Individual counselling may benefit victims of abuse. One aspect is to help you to recognize the abuse and to support you to detach yourself from the abuser. Counselling may help you to take control over your life and the situation you are in by restoring your self-esteem, re-examine healthy ways of relating, help you to address issues of ending an abusive relationship, and issues of powerlessness, isolation, sadness, guilt and shame.
What is Abuse?
Abuse is an attempt to control the behavior of another person for personal gains. It is characterized by a misuse of power which uses the bonds of intimacy, trust and dependency to make the victim vulnerable. Most common forms of abuse include domestic violence, child abuse, and emotional abuse, however any behavior that causes deliberate harm or distress can pose as an abuse.
CommonTypes of Abuse
- physical abuse
- child abuse
- sexual abuse
- emotional or psychological abuse
Physical abuse is an intentional act of violence or force t
hat causes bodily harm – typically in the form of physical discomfort, impairment, injury or pain. However a person doesn’t have to show signs of an injury or bruises to have experienced physical abuse. Regardless of scale, physical abuse is unhealthy and can have long-lasting effects both physically and psychologically.
Physical abuse can affect both adults and children, and their abuser can be anyone within their environment, including family members, caregivers, a partner, friend or acquaintance. Generally the aim of an abuser is to cause fear and humiliate/intimidate the victim – usually as a means of asserting control.
Statistics show that every year thousands of children are abused physically by a parent or someone they know. Child abuse is characterized by any actions of a caregiver that could potentially harm a child’s mental or physical health. Research shows that many aggressors were abused themselves as children. The main areas of child abuse are:
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse often face problems in their relationships, but it is important to know that help and support is available. Individual counselling can help to address issues of trust and anger that may resurface in later life.
Sexual abuse happens when someone is forced or pressured into taking part in any type of sexual activity. This includes being forced to have sex (rape), being sent sexual messages/images against your will (sexting) or being touched in a sexual way without your permission (sexual assault).
This type of abuse can also involve being forced to have sex with someone in return for money (sexual exploitation), being bullied in a sexual way (sexual harassment) or being forced to take part in ritual abuse (female genital mutilation).
Experiencing sexual violence can lead to a number of different emotions. There is no right or wrong way to feel. You may experience some (or all) of the following:
Numb –The shock and trauma of sexual abuse can make you feel numb to it. You may find yourself feeling strangely calm, or simply unable to process what has happened.
Guilty –You may be telling yourself that it was your fault, even though it wasn’t.
Angry –Feeling anger is common, you may feel anger at the person who did this to you, or even at yourself.
Ashamed –You may feel embarrassed and ashamed about what happened, even though it was not your fault and totally out of your control.
Depressed –You may lose your enjoyment of life, feeling like theres nothing to look forward to anymore.
Anxious –Activities you used to do without a second thought may now make you feel anxious, like going out alone.
PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) –You may experience nightmares, flashbacks or feel that your safety is in danger.
Emotional or Psychological Abuse
Emotional abuse is characterized by gains in power and control over another through words and gestures which gradually undermine the others self respect. Emotional abuse can be difficult to identify, as there is no scars or marks and the torment can continue indefinitely.
Emotional abuse falls into three patterns:
- Aggressive: Includes name-calling, belittling, blaming, accusing, yelling, screaming, making threats, degrading insults or destructive criticism.
- Denying: Includes sulking, manipulation, neglecting, not listening, withholding affection and distorting the others experience.
- Minimizing: Includes belittling the effect of something, isolating, accusations of exaggerating or inventing and offering solutions or ‘advice’.
Signs of emotional abuse:
Depression or anxiety
Increased isolation from friends and family
Fearful or agitated behavior
Lower self-esteem and self-confidence
Addiction to alcohol or drugs
Emotional abuse can damage your confidence, you may feel worthless and ashamed, and find it hard to make or keep other relationships.
Causes of emotional abuse:
Powerlessness, hurt, fear and anger are often unresolved issues for both the abuser and the abused. Childhood patterns can be re-enacted in emotional abuse with one participant taking the ‘parent’ role and the other adopting that of the child. A person may also be an abuser in one relationship and abused in another as they reverse unresolved emotions. Abusers find it difficult to handle their feelings and blame their problems on others instead.
Domestic violence is characterized by any incident of threatening behavior, violence or abuse between two people who are, or have been, in a relationship.
Abuse may be psychological, sexual, emotional or financial with aim to maintain power and control over you. Women, men, and same-sex partners equally suffer from abuse.
Cycles of domestic violence include:
Abuse –Either physical or emotional harm is caused.
Guilt –After the pain has been inflicted, the abuser may feel incredibly guilty and ashamed. This may be to do with what they’ve done or, more commonly, because they fear getting caught.
Excuses –At this point the abuser may try to rationalize their behavior, making excuses to justify what they have done.
Back to normal –To regain control, the abuser may return back to normal, acting as if nothing has happened. They may make loving gestures at this point, making you feel as though the violence will stop.
Fantasizing –Some abusers will spend time fantasizing about when they can next be violent, or how they can catch you doing something wrong.
Set-up –To create the right environment for violence, the abuser may set-up certain situations. This is a way for them to rationalize what they’re doing.
As tough as it may be to think about – understanding this pattern can help. If you recognize these behaviors in your relationship, it is important to understand that it is not OK. No matter what you are told, violence is never justified and should never be acceptable. The effects of these kinds of relationships are far-reaching and serious.
Depression, anxiety and low self-esteem are typical by-products of a violent relationship. The abuser will often make you feel as though you deserve the abusive behavior and the violence. They may also be derogatory about you, to make you feel bad about yourself. Telling you things like this is designed to make you feel powerless and scared to leave.
They may make you feel as though you are lucky to have him/her in your life and that if you leave, you will be lonely and unloved. All of this is likely to make you feel incredibly anxious and depressed. You may find your personality changes too. When once you would have been confident and outgoing, you may now be quiet and withdrawn.
These psychological effects can be incredibly destructive. Many victims report feeling suicidal. What is important to note however is that there is support out there – not only to get out of a violent relationship, but to help you recover psychologically.