Every day, millions of Americans wake up to an abusive situation in their lives, and millions more are in the process of recovery from one. Abuse has become an almost commonplace occurrence in modern times, whether it is in the form of domestic violence, sexual abuse, child abuse, emotional abuse, or some other form of trauma. Abuse has really become a social problem within our culture in which we are all affected by it on some level, whether you are a victim of abuse, a perpetrator, or a person who is close to someone who may be involved in an abusive situation.
This particular information center about abuse is for those who have been victims or who are currently being victimized; it is not designed to offer information or resources to those who are perpetrators of abuse.
If you have been abused or are currently being abused you do not have to suffer with this problem alone, however -- millions of people have gone through similar experiences and many of them want to help you get through yours, too. There is information and help available to assist you in getting out of an abusive situation you might currently be in. There are also very effective psychotherapy treatments to help you move beyond any emotional or psychological symptoms you may have as a result of being abused.
Sometimes, though, people are not even aware that they have been abused or that they are currently in an abusive situation. If you are not sure if you have been the victim of abuse, consider that the basic underlying feature of abuse is that some violation of your rights as a human being have been or are being violated by another person. Abuse is when another person has hurt you sexually, physically, and/or emotionally within the context of it being unwelcome or unwanted by you.
Abuse also exists within different degrees of severity. For example, abuse can consist of being called names, such as "lazy", "stupid", or "crazy", to the more severe forms of abuse, such as incest or sadistic mutilation. Although the severity of these examples of abuse is different, both examples demonstrate forms of abuse to be taken seriously and both can produce psychological problems for those being abused. In general, those who experience the more severe types of abuse develop a greater degree of emotional and psychological difficulty and need more intensive therapeutic treatments.
Being a victim of abuse in and of itself is not a psychological or emotional disorder. When abuse has occurred, it is simply more likely that the victimized person will develop emotional or psychological problems because of being traumatized, such as post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and/or other anxiety disorders. However, having an emotional disorder, such as depression, does not mean that you were abused and being abused does not mean you will develop depression! Abuse is a sufficient reason that someone may develop emotional problems such as depression, however there are many other reasons why someone may become depressed.
It is also important to know that each individual will respond differently to abuse than others will. It is possible for one person who was chronically, severely abused to not have developed as many or the same psychological symptoms from the abuse as another person who went through the same type of trauma. There is no one right cluster of symptoms that someone will develop from being abused. There is also no one way for someone to respond to being abused; whatever ways an individual has tried to cope with being abused is okay, with the exception of abusing others.
No matter what type of abuse you may have experienced (or are experiencing) or what emotional problems you may have incurred from such trauma, it is important to not blame yourself for being abused. We tend to want to blame ourselves for our problems, especially when we feel there is no other clear answer. "He hits me because I am stupid and clumsy... I deserve it." "I was a bad child and deserved the emotional abuse I received as my parents blamed their alcoholism on me..." "I'm ugly, that's why he ignores me." Blaming the victim is common, but it doesn't make it right -- you are not to blame.
Nobody deserves to be physically, sexually, emotionally, or spiritually abused as a child or as an adult. Abusive people are unable to effectively control or cope with their own anger and life. It is their own problem, and one that they then put on to you or someone you love.
Abuse is not hidden in the closet any longer. We know more about abuse, what causes it, and how to recover from it than we ever did in the past. Today, there is hope, help, and treatment for problems related to abuse that you or someone you know has suffered.
We have developed the information here to act as a comprehensive guide to help you better understand abuse and trauma, and to help you discover more information about these problems on your own. Choose from among the categories displayed to begin your journey into recovery.