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  What is Abuse?

                       What is Trauma?

Identifying both abuse and trauma is essential. Without an understanding of what is involved, it is

truly impossible to address the multiple problems surrounding these very serious issues. 

Child Abuse


Simply stated, Child abuse is the bad treatment of a child under the age of 18 by a parent,

caretaker, someone in their home or someone who works with or is around children.

Child abuse includes:

  • Physical - hitting, shaking, burns, human bites, strangulation.

  • Emotional - constant disapproval, belittling, constant teasing.

  • Sexual - fondling, the showing of private parts by an adult, sexual intercourse, oral and anal sex, forcing a child to watch while others have sexual intercourse, incest, pornography.

  • Neglect - absence of adequate food, shelter, emotional and physical security, and medical care.


The following information is gathered from:

Kids Count, Children’s Defense Fund,& American SPCC

Nationally over 7 million U.S. children come to the attention of Child Protective Services each year according to a Children’s Bureau 2015 report.

  • 37% of American children are reported to Child Protective Services by their 18th birthday (African American children are reported at 54%)

  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.13

  • 34% of people who sexually abuse a child are family members.

  • 3% of girls were age 10 or younger at the time of their first rape/victimization, and 30% of girls were between the ages of 11 and 17.

  • 96% of people who sexually abuse children are male, and 76.8% of people who sexually abuse children are adults.

  • 325,000 children are at risk of becoming victims of commercial child sexual exploitation each year.

  • The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12 to 14 years old, and the average age for boys is 11 to 13 years old.

  • 4 million children received prevention & post-response services.

  • The highest rate of child abuse in children under one year old (24.2% per 1,000).

  • 80% of child fatalities involve at least one parent.

  • Estimated that between 50-60% of maltreatment fatalities are not recorded on death certificates.



  • 4 million child maltreatment referral reports received.

  • 207,000 children received foster care

  • Over one-quarter (27.%) of victims are younger than 3 years.

  • 9% of the child abuse victims die from neglect.

  • 9% of the child abuse victims die from physical abuse.

  • 4% of children who die from child abuse are under one year.

  • More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator.

  • Child abuse crosses all socio-economic and educational levels, religions, ethnic and cultural groups.

  • Children who experience child abuse & neglect are about 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.



  • Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy.

  • Abused teens are more likely to engage in sexual risk taking, putting them at greater risk for STDs.

  • About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.

  • In at least one study, about 80% of 21 year-olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.



  • Alcohol abuse (parent/caregiver)—the compulsive use of alcohol that is not of a temporary nature.

  • Drug abuse (parent/caregiver)—the compulsive use of drugs that is not of a temporary nature.

  • Domestic violence (parent/caregiver)–abusive, violent, coercive, forceful, or threatening act or word inflicted by one member of a family or household on another.



  • 1/3 to 2/3 of child maltreatment cases involve substance use to some degree.

  • In one study, children whose parents abuse alcohol and other drugs were three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children from non-abusing families.

  • Two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse report being abused or neglected as children.

  • More than a third of adolescents with a report of abuse or neglect will have a substance use disorder before their 18th birthday, three times as likely as those without a report of abuse or neglect.

Domestic Violence


The following is from:

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.

  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. This includes a range of behaviors (e.g. slapping, shoving, pushing) and in some cases might not be considered "domestic violence."

  • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner.

  • 1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner. Data is unavailable on male victims.

  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

  • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.

  • On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.

  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.

  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.

  • Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.

  • 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon.

  • Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior.

  • Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.


Financial abuse is a broad term that can apply to a lot of different problems that victims experience. But at its core, it involves an abuser either stealing money from someone, denying money from someone or using money to exert control and power over them.


Types of Financial Abuse

  • Stealing money from someone

  • Taking financial control away from someone

  • Placing a spouse or partner on an “allowance” and controlling their access to money

  • Recklessly spending someone else’s money

  • Tricking a senior into giving their money away in a scam

  • Taking advantage of an elderly family member to use their money

While it isn’t as well known as other forms of abuse, it is very common and can play a critical role in serious situations. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, financial abuse occurs in 98% of abusive relationships and plays a huge role in preventing victims from escaping those situations.

“That is the No. 1 reason battered women and men do not leave their partners,” Mary Joye, a licensed mental health counselor who has helped people get out of financially abusive situations, told “They don’t have enough money to leave. That person usually makes sure you don’t have enough money to leave.”


Financial abuse occurs in 98% of abusive relationships.


For more detailed information, an excellent source is:


  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States has been raped in their lifetime.

  • Almost half of female (46.7%) and male (44.9%) victims of rape in the United States were raped by an acquaintance. Of these, 45.4% of female rape victims and 29% of male rape victims were raped by an intimate partner.



  • 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime.1 60.8% of female stalking victims and 43.5% men reported being stalked by a current or former intimate partner.



  • A study of intimate partner homicides found that 20% of victims were not the intimate partners themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders.

  • 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female.



  • 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.



  • Victims of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8.0 million days of paid work each year.

  • The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $8.3 billion per year.

  • Between 21-60% of victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.

  • Between 2003 and 2008, 142 women were murdered in their workplace by their abuser, 78% of women killed in the workplace during this time frame.



  • Women abused by their intimate partners are more vulnerable to contracting HIV or other STI’s due to forced intercourse or prolonged exposure to stress.

  • Studies suggest that there is a relationship between intimate partner violence and depression and suicidal behavior.

  • Physical, mental, and sexual and reproductive health effects have been linked with intimate partner violence including adolescent pregnancy, unintended pregnancy in general, miscarriage, stillbirth, intrauterine hemorrhage, nutritional deficiency, abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal problems, neurological disorders, chronic pain, disability, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Victims of domestic violence are also at higher risk for developing addictions to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.

Healthy Personal Boundaries and How to Establish Them

Learning to set healthy personal boundaries is necessary for maintaining a positive self-image. When establishing healthy boundaries, self-respect is also established. Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. Each person is a unique individual with distinct emotions, needs and preferences. Personal boundaries preserve your integrity, take responsibility for who you are, and take control of your life


  1. Recognize that other people's needs and feelings are not more important than your own. 

  2. Learn to say no; always trying to please others at your own expense is demeaning to your own self-value.

  3. Identify the actions and behaviors that you find unacceptable. Let others know when they've crossed the line, acted inappropriately, or disrespected you in any way.

  4. Tell others when you need emotional and physical space. Allow yourself to be who you really are without pressure from others to be anything else. Know what actions you may need to take if your wishes aren't respected.  

  5. Trust and believe in yourself. You are the highest authority on you. You know yourself best. You know what you need, want, and value. Don't let anyone else make the decisions for you.


Healthy boundaries make it possible for you to respect your strengths, abilities and individuality as well as those of others. An unhealthy imbalance occurs when you encourage neediness, or are needy; want to be rescued, or are the rescuer, or when you allow yourself to be victimized.


Red Flags in Relationships 


Be aware that these behaviors could be the indicators of emotional abuse and/or violence building in a relationship:


                - Unrealistic Expectations

                          - Unreasonable Demands

                - Constant Badgering and/or Blaming

                          - Unwillingness to Listen

                - Refusal of Reasonable Requests

                          - Refusal to Accept Responsibility and/or Deflecting Responsibility 



Abusive vs. Healthy Power in Personal Relationships

(red - negative, abusive power)                                                                               (blue - positive, healthy power)

1. One person has power over the other.                                                             1. Each has personal power.

2. Abuse and control are used.                                                                                2. Mutual respect is practiced.
3. There is one winner and one loser.                                                                    3. Each person is a winner.
4. Only one person's needs are met.                                                                      4. Each person's needs are met.
5. Blame and shame are used to avoid responsibility.                                      5. Each person has accountability and responsibility.
6. Relationships are competitive and/or dominating.                                       6. Relationships are cooperative and supportive.


This comparison is based on concepts presented by Patricia Evans in The Verbally Abusive Relationship. (1996, Adams Media Corp).


Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. 

In the United States, 61 percent of men and 51 percent of women report exposure to at least one lifetime traumatic event, and 90 percent of clients in public behavioral health care settings have experienced trauma. If trauma goes unaddressed, people with mental illnesses and addictions will have poor physical health outcomes and ignoring trauma can hinder recovery. To ensure the best possible health outcomes, all care — in all health settings — must address trauma in a safe and sensitive way.

Symptoms of Trauma

The first symptoms that are likely to develop immediately after an overwhelming event include hyper-arousal, constriction (feeling pressure), disassociation, and denial, as well as feelings of helplessness, immobility, or freezing.

Other symptoms that begin to show up at the same time, or shortly after those listed above can include:

  • Hyper-vigilance (being “on guard” all the time)

  • Intrusive imagery or flashbacks

  • Extreme sensitivity to light and sound

  • Hyperactivity

  • Exaggerated emotional and startle responses

  • Nightmares and night terrors

  • Abrupt mood swings (rage reactions or temper tantrums, frequent anger, or crying)

  • Shame and lack of self-worth

  • Reduced ability to deal with stress (easily and frequently stressed-out)

  • Difficulty sleeping


Several of these symptoms can also show up later, even years later. This list is not for diagnostic purposes, but is a guide to get a feel for how trauma symptoms appear.


  • Panic attacks, anxiety, and phobias

  • Mental “blankness” or spaced-out feelings

  • Avoidance behavior (avoiding places, activities, movements, memories, or people)

  • Attraction to dangerous situations

  • Addictive behaviors (overeating, drinking, smoking, etc.)

  • Exaggerated or diminished sexual activity

  • Amnesia and forgetfulness

  • Inability to love, nurture, or bond with other individuals

  • Fear of dying or having a shortened life

  • Self-mutilation (severe abuse, self-inflicting cutting, etc.)

  • Loss of sustaining beliefs (spiritual, religious, interpersonal)


The final group of symptoms are those that generally take longer to develop. In most cases, they may have been preceded by some of the earlier symptoms. However, there is no fixed rule that dictates when and if a symptom will appear. This group includes:


  • Excessive shyness

  • Diminished emotional responses

  • Chronic fatigue or very low physical energy

  • Immune system problems and certain endocrine problems such as thyroid malfunction and environmental sensitivities

  • Psychosomatic illnesses, particularly headaches, migraines, neck and back problems.

Levine, Peter A. PhD. (2005). Healing Trauma, A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body. Sounds True, Inc., Boulder, CO, pp 15-19

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