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What Is Abuse?

What Causes Abuse in Relationships?

VIOLENCE is all around us….in every state, all ethnic groups, TV, movies, music videos, games, sports, and many crimes. Of course, it is most heartbreaking when violence erupts in relationships between people who are supposed to love each other.

The definition of abuse is a pattern of coercive or manipulative behavior used by one person to gain power and control over another with whom he or she has, or has had, a significant personal relationship. It is about intimidating and frightening someone repeatedly over a period of time.

ABUSE can be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, and/or financial. Physical abuse can be either the use – or threat – of force to instill fear into another person.

POWER AND CONTROL can also be maintained by isolation, threats, assuming “rights”, using children, belittling, degrading, playing mind games, controlling all of the money, etc.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE includes spouse or partner abuse, dating violence, child abuse, sibling abuse, incest, and elder abuse. Other terms are domestic abuse and intimate partner violence.


Why are some relationships abusive, while others are healthy?

  • Socialization of violence in the family is passed on by observation of parental violence, physical punishment, toleration of sibling violence, and pro-violence values in society. Boys have always been taught that it is good to be aggressive and in control. However, in recent years, girls also have learned it is OK to be aggressive, now having violent, aggressive role models in the media.
  • Scripts that we live by tell us that there is often a fusion of love and violence; that violence is “morally OK” if it is used toward good ends. Certainly that is the logic behind spanking a child.
  • Cultural norms often say that what goes on in the family is nobody else’s business. Cases of physical assault against a spouse are too often referred to as a “domestic dispute.”
  • Sexism promotes the male as the strong and powerful ‘king of the castle’ who has the right to abuse in order to maintain control. It puts the female in the role of a second class citizen, but also the one who has primary responsibility for the success or failure of the relationship.
  • Peer pressure influences conformation to sex role stereotypes at an early age.
  • Victims put up with abuse for many reasons: economic dependence, low self-esteem, hoping things will change, the abuser can be charming / loving, feeling guilty or responsible, no help from others (family, friends, counselors, police, clergy, etc.), thinking an abusive parent is better than no parent at all, fear of what will happen if they do leave, or no place to go.
  • Kids may be abused because parents are under stress and don’t know how to handle it.
    Another reason is because parents don’t understand the normal development of children: what they are capable of or not capable of at certain ages; parents discipline in anger; parents may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol; the parents may have been abused themselves as children; or there is a lack of communication between parent and child.

All materials provided by SafeNet’s web site are for educational purposes only. We are not providing legal, medical or psychological advice. If you wish to seek services, please come to our agency or call us at (814) 455-1774.

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