those alleged to have been involved in the upsetting event.  For example, hate crimes against people involved in the Islamic faith rose in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks after it was made clear that those terrorists subscribed to a form of the Islamic faith.  Other examples are easy to list.  Attacks on Jews throughout history have been justified by saying that "the Jews killed Jesus".  Racial tensions in North America, and around the world, remain high despite years of efforts attempting to lessen such tensions.  Attacks on gay people (i.e. Matthew Sheppard) and transgender people (i.e. Gwen Araujo) occur with frequency because their sexuality is non-mainstream and thus threatening — some clergy preach that such non-mainstream forms of sexuality are abominations, using selected portions of the Bible to justify their particular brand(s) of intolerance.
  • Neglect
    • When a person fails to provide for the basic needs of one or more dependent victims he or she is responsible for.  Basic needs include adequate and appropriate food, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and love or care.  The idea of neglect pre-supposes that the neglectful person is capable of being responsible in the first place.  For example, it's neglect when an employed parent fails to care for their child adequately.  It's still neglect when a parent's unable to provide for their child despite their best efforts due to extreme poverty or illness, but the neglect is perhaps mitigated by the circumstances.  Neglect can only happen to dependent persons.  For this reason, it most typically involves children and/or dependent elders who aren't taken care of properly by their families and/or caregivers.
  • Physical
    • When one person uses physical pain and/or threat of physical force to intimidate another person.  Actual physical abuse may involve simple slaps and/or pushes, or it may involve a full-on physical beating, complete with punching, kicking, hair pulling, scratching, and real physical damage sufficient in some cases to require hospitalization.  In particularly violent instances, people can die from the injuries they sustain while being physically abused.  Physical abuse is abusive whether bruises and/or physical damage occur or not.  Physical abuse may involve the mere threat of physical violence if the victim doesn't comply with the wishes of the abuser — and, still be considered physical abuse.
  • Psychological
    • Also known as mental abuse and/or emotional abuse…  When one person controls information available to another person, so as to manipulate that person's sense of reality — what's acceptable and what's not acceptable.  For example, psychological abuse might occur when a pedophile tells a child victim that she caused the pedophile to abuse her because she's a "slut" who "tempted" the pedophile.  Psychological abuse often contains strong emotionally manipulative content designed to force the victim to comply with the abuser's wishes.  It may be emotional abuse in this sense when it's designed to cause emotional pain to victims and/or to "mess with their head" in attempts to gain compliance and/or counter any resistance.  Alternatively, psychological abuse may occur when one victim's forced to watch another be abused in some fashion — verbally, emotionally, physically, and/or sexually.  Like verbal abuse, psychological abuse is often not recognized as abuse early on, and can result in serious sequela — psychological after effects — later on.
  • Sexual
    • Of children or adults, including any sort of unwanted sexual contact perpetrated on a victim by an abuser.  Molestation, incest, inappropriate touching (with or without intercourse), and/or partner or date rape are all instances of sexual abuse.  Sexual abuse also occurs if one partner has agreed to a certain level of sexual activity and another level is forced upon her (or him) without prior explicit consent being given.  Sexual abuse is often coupled with physical abuse — or threat of physical abuse — and emotional abuse.  For instance, pedophile child molesters will often threaten harm to their victims and/or to someone and/or something their victim cares about in order to compel that victim's silence about the sexual abuse and/or to convince the victim that he or she "asked for it" in some way.  Difficult to detect drugs like Rohypnol (a.k.a. "Ruffies" on the street) may be put into the drinks of date rape victims (a form of physical abuse) to make them pliable and easy to rape.
  • Verbal
    • When one person uses words and body language to inappropriately criticize another person.  Verbal abuse often involves "put-downs" and/or name-calling intended to make the victim feel they're not worthy of love and/or respect and that they don't have ability and/or talent.  If the victim speaks up against these statements, they're often told that the criticisms were "just a joke", and that it's their own problem that they don't find the joke funny.  They may also be told that no abuse is happening — that it's "all in their head".  Verbal abuse is dangerous because it's often not easily recognized as abuse…  Therefore, it can go on for extended periods, causing severe damage to the victim's self-esteem and/or self-worth.  Damaged victims may fail to take advantage of opportunities that would enrich their lives because they come to believe they're not worthy of such opportunities.


Domestic Settings of Abuse

Much verbal, physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse and/or neglect takes place in the home within the context of the intimate relationships between family members that take place within the home.  Abuse between relationship partners is sometimes referred to as "partner abuse", "domestic violence", "relationship violence", and/or "family violence".  Much child abuse and elder abuse takes place within the home as well.

When people think of abuse within the home, they most often think of a domestic violence situation amongst relationship partners, where an adult male perpetrator harms an adult female victim.  The reason that this sexual stereotype exists — where the abuser is male and the victim is female — is because the vast majority of reported cases of domestic violence are reported by women.  According to statistics, women report on average more than 572,000 violent victimizations committed by their intimate partners each year, compared to approximately 49,000 incidents reported by men.  It's likely that the actual number of men who are assaulted is higher than these statistics would suggest — for the simple reason, that men are more likely to feel ashamed of having been assaulted, and are less likely to report assaults.  Whatever the actual numbers of assaults are, the take home message is that anyone can be an abuser, whether they're male or female.

Partner abuse may take many forms.  Destruction of property, psychological and/or emotional abuse, and/or physical and/or sexual assault are all common forms.  On the milder, but still quite serious side, domestic abusers threaten victims — using verbal put-downs and derogatory names, attempting to publicly humiliate them and play manipulative mind games.  Abusers are often jealous.  They may attempt to limit their victim's access to family, friends, and/or employment…  So as to keep them under better control and away from "outside negative influences" — away from people who might try to talk sense into them.  Abusers efforts to limit victims outside contacts may result in victims not being able to stay in contact with family and friends, being unable to seek employment, and/or losing employment — due to absenteeism and/or decreased productivity secondary to abuse.  In its more severe forms, partner abuse may involve physical and/or sexual violence against adult partners as well as child and even family pet victims.

Most child abuse and/or elder abuse also occurs within the home.  Child and/or elder abuse occurs in all of the ugly forms that partner abuse does — including verbal, physical, and/or sexual abuse.  Another form of abuse that children and/or elders may be subject to is neglect.  Neglect occurs when dependent children and/or adults aren't provided with adequate amounts of the basic necessities of life (i.e. clothing, food, shelter, etc.).  Neglect can also occur when dependent children aren't given proper attention and/or supervision.  Neglect occurs for reasons other than lack of financial means.  It's, instead, a choice that some parents — or adult children — make to withhold such necessities.


Recognizing Abuse

Abuse isn't the easiest thing in the world to recognize, even if it's happening to you directly.  Not everyone who's being abused understands that what they're experiencing is abuse.  Some may recognize that something isn't right about how they're treated, but they may be afraid to speak up and name it as abuse for fear of retribution from their abuser.  The following list describes various interactions that people might have that are examples of abuse.  If one or more of these things is happening to you, there's a very good chance that you're being abused.

  • Becoming more withdrawn so that you don't spend much time with others who may clue in to the fact that abuse is happening to you.
  • Being called hurtful names and/or being put-down by your partner on a regular basis.
  • Being controlled by your partner.  For instance, if your partner tells you that you're not allowed to have friends, leave the house without his permission, and/or tells you that you're not allowed to pursue your own goals/growth such as attending school and/or finding work.
  • Being physically, sexually, and/or emotionally hurt and/or violated by your partner on a regular basis.
  • Blaming yourself for bad things that your partner has done to you.  For instance, telling yourself that you're really difficult to live with, so you deserve to be hit.
  • Feeling trapped in your own home and being fearful when you know that your partner's coming home.
  • Finding yourself making excuses for your partner's bad and/or harmful behaviour…  Perhaps, so that you won't have to accept the fact that abuse is happening.
  • Recognizing that your relationship has a pattern and/or cycle in which something abusive occurs.  You tell your partner that you won't tolerate the abuse anymore, but then forgive them when they apologizes.

If you're a third-party to a potentially abusive situation — suspected child abuse, domestic abuse, and/or elder abuse — it may be difficult to know if abuse is happening in any direct manner.  You might need to rely on circumstantial evidence to identify the abuse.  The following list suggests things to look for that could be indicative of abuse.

  • Changes are noted in the victim's personal appearance and/or in the appearance of his or her home and/or living environment.
  • Elders may display confusion.
  • For older children and/or adults, the victim "acts out", becoming sexually promiscuous and/or using drugs.
  • The victim becomes depressed and/or more irritable and/or agitated than normal.
  • The victim becomes withdrawn and/or suddenly fearful.
  • The victim complains of pain in the genital region — more common in children.
  • The victim displays personality changes (i.e. angry, defensive, depressed, moody, etc.).
  • The victim has difficulty sleeping at night and/or may display excessive tiredness — can be a symptom of depression.
  • The victim is distracted and/or has difficulty concentrating.
  • The victim makes implausible excuses (i.e. "I fell down the stairs") for injuries and/or absences.
  • The victim neglects hygiene — becomes smelly, goes unwashed — may be an attempt to ward off a sexual predator if a child and/or as a consequence of depression.
  • The victim's appetite changes for better or worse.  Weight loss and/or gain may occur — can be a symptom of depression.
  • The victim's self-esteem lowers.
  • There are physical signs of injury.  Such as bruises, sores, burns, cuts, and/or black eyes.  Such injuries may be hidden (i.e. behind sunglasses and/or with clothing).


Effects of Abuse

Being abused doesn't necessarily cause psychological and/or medical illness to occur.  However, being abused does make it much more likely that one or more psychological and/or medical illnesses will occur.  Victimized people commonly develop emotional and/or psychological problems secondary to their abuse; including anxiety disorders and various forms of depression.  They may develop substance abuse disorders.  If abuse has been very severe, the victim may be traumatized, and may develop a post-traumatic stress injury such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or acute stress disorder.  If abuse has occurred from a very early age and has been substantial, a personality disorder (i.e. borderline, narcissistic, and/or histrionic personality disorders) may occur — or, in some cases, a severe dissociative disorder such as dissociative identity disorder (a.k.a. multiple personality disorder).  Sexual disorders may be present.  Sex may be experienced as particularly undesirable, and/or physically and/or emotionally painful.  Alternatively, sexual promiscuity may be observed with the increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases and/or unwanted pregnancy that such behaviour carries with it.  Severe abuse can even lead the victim to contemplate suicide and/or carry out suicidal impulses.  Abuse can result in poor self-esteem, which can lead to a lack of close/trusting relationships and/or to body image issues — particularly, for sexual abuse victims — which, in-turn can result in eating disorders, which can be seen as a victim's attempts at self-control in one small part of life when they otherwise feels completely out of control and vulnerable.

It's important to note that abuse alone isn't sufficient to create psychological disorders.  However, abuse can be a very strong factor contributing to their development.  Developing a psychological disorder, such as depression, doesn't mean that you were necessarily abused, and being abused doesn't mean that you'll develop depression.  Abuse is a sufficient cause for depression…  However, there are many other reasons why someone may become depressed.


Post-Trauma Responding

Though it's an over-simplified and perhaps even over-reaching suggestion to make, it maybe easiest to think of the cluster of problems that are typically observed in the wake of abuse as all various forms of a sort of post-trauma condition — where the trauma experienced is abuse.  Post-trauma conditions such as PTSD occur in the aftermath of a significant trauma — where trauma is defined as exposure to some event that involves the threat and/or reality of death, either one's own or another's.  Not all abuse situations get this scary, but many are disturbing enough in one fashion or another to make a lasting impact on a person's mind.  When post-trauma illnesses occur, they're characterized by the presence of three classes of symptoms.  Firstly, the post-trauma victims typically experience vivid, unwanted, and highly-intrusive memories of their traumatic events.  Intrusive recollections may occur during waking hours and/or during sleep — often, in the form of vivid and/or repetitive nightmares re-enacting the trauma.  Secondly, post-trauma victims make efforts to avoid exposing themselves to anything that might remind them of their trauma.  Thirdly, post-trauma victims become very anxious and jumpy after their trauma.  As should be clear from thoughtful contemplation of these symptoms, PTSD can be a very debilitating condition.

Post-trauma victim's attempts at avoidance of trauma-related things can push them towards impulsive actions that less frantic people would avoid.  PTSD victims commonly abuse drugs, for instance, and this drug use is thought to begin as a means of coping with trauma.  Similarly, depression and sexual acting out can be thought of as attempts to cope…  However, dysfunctionally.  Depression functions to blunt emotional responding, and promiscuity to give into it wholly — "if I'm damaged goods, I might as well act like it".  Similarly, multiple personality disorder and the other abuse-related personality disorders represent wide-scale alterations of victim's personalities that help them shield themselves from emotional pain.


Post-Abuse Vulnerabilities


Abuse as "Normal"

People abused as children often grow up thinking that abuse is normal behaviour that everyone experiences and "par for the course".  This warped perspective makes abuse victims vulnerable to perpetuating the cycle of abuse as they grow older.  Those previously abused people who get involved in romantic relationships as adults, may find themselves attracted to people who will abuse them.  They may even believe that the abusive behaviours their partner periodically acts out are proof of passion and love.  Alternatively, abuse victims may have internalized the ethic of abuse and may think that it's a normal and appropriate way to deal with others.  Parents who were abused as children may find it easy to rationalize abusing their own children.  "Spare the rod and spoil the child" is the common refrain here.  In effect, being abused as a child tends to set people up to either continue to be abused as adults or to become abusive people themselves and carry on the cycle of violence with new partners and/or children.


Sub-Clinical Post-Abuse Issues

While some abuse victims develop diagnosable mental health and/or medical disorders, the majority of abuse survivors will end up with less severe outcomes that might be best described as sub-clinical (i.e. not sufficient to meet criteria for a disorder) post-abuse issues.  These issues may include:

  • Abusing your own children.
  • A tendency to put everyone else's needs before your own.
  • A tendency towards self-blame.
  • Anxious, panicked, and/or depressed feelings.
  • Chronic pain in specific parts of your body.
  • Difficulty developing and/or sustaining healthy, long-term, and intimate relationships.
  • Difficulty expressing anger appropriately.  A tendency to have a bad temper.
  • Difficulty trusting others.
  • Disordered eating habits.
  • Involvement in a relationship as an adult with someone who abuses you.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Moments of dissociation — where you mentally "space out" for a while.
  • Problems with alcohol and/or illicit drugs.
  • Self-inflicted harm, such as cutting and/or burning yourself.
  • Sexual dysfunction and/or discomfort with sexual intimacy.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Promiscuity.
  • Troubling memories about past abuse.

Though such issues may not qualify for a formal diagnosis, they're still troubling and can make life quite miserable.  It's very much worth working with a trained mental health therapist and/or other counselor to help resolve such issues.


Repressed Memories

A word or two about abuse memories is in order.  Many people who remember past abuse are remembering actual events.  It's possible to have amnesia for such memories for long periods of time and then to later recall them when you're an adult.  However, — and, this is a big however — it's also possible to completely manufacture "false" memories of past abuse that never really happened.  False memories of abuse can feel just as real as real memories of abuse.  However, if you accuse someone of abusing you on the basis of a false memory, you might end up doing very real damage to that someone.  Innocent lives have been ruined in this manner.  False memories can be created through strong suggestion while under hypnosis.  So, as a general rule, memories of abuse which have been "recovered" after hypnosis should be somewhat suspect.  A good rule to follow here is to not go searching for memories of experiences that you're not sure about.  It's better and wiser to simply seek treatment for whatever problems are troubling you, than to strain to remember specific details of abuse you may have experienced.


This article is already egregiously long.  While I could go on, and on, and on…  I'll end it here.  I may revisit and expand upon this article in the future, but then again, I may not.  The only reason that I'd started on this topic here, is due to recent events with somebody — a friend — who's well-being I happen to care for.

Categories:  Health, Law, Medical  
Tags:  Opinionated, Relationship, Self, The Stupid, The Suck

Syndicated to:


  1. Abuse Defined
    by Kathryn Patricelli Published: 
  2. Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46)
    by Government of Canada Published: 
  3. Domestic Settings Of Abuse
    by Kathryn Patricelli Published: 
  4. Effects Of Abuse
    by Kathryn Patricelli Published: 
  5. Introduction To Abuse
    by Kathryn Patricelli Published: 
  6. Post-Abuse Vulnerabilities
    by Kathryn Patricelli Published: 
  7. Recognizing Abuse
    by Kathryn Patricelli Published: 
  8. Types Of Abuse
    by Kathryn Patricelli Published: 
  9. Why Do People Abuse?
    by Kathryn Patricelli Published: 


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