General Information Regarding Abuse


  • 20% of women's visits to the ER are caused by battering.
  • Battering is the single major cause of injury to women.
  • Animal shelters outnumber women's shelters in the United States by at least 5 to 1. (unverified)
  • Out of all the women who are killed by their abusers, 3 out of 4 are killed while in the process of leaving him.
  • One out of every three girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
  • More than half of all rapes occur in the victim's own home.
  • Reported rapes are only a fraction the number of total rapes; estimates of unreported rapes range from 5 to 8 times the reported rate.
  • It has been said that men are afraid that women will laugh at them; women are afraid that men will kill them.

Ways to Tell if You Are Being (or Have Been) Abused

One of the best ways to tell if you are being abused is to trust your gut. This is a difficult task, if your abuser has managed to make you doubt your own sanity, but it is vital to your survival and healing. Ask yourself if you are frightened of the person in question; if the answer is "yes", they may well be abusing you.

Certainly, if they are physically abusing you, there will be bruises, bloodied noses, cuts, and other injuries to indicate what's going on. Remember that assaulting and battering someone is a criminal offense, and you don't deserve it no matter how old or young you are, how mad the person became, or whether you were having a heated argument with them beforehand. As the saying goes: your right to hit me ends where the end of my nose begins. Nobody has the right to batter anyone else, ever.

Sexual abuse is another sort of beast. It is a similar evil in a different skin. Every abuser is seeking some kind of control or power over his or her victim (yes, her -- it isn't only men who abuse); sexual abusers use sex as their weapon of choice, where verbal batterers might use words or physical batterers might use their fists. It can be difficult to tell if you are (or have been) sexually abused, as the dynamics surrounding sexual abuse are incredibly complex. I will certainly add more stuff on this subject as I am able; my own story includes a section on sexual abuse.

Following is a list of ways to tell if someone is verbally or emotionally battering you, paraphrased from Patricia Evans' books, The Verbally Abusive Relationship (Adams, 1992), and Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out. (Adams, 1993.) If you answer "yes" to a significant number of the following questions, you are likely being verbally abused.

  • Withholding: does the abuser stop speaking to you when they're displeased? do they ignore you? do they withdraw affection in order to punish you? do they blame you for this?
  • Countering: does the abuser tell you you're wrong if you don't agree with them? do they argue against your every thought? do they tell you your feelings are wrong? do they tell you that you don't know what you're talking about? do they forbid you from having your own opinions?
  • Discounting: does the abuser ignore or disparage your feelings? do they put down your feelings? do they dismiss you with statements such as, "you're too sensitive" or "you don't have a sense of humor" or "you're just taking it wrong"?
  • Ridicule (Verbal Abuse Disguised as Jokes): does the abuser make fun of you? do they ridicule you regarding subjects about which you are particularly sensitive? do they seem to enjoy it? do they accuse you of not being able to take a joke? do they use sarcasm to put you down?
  • Blocking and Diverting: does the abuser change the subject when you try to bring something up? do they divert serious discussions by accusing you of various things?
  • Accusing and Blaming: does the abuser blame you for everything that goes wrong? do they accuse you of hurting them when you tell them your feelings? do they accuse you of having affairs? are they jealous?
  • Judging and Criticizing: does the abuser find fault with everything you do? are they extremely hard to please? do they tell you you "ought" or "should" do things a certain way?
  • Trivializing: does the abuser belittle what you say? do they dismiss your feelings or accomplishments? do they insult you when you express pride in your own abilities? do they act as if your work is no big deal?
  • Undermining: does the abuser squelch your enthusiasm with insensitive comments such as, "You wouldn't understand", or, "You'll never make it"? do they sabotage your ideas by pointing out all the ways in which they might fail? do they interrupt you when you need time alone?
  • Threatening: does the abuser threaten you, overtly or covertly? do they threaten you with violence? do they threaten you with emotional pain?
  • Name-calling: does the abuser use vulgarities to insult you? do they call you cruel names? do they use terms of endearment with intense sarcasm?
  • Forgetting: does the abuser make a promise and then "forget" to keep it? do they pretend not to remember certain incidents or discussions? do they pretend not to remember prior agreements?
  • Ordering: does the abuser order you to do something instead of asking? do they demand things?
  • Denial: does the abuser deny that certain things happened? do they tell you that they didn't say something, or that you never saw something occur?
  • Abusive Anger: does the abuser erupt into a rage when they are angry? do they scream, yell, or shout? do they hurl obscenities? does their body language become more aggressive? do they stomp, strut, hit things, or hit you? do they become red in the face? do they throw things? do they physically get in your way, or follow you from room to room? do they snap at you? are they usually irritable? does all of this usually take place in private, when you are alone? (It's a sure sign things are escalating if the abuser attacks you in public.) does the abuser blame you for their anger?

Myths and Lies

  • The victim deserves whatever abuse she or he receives. (Don't even get me started on this one.)
  • Verbal abuse isn't really abuse. Yes it is, and it's incredibly effective -- rapists often use it to paralyze their intended victims, for example.
  • Women really mean "Yes" when they say "No." That attitude *must* have been invented by a man... I, for one, can't ever remember a time when I said "No" and didn't mean it.
  • Rapists are usually strangers. In fact, it is far more likely that any perpetrator is known to the victim.
  • Men can't be raped or abused. Men are often abused or sexually assaulted. Unfortunately, support and resources for abused men are piss-poor.
  • Boys will be boys. A sorry excuse for aggressive masculine behavior, if ever I heard one.
  • There's no such thing as child abuse.
  • Battered women are masochistic. No, they're just scared and believe they deserve it.
  • A violent parent is better than no parent at all.
  • Victims provoke their abusers.
  • Incest only involves intercourse. In fact, incest doesn't even need to involve touch at all -- a father forcing his child to read porno mags is incestuous, for instance.
  • Abuse only happens to [insert your least favorite sociocultural group here]. Abuse happens to all kinds of people: young, old, black, white, male, female, gay, straight, Jewish, Christian, pagan, rich, poor, you name it. Abuse knows no prejudice.
  • Abuse doesn't happen to nice people.
  • Rape victims are just sluts. Hey, nuns have been raped. What's your problem??
  • If a victim doesn't fight back, they haven't been abused.So how does a 4-year-old boy being beaten and sodomized by his daddy fight back?
  • It could never happen to me.
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