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What is abuse?

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Abuse is one person or group of persons using coercive or manipulative actions to control others.  Abuse is about misuse of power.  The goal of abusive behavior is to gain or exercise control over those perceived as weaker.

Abuse is more common when there are pre-existing power differences which can be exploited, such as in the following relationships:  male/female, parent/child, teacher/student, pastor/parishioner, older relative/younger relative, caregiver/elderly person.

Warning signs of an abusive person

Are some of these statements true of your partner?

  1. Gets very serious about a relationship very quickly-saying “I love you,” wanting to move in together or get engaged after only a few months, or pressuring partner for a serious commitment
  2. Comes on very strong, is extremely charming and an overly “smooth talker”
  3. Is extremely jealous
  4. Isolates partner from support systems-wants partner all to self, and tries to keep partner from friends, family, or outside activities
  5. Attempts to control what partner wears, what she does or who she sees
  6. Blames others for own misbehavior or failures
  7. Abuses drugs or alcohol
  8. Has unrealistic expectations, like expecting partner to meet all needs and be the perfect partner
  9. Is overly sensitive, acts “hurt” when not getting own way, takes offense when others disagree with an opinion, gets very upset at small inconveniences that are just a normal part of life
  10. Is cruel to animals
  11. Has abused children
  12. Has hit a partner in the past
  13. Has threatened violence, even if it wasn’t a “serious” threat
  14. Calls partner names, puts her down or curses at her
  15. Is extremely moody, and switches quickly from being very nice to exploding in anger
  16. If a male, believes women are inferior to men and should obey them
  17. Is intimidating, for example using threatening body language, punching walls or breaking objects
  18. Holds partner against her will to keep her from walking away or leaving the room
  19. * Was or is abused by a partner
  20. * Grew up in a home where an adult was abused by another adult

* Numbers 19 and 20 do not indicate a person will be abusive.  The majority of children who grow up in abusive homes choose not to be abusive as adults.  However, these children still have a higher likelihood than other children of growing up to be involved in abusive relationships.

Adapted from Wellness Reproductions and Publishing, LLC, 2001

Abuse is more common when there are pre-existing power differences which can be exploited.

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