Violence and Abuse

Escaping physical and emotional abuse

Abuse is defined as a means of exerting power and control over a partner in an intimate relationship. There are two basic forms of abuse: physical and emotional. Abuse can penetrate any relationship, from long-term marriages to casual high-school dating. Although both males and females can be abusive, abuse by males is more common and is usually more severe. Somewhere in the range of 25 percent of all college students have experienced abuse in the context of a dating relationship (statistics aren’t exact because most abuse goes unreported).

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is defined as the use of physical force with the intent of injuring another person. Examples include:

  • Pushing, slapping, punching, kicking, choking, etc.
  • Using force to restrain someon.
  • Throwing objects
  • Making threats
  • Unwanted sexual touching

Emotional Abuse

Both verbal statements and nonverbal actions can constitute emotional or psychological abuse. While it may seem that physical abuse is worse, the damage caused by emotional abuse may be more severe in the long run. Examples of emotional abuse include:

  • Constantly criticizing or ridiculing someone’s beliefs and ideas
  • Not allowing someone to make his or her own decisions
  • Controlling someone’s actions, such as dictating what he or she is allowed to do and whom he or she can be friends with
  • Extreme possessiveness or jealousy, such as an attempt to control where someone is at all times
  • Destruction of property

The Cycle of Abuse

It’s common for an abusive individual to alternate between brief stints of violent behavior and prolonged periods of apologetic behavior. Often, in the interludes between outbursts, the perpetrator will express remorse about his or her prior abuse and may beg for forgiveness and promise that it will never happen again. Many people feel they owe their abuser another chance and, as a result of this attitude, get trapped in an abusive relationship. The victim’s investment in the relationship negatively affects his or her ability to see things in an objective light. While it may be obvious to everyone else that the victim should leave the relationship, his or her own instincts don’t kick in and give the instruction to flee.

Remaining in an abusive relationship for a prolonged period of time can have long-term consequences for the victim, including withdrawal from academic pursuits and social life, and depression and anxiety so severe that it can lead to suicide.

How to Escape Abuse

If you’re in an abusive relationship, or you know someone who is, it’s vital that you understand that the abuse will not stop (despite promises the abuser may make). Turn to your trusted friends and family for support. Don’t allow yourself to be held back by feelings of shame. Contact any one of these services for help:

  • The police
  • A women’s shelter
  • Victim’s services
  • A counselor
  • A medical professional
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