Abuse is one of those common denominators that arise in many ways across the globe – in different countries, in different forms, and against so many woman and children from different cultures and social classes. But one thing rings true in each instance of abuse: it takes courage to speak out. It takes a lot of strength for a victim to stand up for herself and her children. Fortunately, this step is really all it takes to save oneself and alert others to offer their support and protection. One voice, one shoulder, one protector – that is enough.

By being aware of the different forms of abuse, you can be better prepared yourself to recognise unacceptable behaviour and identify signs that may be warning you to remove yourself from a potentially abusive situation.

VERBAL ABUSE occurs when a person uses harsh words and threatening body language to inappropriately criticise a woman or child. This often involves name-calling intended to make the victim feel as though they are not worthy of love or respect, or that they have no dignity, identity, ability or talent. This kind of abuse can lead to inferiority complexes and emotional damage on the victim’s part.

Bullying amongst children often refers to the following:

  • children being discriminated for being different to the rest of the group;
  • name-calling;
  • older children picking on younger children;
  • teachers picking on schoolchildren;
  • parents picking on their own children or other people’s children;
  • other parents discriminating against single parents.

There is no limit to the damage this type of abuse can cause, as hurtful words are oftentimes worse than having wounds.

PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE (mental abuse or emotional abuse) usually occurs when a person has control over another person in such way that they manipulate their sense of reality (that is, influence what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.)

PHYSICAL ABUSE usually occurs when a person induces physical pain or becomes a threat of physical force to intimidate another person. It may refer to any physical harm, ranging from a few slaps or shoves to full-blown physical beating (punching, kicking, hair pulling, scratching) that may lead to hospitalisation of the victim. This type of abuse leaves both physical and psychological scars, making the victim feel inferior and deserving of this kind of punishment. Take it as a warning sign when a suspected victim comes up with excuses about their injuries. They may say it was their fault for or that it will never happen again.

SEXUAL ABUSE of children or women includes any sort of unwanted sexual contact perpetrated on a victim by an abuser. Molestation, incest, inappropriate touching (with or without intercourse), or date rape are all instances of sexual abuse. This kind of abuse can also occur where consent was given and then later withdrawn. Oftentimes, sexual abuse is coupled with physical abuse (or a threat of physical abuse), as well as emotional abuse. As for preventing it, one can be careful of accepting any open beverages from anyone, or not keeping an eye on them. It is important to protect your children by not trusting anyone with them – be it a stranger or an untrustworthy family member or ‘friend’.

NEGLECT is a form of abuse which occurs when a person fails to provide for the basic needs of one or more dependents he or she is responsible for. These basic needs include adequate and appropriate food, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and a caring (loving) environment. The idea of neglect presupposes that the neglectful person is, in fact, capable of being responsible.

HATE CRIMES are a type of abuse that involves verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse toward an individual or a group of individuals based solely on some characteristic they may share in common with others. These characteristics include religious or sexual affiliations, or the colour of their skin. This kind of abuse especially manifests as bullying at schools.

DID YOU KNOW?

The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children is an international awareness-raising campaign. You can support this campaign by wearing a white ribbon during the 16-day period – it symbolises both peace and your commitment to never condoning violence against women and children. Click on this link for more information:

http://www.southafrica.info/services/rights/16days.htm#.VlPwSWXa2Dg.email