Trauma and Abuse

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster (American Psychological Association). Everyone experiences trauma differently but one thing trauma victims have in common is that they endured a distressing or disturbing experience. Trauma is a normal reaction to a horrible event but the aftermath can interfere with an individual’s ability to continue living a normal life.

What Are the Different Types of Trauma and Abuse?

Abuse is defined as the violent, cruel treatment of another person. The purpose of all forms of abuse is to maintain power and control over another individual. Physical abuse, which is the type that most often comes to minds when the word is mentioned, occurs when a person in a position of power causes another individual physical harm by hitting, kicking, pushing, shaking, choking, slapping, or otherwise causing them physical pain. Abuse can take many others forms. Emotional abuse occurs when the abuser uses their words to cause harm. This can manifest when an abuser makes degrading comments, engages in name calling, and humiliates another person. Verbal abuse includes yelling, shouting, arguing, and using threatening language to maintain control of an individual. Sexual abuse is also a prevalent problem. While rape is a well-known aspect of sexual abuse, it takes other forms as well. Any time another person makes choices that impact another individual’s ability to control their sexual activity or lack thereof, they become sexually abusive. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes can happen suddenly and be overwhelming.

How Common is Abuse?

Statistics show that every year nearly 238,000 people are sexually assaulted every year. Twenty percent of girls and five percent of boys are victimized sexually every year as well. Domestic violence is also a prevalent problem. Over 25 percent of women experience domestic violence within their lifetime, and women ages 20 to 24 are most likely to be victimized. When men are physically abusive toward a spouse, they have a 95 percent greater chance of being psychologically abusive as well.

Anyone can be the victim of abuse. Young children are often abused because they are small and unable to defend themselves. The elderly are particularly susceptible to abuse as well. However, many individuals, male and female of all ages, can endure trauma and abuse at the hands of another person.

Abusers come in all forms and from all walks of life. Strangers on the street, close friends, and acquaintances often become abusers. Family members are among the most common abusers, no matter what type of abuse they employ. Those who become abusive may begin because of early childhood experiences and influences. Many abusers were once abused themselves and have a need to regain power over another person in an abusive way to prove that they are no longer a victim.

How Can I keep My Child Safe?

Preventing any kind of trauma and abuse begins with open communication. Let your child know that they will not be punished for saying that they feel unsafe in any situation, especially those brought about by family members. Also ensure that your child knows that they can tell you anything that makes them uncomfortable. Clearly explain personal space and boundaries, that some areas of the body are private, and encourage them to inform you of anyone who tries to go past those boundaries. Additionally, let your child know that they do not have to do everything an adult tells them to do and make hugs and kisses for loved ones optional to allow them to truly feel in control of their bodies.

Those who have been in abusive situations can find help and healing through counseling. Through it, victims can find support and healing necessary for real healing to occur.