Domestic violence is defined as any type of behaviour that is deemed to be threatening. This includes acts of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse between people who are in intimate relationships and often within families. This includes concern within some ethnic communities, particularly around so called 'honour killings'. Many victims may experience low self-esteem as well as a lack of confidence, fear and post-traumatic stress. Counselling can be a powerful tool in facilitating a safe environment for in survivors of domestic violence to begin the process of healing and offers a space where the client can gain a healthy perspective and outlook on their lives.
When most people think of emotional abuse, they usually think of one or both partners belittling or criticising the other. Emotional abuse can be defined as any nonphysical behaviour that is designed to control, intimidate, overpower, demean, punish or isolate another person through the use of humiliation or fear.
Emotionally abusive behaviour ranges from verbal abuse to more subtle tactics like intimidation, manipulation and refusal to be pleased. Emotional abuse can damage a person's confidence so that they feel worthless and find it hard to make or keep other relationships.
Secrecy and shame usually maintain the abuse. It is important to seek help and support to prevent it from becoming rooted. It can be helpful to seek help from a counsellor or therapist in order to know yourself better and escape from a cycle of powerlessness. Learning to care for your own needs and to feel entitled to be confident and respected is a good start to being able to claim your own self-esteem.
Neglect is a passive form of abuse in which a perpetrator is responsible to provide care for a victim who is unable to care for him or herself, but fails to provide adequate care. Neglect may include the failure to provide sufficient supervision, nourishment, or medical care, or the failure to fulfil other needs for which the victim is helpless to provide for them self. Consistent neglect can have many long-term effects such as low self-esteem, attention disorders, violent behaviour, and can even cause death
Physical abuse consists of anything one person does to another that causes physical pain. This includes slapping, punching, pushing, throwing objects at another person, assaulting someone with an object or anything that brings about physical pain or discomfort. It is likely that victims of physical abuse will need to attend counselling sessions in order to support them in getting back their confidence and self-esteem.
There are a variety of help sources available for sufferers of physical abuse, however the individual must take the first step by wanting to get help and be willing to discuss their experience.
Sexual abuse, also referred to as molestation, is the forcing of undesired sexual behaviour by one person upon another. When that force is immediate, of short duration, or infrequent, it is called sexual assault. The offender is referred to as a sexual abuser or molester. The term also covers any behaviour by any adult towards a child to stimulate either the adult or child sexually. When the victim is younger than the age of consent, it is referred to as child sexual abuse.
There are many types of sexual abuse, including:
- Non-consensual, forced physical sexual behaviour (rape and sexual assault).
- Unwelcomed touching
- Inappropriate kissing, stroking, exposure of genitalia, voyeurism, exhibitionism and up to sexual assault.
- Exposing a child to pornography.
- Making sexually suggestive statements towards a child (child molestation) and non-consensual verbal sexual demands towards an adult.
- The use of a position of trust to compel otherwise unwanted sexual activity without physical force
- Certain forms of sexual harassment.
Back to issues
Disclaimer: Counselling or Psychotherapy Treatments are not a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other health care professional. Always check with your doctor if you have any concerns about your condition or treatment. Clients are responsible for assessing the outcome of their treatment and are advised to refer to NICE guidelines for further information.