If you or someone you love are experiencing physical abuse, help and healing are available. When people who are hurt don’t know how to work through their traumas and healthily express feelings, they often hurt others. Your safety is critical, and you don’t have to accept physical abuse as a condition of your relationship. This post tells you how to address physical abuse, how to talk with someone who may be abused, and how to leave an abusive situation.
What is Physical Abuse?
There are many types of abuse, but it’s generally any non-consensual touch when one person intentionally harms another. Common examples include hitting, kicking, shaking, punching, slapping, or choking. Other forms of physical abuse include withholding care, preventing sleep, forcing consumption of alcohol or drugs, or harming others such as pets or children.
Abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. Abuse is squarely the abuser’s fault, as they choose an unhealthy and unkind way to express their emotions and communicate.
5 Strategies for Identifying and Addressing Abusive Behaviors
If you’re being physically abused or worry that someone may inflict physical harm on you, these strategies can be valuable in helping extract yourself from the abuser.
To address physical abuse:
- Trust Your Instincts. If you aren’t comfortable around someone, you shouldn’t engage with them. If something feels amiss, it’s OK to be skeptical and work to eliminate contact with that person.
- Know that Action Matters. Abuse is 100% the abuser’s fault. It doesn’t matter if they say nice things, buy you gifts, or apologize for the harm they cause. Intending to be kind is not the same thing as treating someone with kindness. Judge their actions, not their words.
- State Your Concerns. If you address an abuser, be clear and descriptive in sharing how their actions make you feel. You are the only person who can control your feelings, so use “I” statements (“I feel sad when you XYZ”), rather than “You” statements (“You make me feel sad when you XYZ”). Be specific when describing how you receive statements made by your abuser. If the abuser attempts to gaslight you or claims they never said something you mention, you may need to cite prior text messages or emails.
- Prepare for Personal Attacks. Hurt people hurt others. If you confront an abuser, they may become angry and hurl insults and lies at you. Try to ignore everything they do in reaction to you naming the abuse.
- Set Hard Boundaries. If you can’t leave your abuser, you can limit contact and set strong boundaries. You can’t and won’t change who your abuser is, but you can stop caring what they think.
Tips for Talking to Someone You Think is Being Abused
If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, listen with open ears and zero agenda. Establish yourself as a safe person interested in helping. Don’t force your opinions on the person, and understand if they’re initially unwilling to accept your offer for assistance. Sometimes it takes a while for people to recognize abuse and gain the courage to leave.
Be a helper by:
- Finding a safe, private place to talk. Express your concerns and ask if something is wrong.
- Actively listen without passing any judgment
- Offer help and allow them to tell you what help they need
- Don’t pressure them to make an immediate decision or take action
- Follow up with them regularly to remind them you care and to allow them to accept your offer
How to Address Physical Abuse
Choosing to take action and remove yourself from an abuser’s power is brave and possible. To address physical abuse, you should seek help and guidance from a trusted friend, family member, or members of a professional organization for victims of such acts. You also should work with a therapist to overcome your trauma.
Get Immediate Help
Don’t wait until the next incident to get help. You never know how things will escalate.
To get help with physical abuse:
- Remove Yourself. Find a way to physically remove yourself from your abuser. This distance may require you to move out of your shared living space or leave while they’re away. If the abuser is a more casual acquaintance who you don’t live with, you may need to alter your routine to prevent seeing them on public transit or at a restaurant after work. This change may also require you to seek a new school or workplace if that is where the abuse takes place.
- Call For Help. Free and confidential help is available 24/7 from the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You will be connected with experienced individuals who can provide information on local resources and services.
- Dial 911. When you call the police and describe what occurred, the dispatcher will tell you what to do next until help arrives. It’s good to provide the dispatcher with a statement about what happened for documentation.
Reach Out to Others
You are valued, and some people will want to help you move forward.
To seek help:
- Reach Out. Tell a trusted friend or family member about the physical abuse and seek their help in getting away from your abuser and beginning to heal.
- Talk. Ask a colleague or member of your employer’s human resources department to help you leave an abusive situation.
- Speak to a Healthcare Provider. Doctors and healthcare providers can provide resources to help you move forward from your abuser.
- Create an Escape Plan. Once you have identified someone to help you leave, work together to make an escape plan that identifies a safe place for you to go and when you will leave. You’ll also want to collect important papers and documents and save as much money as possible.
Seek Professional Help
Many physical abuse survivors find working with a therapist or counselor helpful in processing their feelings and working through trauma.
To get emotional help after abuse:
- Search in Your Area. Ask for counselor or therapist referrals from your doctors or local organizations that help survivors of physical abuse, as they are most familiar with the various practitioners in your community.
- Arrange a Consultation. You want to find the right counselor or therapist — someone you will trust and feel confident sharing your experiences with. It’s essential to make sure their personality is the best fit. Meet with them to learn about them and hear how they may be able to help you before selecting the practitioner who will help you heal.
- Stick With It. By committing to regular sessions with your therapist, you are more likely to observe progress.
- Address the Lasting Effects. Physical abuse often causes significant emotional trauma, and your therapist can help you navigate your feelings. If you have anxiety, substance use issues, low self-esteem, or issues with anger, trust, or relationships, your therapist can help you address and overcome them.
Healing with Help from Integrative Life Center
If you or a loved one are survivors of physical abuse, the caring professionals at Integrative Life Center can help you work through your emotional pain and trauma. ILC’s mental health professionals will create a unique treatment plan based on your specific needs and connect you with the tools and resources for a successful healing journey. Contact ILC today to begin.