What is Abuse?
Abuse, like many things, can be in the eye of the beholder. What I see as physical or sexual abuse you may see as affection. What I see as violence you may see as passion. What I see as a totally put down you might see as banter or talking dirty.
Abuse takes place on many levels. It may be physical, emotional or mental but also it might be more obscure and be intellectual or social and there is also financial or legal abuse. If you are a physical person and your method of greeting is to punch me in the arm, I may see that as a form of assault. If you naturally use sarcasm as a form of wit I may see that as an insult.
So what is abuse?
For me abuse is when we mistreat, misuse, mis… whatever. Or it might be disrespect, discount, distain, dis… whatever. I think it is in the little prefixes of “Mis” or “Dis” that suggest that the behaviour is abusive. When I Mis/Dis you I am doing something to you that does not serve you well. If I don’t realise what I am doing this is unconscious abuse. If, on the other hand, I know exactly what I am doing I am a conscious abuser and a perpetrator.
You may not even realise that you are being Mis-ed or Dis-ed this makes you an unconscious victim. If, on the other hand, you are aware of what is going on then you are a conscious victim. Many people stay in abusive situations forever, “better the Devil you know”. Some people will tolerate abusive behaviour from another person as though it is normal “a leopard can’t change its spots”, and they will accept someone’s abusive behaviour as fixed and unchangeable, “you can’t teach an old dog new trick”.
Abuse in any form can never be tolerated and always confronted
Abuse is when we are made to feel ‘less than’ or that we deserve what is being done to us. Often abuse is when we have no voice, or have no choice in what is taking place. This is a state of powerlessness in which we have no option other than to tolerate, cope with or survive the situation.
Abuse is often addictive to both the victim and the perpetrator and will remain so until it is challenged. If someone has beaten us every Friday night for many years and then they suddenly stop doing it, we may well seek out another perpetrator to beat us so that we once again feel normal.
It is easy to be judgemental of a victim, ‘why don’t they just leave’? From the outside such behaviours may seem strange or even ridiculous. From within they may seem normal and just, as it should be, business as usual.
When someone is attempting to break an abuse cycle, as with all other addictions, it often takes on average five to seven attempts before they succeed. This is because as far as the brain is concerned being a victim or a perpetrator is a learned habit. Anyone working in the area of abuse, addiction or self-harm will know the process of change takes time. In each case the old habits need to be desensitised and the new habit formed and embedded in long term memory for it to take effect.
What to do if you are a perpetrator
I have never worked with a perpetrator of abuse who did not start out as a victim. As a victim they learned the behaviours that led to become a perpetrator. I am sure there are perpetrators that were never victim but I have never met them.
If you are a perpetrator you are an addict, you are damaged and you need help. This starts with being honest with yourself followed by a visit to either a physician or a psychotherapist. Referral to specialist practitioners will normally follow.
When people started out as a victim this may be the reason that they now abuse, however this is not an excuse. There are no excuses for being an abuser.
What to do if you are a victim
Just as with perpetrators, victims, as adolescence or adults, were often victims as children. Or they are children who were brought up within abusive relationships and have developed and internal working model of the family or a relationship. If a child observes their mother being physically abused by their father this may become a learned habit. The person, as an adult may now seek out a partner who will do the same thing to them. This is, normally, unconscious and can only be addressed when it is brought into conscious awareness and seen as unacceptable behaviour. There will always be those who had wonderful childhoods and only discovered abuse later in life.
Whatever the case the victim may well need to begin their journey with a physician or a psychotherapist. If the perpetrator is controlling, or the victim fears disclosure the journey may need to begin in a more hidden way. This may begin with contacting a local or national help line, or finding a service on the internet.
Just as I said for perpetrators – There is no excuse for being a victim
That may seem a tough statement. Wherever you are in the abuse cycle the chances are that your situation will only get worse, it seldom gets better. It is always easier to do something now than it will be in the future.
If you recognise abuse in your life, if you are involved in it as either victim or perpetrator do something about it.
Take care and be happy, it is your basic human right