You might be troubled about abuse that is happening now, or it may be something that happened in the past but is still affecting you. Abuse can take several different forms: emotional, physical and sexual. Neglect is another form of abuse. All of these can make you feel really bad about yourself (low self esteem), angry, hopeless or despairing. Very often people who suffer from abuse feel isolated and find it hard to open up because they feel ashamed, or frightened that they won’t be believed or taken seriously. Sometimes they worry that their problems would be ‘too much’ for someone to hear. It is not unusual to suffer from more than one form of abuse at any one time. You might find abuse affects you in other ways besides physical signs, you may:
- Become sad or depressed
- Become angry or aggressive
- Use drugs, alcohol or self harm to blot out painful feelings or memories
- Display fear in certain situations, or with some people
- Have difficulty studying or concentrating
- Feel suicidal
Emotional abuse can have a damaging effect, and make you feel lacking in confidence, believe that something is wrong with you, and fearful of going out (agoraphobic). Emotional abuse can be:
- Name calling
- Blanking or ignoring someone
- Purposely excluding someone from group activities
- Treating someone differently for no reason.
- Controlling behaviour eg. telling you what you can and can’t wear
Emotional abuse can be difficult to spot as there are no visible signs, although in some cases it can lead to physical abuse. If you are being treated like this you need to take steps to get help – you don’t have to go through it alone. By coming to therapy or counselling you can share your experiences and so feel less isolated. You may be able to develop resilience and build self-confidence so that you are better able to assert yourself. It might also involve working together with your counsellor or therapist to developing specific strategies for coping with difficult situations.
The signs of physical abuse are more easily noticed. If someone has hurt you, you may feel too frightened or embarrassed to tell anyone what’s happening.
Physical abuse within relationships and families is known as domestic abuse and can include hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, head-butting, biting and burning. If an adult gives a young person alcohol or drugs then that too counts as physical abuse.
Maybe you are feeling pressured or forced into being sexually active when you don’t want to or are not ready. Sexual abuse doesn’t have to involve full (penetrative) sex, it might be touching or kissing. It doesn’t even have to be face to face but could be via the internet, or text messaging. If someone makes you look at sexual or pornographic pictures, that could also be sexual abuse. Although often between an adult and a young person, sexual abuse can also be between older and younger children or even amongst peer groups.
Incest is when one person in your family sexually abuses another family member.