Physical abuse occurs when anyone commits an act that intentionally puts another person in physical danger. It can happen at any age as a way to gain control in a situation or relationship. But why physical abuse happens is another question altogether. This post will help answer it.
What is Physical Abuse?
Physical abuse is the use of physical force that results in or puts you in danger of bodily injury. Legal definitions vary from state to state, but physical abuse is always dangerous. Those who experience domestic abuse are at a higher risk for severe injury and death.
Physical abuse is a criminal act, regardless of surrounding circumstances. If you are experiencing abuse from someone in a position of power or authority, report them.
It is a crime, even if it happens only once.
Who Suffers from Physical Abuse?
While common in romantic relationships, anyone can suffer from physical abuse. Those who suffer from it can find it difficult to speak out about their experience. They feel guilt, shame, and fear.
People prone to physical abuse include:
- Intimate partners
- Mentally ill
- Developmentally or physically disabled
- Substance users
Physical abuse often occurs with other forms of abuse, including financial, verbal, sexual, or emotional abuse. Neglect is also a form of physical abuse. It occurs when one adult cares for another, such as an adult child caring for a parent.
What Constitutes Physical Abuse?
Physical abuse is any form of physical force that puts your health in danger.
Physical abuse includes but is not limited to:
- Being slapped, punched, kicked, or choked
- Being physically restrained
- Withholding food or medication
- Being drugged
- Sleep deprivation
- Any harm with a weapon
Physical abuse can range from relatively mild to severe. It doesn’t have to result in injury to cause psychological problems. No matter the degree, physical abuse is a serious health concern, both physically and mentally.
Why Physical Abuse Happens
There are many theories surrounding what makes perpetrators of abuse hurt those closest to them. For some abusers, violence is a means to keep their partner from leaving the relationship, even if this requires physical force. In these situations, the abuse is more of a desire for total control than a “loss of control.”
Some believe abusers are criminals who commit abusive acts to exert dominance. Others believe abuse is the result of deep-seated psychological or developmental trauma.
Physical abusers often share some of the following characteristics:
- Can be manipulative
- Often controlling
- They view themselves as the victim in the relationship.
- Tend to feel that they have a predestined authority over all aspects of the relationship.
The Cycle of Abuse
Physical abuse commonly occurs in cycles. These cycles lead victims to hide their experiences during phases when physical abuse is not actively occurring.
The cycle of physical abuse goes like this:
- Build-Up. Tension builds within the relationship.
- Stand-Over. Verbal attacks increase. These attacks often include threats of violence.
- Explosion. A violent physical outburst occurs.
- Remorse. The abuser excuses or even apologizes for their behavior.
- Pursuit. The abuser makes promises like “It will never happen again.” They may become extra attentive or buy gifts to try to “make up for” their behavior.
- Honeymoon Phase. A brief period where things feel “back to normal.” Then the cycle begins again, often with the abuser planning the next abusive action.
Healing from Physical Abuse
Healing is key to overcoming trauma. It looks different for everyone.
To help you heal from the trauma of physical abuse, consider:
- Positive Affirmations. Even if they are hard to embrace, affirmations can help disrupt negative thoughts and refocus the subconscious.
- Exercise. Getting the body moving can help release grief and rage that may come up during the healing process.
- Creative Outlets. Art can allow you to express yourself in a cathartic way, whether you share it with the world or keep it for yourself.
- Seek Help. Find a mental health professional or support group to assist you in your recovery.
Help for Abuse Survivors
No one has the right to abuse you. It isn’t your fault., But physical abuse can make you feel shame and guilt. If you are trying to leave an abusive relationship, it is best to create a safety plan.
Steps to consider ahead of time in planning to leave an abusive situation:
- Identify a safe friend or family member and safe places to go when necessary.
- Keep an alternate cell phone nearby.
- Memorize the phone numbers of safe contacts.
- Hide an extra set of car keys.
- Keep copies of any evidence of abuse or violence on a thumb drive or on the cloud.
- Make a packing list just in case you have to leave quickly.
If you or a loved one are survivors of physical abuse, contact Integrative Life Center for help. We can help you on your path to emotional healing and help you restore your sense of safety and value.