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Abuse Definitions and Symptoms

References: The information on this page has been adapted from several sources, including: Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (casa), Internet Mental Health, the Mennonite Domestic Violence Task Force pamphlet; the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect; The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Health and Welfare Canada Brochure; the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV); Ritual Abuse, Ritual Crime, and Healing; St. Jude House; Webster's Dictionary; and (alt.sexual.abuse.recovery FAQ), and the members of the newsgroups alt.sexual.abuse.recovery.moderated and alt.abuse.recovery.


Abuse Definitions
Websters Dictionary
British Child Protection Register
Verbal Abuse
Mental / Emotional Abuse
Physical Abuse
Sexual Abuse
Spiritual/Religious Abuse
Partner Abuse
Ritual Abuse
Symptoms of Abuse
Symptoms of Abusers

Abuse Definitions


Main Entry: abuse(1)
Pronunciation: &-'byüz
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): abused; abus·ing
Date: 15th century
  1. To put to a wrong or improper use <abuse a privilege>
  2. Obsolete: DECEIVE
  3. To use so as to injure or damage: MALTREAT
  4. To attack in words: REVILE
    - abus·able /-'byü-z&-b&l/ adjective
    - abus·er noun
Main Entry: abuse (2)
Pronunciation: &-'byüs
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French abus, from Latin abusus, from abuti to consume, from ab- + uti to use
Date: 15th century
  1. A corrupt practice or custom
  2. Improper or excessive use or treatment : MISUSE
  3. Obsolete : a deceitful act : DECEPTION
  4. Language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily
  5. Physical maltreatment
synonyms: ABUSE, VITUPERATION, INVECTIVE, OBLOQUY, BILLINGSGATE mean vehemently expressed condemnation or disapproval. ABUSE, the most general term, usually implies the anger of the speaker and stresses the harshness of the language abuse. VITUPERATION implies fluent and sustained abuse vituperation. INVECTIVE implies a comparable vehemence but suggests greater verbal and rhetorical skill and may apply to a public denunciation invective. OBLOQUY suggests defamation and consequent shame and disgrace, obloquy and derision. BILLINGSGATE implies practiced fluency and variety of profane or obscene abuse, e.g. "billingsgate at the cabdriver."

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British Child Protection Register

The definition adopted by the British Child Protection Register is one of the most precise and distinct of definitions; it is more rigorous than that used by the Council of Europe or by the United States of America. The British definition includes four major categories:
  1. Child Neglect: Persistent or severe neglect of a child, or the failure to protect a child from exposure to any kind of danger, including cold and starvation, or extreme failure to carry out important aspects of care, resulting in the significant impairment of the child's health or development, including non-organic failure to thrive.

  2. Child Physical Injury: Actual or likely physical injury to a child, or failure to prevent physical injury (or suffering) to a child, including deliberate poisoning, suffocation and Munchausen's syndrome by proxy.

  3. Child Sexual Abuse: Actual or likely sexual exploitation of a child or adolescent. The child may be dependent and/or developmentally immature.

  4. Child Emotional Abuse: Actual or likely severe adverse effect on the emotional and behavioural development of a child caused by a persistent or severe emotional maltreatment or rejection.

It should be noted that any type of abuse involves some emotional maltreatment; therefore Child Emotional Abuse is used only when the it is the main or exclusive form of abuse.

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Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse is the use of language to manipulate, control, ridicule, insult, humiliate, belittle, vilify, and show disrespect and disdain to another, and is often a component of other types of abuse. Verbal Abuse is not recognized and is poorly understood by the therapeutic community. Verbal Abuse is comprised of any of the following:
  • Accusing / Blaming
    Accusing and blaming another for ones own outbursts, expressions of anger, bad moods, mistakes, and failures. Example: "If you were'nt so lazy, forgetful, sloppy, and inattentive, I wouldn't get so mad!"

  • Covert / Subtle
    Seemingly sincere, expressed in a loving and concerned manner, but placing all blame and fault on the other person in an excusive or condesceding manner. Example: "It's OK, we have problems talking to each other because you really aren't capable of understanding the whole picture. I'll just compensate for that."

  • Denial
    The inability to admit and take responsibility for ones actions and words concurrent with accusations and blame directed at the one abused. Examples: "I never said that, you can't get anything straight", "You’re lying, making that all up to make me look bad", "Where did you get that crazy idea?"

  • Discounting / Dismissiveness
    Denigration and/or denial of the experience, skills, maturity, and abilities of another; often marked by distortion and/or fabrication. Examples: "You call that art? Even a chimpanzee could do better than that!", "You so dumb you couldn't even add up two and two and get four!"

  • Judgemental Criticism
    Criticism that goes beyond neutral and/or constructive verbal correction of erroneous actions; comprised in part of ridicule, name calling, denigration, and/or humilation. Examples: "What are you, stupid? Can't you ever do anything right?", "You didn't even finish college, you're just a quitter and a failure"

  • Humilation
    Public or private intentional shaming and embarassment of any kind. Example: "oh, you need to be tolerant of him, he doesn't know any better"

  • Manipulation
    Appealing to and/or using another's sense of responsibility or obligation to achieve a personal goal. Example: "If you really loved me, you would..."

  • Name Calling / Epithets
    All name calling, and epithets directed at another are abusive.

  • Ridicule
    Making fun of and otherwise "putting down" another person or group based on their appearance, gender, competency, beliefs, ethnicity, culture, or religion. Example: "He will never amount to anything because he is just a <fill in the blank>"

  • Teasing / Joking
    Humor at the expense of another, comprised of humilation, dismissiveness, exaggeration and/or fabrication.


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Mental / Emotional Abuse

Mental and emotional abuse includes a large component of verbal abuse, as well as the following.
  • Control
    Complete control of any or all aspects of another's life; including where and when one goes; what one reads, listens to, or views; how one dresses; control of bank accounts and spending; refusal to share money, food, transportation.

  • Disgregard/Dismissal
    Dismissal and/or complete disregard of ones feelings, opinions, abilities, and skills. Refusal to socialize and/or spend time with one. Withholding of approval and/or acknowledgement

  • Harassment/Jealousy
    Harassment and/or accusations about imagined affairs, spending habits, clothing styles, friends and/or acquaintences, coworkers, and personal activities.

  • Manipulation
    Use of lies contradictions to keep one off-balance and confused; to manuever and otherwise force or trick one into doing "favors".

  • Threats
    Threatened to hurt one, family members, friends, or pets. Threats to destroy personal belongings, or to take control of personal assetts (car, finances, clothing, etc.) Threatening to use a weapon or an object to harm and/or kill.

  • Violence
    Destruction of personal belongings, furniture, appliances. Punching holes in walls. Harming or killing pets. Physically throwing one out of the home and/or preventing entry into the home.


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Phyical Abuse

The non-consensual infliction of pain and bodily harm to another.
  • Binding
    Tying, chaining, manacling, taping or in any other way using physical restraints on another to restrict movement. No exceptions.

  • Burning
    The infliction of burns of any kind - via cigarettes, open flame, hot objects, immersion in hot or boiling water, forced exposure to the direct sun - is abuse. No exceptions.

  • Hitting, Striking
    Physically hitting, sriking, slapping, or pushing another as an expression of frustration, impatience, dislike, anger, or fear; throwing an object at or using an object to hit another.
    Exceptions: Only when to prevent bodily or life-threatening harm to another, such as a child reaching for a hot skillet.
  • Imprisonment
    Locking another in a closet or room, confining another to a dwelling, controlling when and where another goes and who they visit.
  • Exceptions: Grounding a minor for a specific - and reasonable - amount of time, not allowing a minor to associate with known abusive/criminal peers and/or adults.
  • Pushing/Pulling/Shoving
    Physical displacement of another by pulling hair, clothing, and bodily parts; or shoving another by direct contact or by shoving an object into or at another.
    Exceptions: Only when to prevent bodily or life-threatening harm to another, such as pulling a child back from going into traffic, or tackling a person unaware of an oncoming vehicle.

To be continued

Last updated: Saturday, 03-Jan-2015 18:13:30 PST