sexual abuse

Interpersonal Violence

 
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Interpersonal Violence

A closer look at what it is, how that can look, and how to get help

 

What is interpersonal violence?

Interpersonal violence occurs when one person uses power and control over another through physical, sexual, or emotional threats or actions, economic control, isolation, or other kinds of coercive behavior. Some different types of interpersonal violence include:

  • Abuse is any behavior toward another person that is physically violent or involves emotional coercion, or both and one person is in a position of authority.

  • Bullying which is a type of harassment that can be verbal, physical, or online. It can also take the form of coercion where someone is threatened by another person and as a result of those threats, the person being bullied feels intimidated and pressured into acting a certain way or doing a certain thing. This is called peer pressure. Bullying can occur in all settings—school, work, home, neighborhood and the internet.

  • Intimate Partner Violence occurs when one intimate or romantic partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through words and actions that are physically and emotionally abusive. Dating violence can take many forms including physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, and emotional, sexual or economic abuse. It occurs in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships and can be instigated by either males or females. According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced some form of severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.

  • Sexual Violence is any type of sexual activity that a person does not agree to. It can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. This can happen between strangers, acquaintances, coworkers, classmates, “friends”, intimate partners and family. It includes:

    • Inappropriate touching

    • Vaginal, anal, or oral penetration

    • Sexual intercourse that a person says no to

    • Rape or attempted rape

    • Sexual harassment or threats

    • Peeping or Voyeurism (watching private sexual acts)

    • Exhibitionism (exposing themselves in public)

  • Youth Violence refers to aggressive behaviors, including slapping, hitting, kicking, bullying, punching, fist fighting and knife fighting, as well as robbery, rape and homicide.

  • Gang Violence refers to acts of aggression and violence and criminal activity committed by a group of peers where the group usually has an identity (e.g. a name; a sign; a neighborhood). In some neighborhoods, the pressure to join a gang occurs early and can be very difficult to resist. Members often join to feel a sense of family and community, and to achieve power and respect. On the flipside, members may worry about their own safety and fears of being abused by others in the gang. Gang members include all genders.

If you are a victim of sexual assault, call a friend or family member you trust. You also can call a crisis center or a hotline to talk with a trained volunteer. One hotline is the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673.

Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and shock are normal. It is important to get counseling from a trusted professional. The US Department of Health and Human Services, Women’s Health Information website provides additional information about what to do if you have been sexually assaulted.

What triggers violence?

There are a number of reasons why a person might become violent. Some of those reasons might be:

  • Anger

  • Frustration

  • Sadness

  • Trying to control another person

  • Having a short temper

A person’s belief system might also influence how the person behaves. Someone who acts aggressively or violently may believe that violence is an acceptable way to deal with anger or an acceptable way to get something that the person wants. The person may also have grown up in a family where violence was part of how family members interacted with each other.

Some ways to stop being violent

Violence is NOT okay and nobody should have to put up with it. Being angry, confused or frustrated are all normal emotions, and there are non-violent ways of expressing these emotions. If you’re having trouble managing your anger, you might want to check out the Anger & Violence and Anger Management articles.

Deciding to do something about your violent behavior is a big step and it takes a lot of courage.

Look at what makes you violent. To stop this behavior, it might be useful to make a list of the things that trigger your violent behavior. This could be a person, a situation, a mood, or drugs and alcohol. By knowing what triggers your violent behavior, you can start to avoid these things or try to work out ways to deal with the situation.

Who is affected by your violent behavior? Does it hurt anyone physically or emotionally? Do you want to have safe and secure relationships, or do you want people to be afraid of you? These questions might help you see how your violent behavior can negatively affect you and the people around you.

Talk to someone. Putting an end to violent behavior is not always easy, and having someone to support you can be helpful. You don’t have to do it by yourself. Going to counseling or visiting another mental health professional might be able to help you find ways to deal with your violent behavior.

Drugs, alcohol and violence

Using drugs and alcohol increases the likelihood that a person might act in a violent way. If you’re finding that you become violent while drinking or taking drugs, you might want to look at ways to better manage your drug and alcohol intake. A counselor or other mental health professional who specializes in addictions counseling can help you do this.

 

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Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Helping a Friend in a Sexually Abusive Relationship

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Is your friend in an abusive relationship?

A closer look at how you can support them

It is usually difficult to know if a friend is in a sexually abusive relationship. That being said, there are some warning signs that you might notice, especially in their behavior. These can also be true if your friend is in an emotionally, mentally, or physically abusive relationship.

What to look for:

  • Your friend is losing interest in activities he or she used to enjoy

  • Your friend is overly worried about what his or her boyfriend or girlfriend thinks

  • They’re acting overly happy or seem to be worried and anxious when with their partner

  • If someone calls your friend’s partner out on something negative, your friend makes excuses for their partner all the time

  • They avoid friends and social activities that do not include their partner

  • Your friend jokes about their partner’s violent outbursts

  • Your friend has unexplained injuries and the explanations seem odd or unlikely

  • Your friend’s behavior has changed dramatically since they started dating this current partner

How you can help

If you do suspect that your friend is being abused by their partner, there are some ways you can help, but it is always important to remember that if you believe that you or your friend are in some immediate danger, you need to go to the police.

Encourage your friend to talk. Try to get your friend to do most of the talking. Here are some open-ended questions you can ask your friend:

  • How are you feeling about your relationship?

  • What do your friends and family think about your relationship?

  • Do you have plans for the future of your relationship?

Try to talk when you’re alone with your friend, not in front of other friends or family members, especially their partner. Sometimes it can be easier to talk if you’re also focused on another activity like going for a drive, making a meal or doing the dishes. You should talk to your friend or seek help from an outside source, but do not confront your friend’s partner. This could make the situation worse and you could even be putting yourself in an unsafe position. You will also want to suggest that your friend not talk to their partner about your conversation.

Listen to your friend. Don’t be judgmental. If your friend is in an abusive relationship, they probably already feel down. Don’t make your friend feel worse.

Don’t blame your friend for what’s happening. Don’t tell your friend what they should have done differently. Concentrate on what makes them happy and how your friend can take action to change things now.

Don’t tell your friend what to do. Instead, encourage your friend to think about options. You might ask your friend if he or she has already tried getting help, or you might suggest places to seek help.

Be specific about why you’re concerned. For example, say things like, “I feel bad when he says you’re stupid” or “We hate to see you nervous and unhappy.”

Make sure your friend knows they have your support. Your friend might be feeling very isolated and alone. Let your friend know that you are there for them, and that they have already begun seeking help by talking to you. Make sure your friend knows you are willing to support them in any way that will help.

Help your friend work out some realistic strategies. What works in this situation will depend on how willing your friend is to see that there is a problem.

Your friend has to find their own way through the situation, but talking to you or a trusted person can help. If your friend does not want to talk to you about it, you might just suggest that your friend call a helpline (like one of the ones listed below), where they can get help without bringing anyone personal into the situation. Encouraging your friend to realize their strengths as an individual can be the best protection you can give, and the best way to ensure that your friend does not become a victim of abuse again.

Where to get help

Finding the courage and the appropriate way to talk about these issues with your friend is important. If you need advice or information for how to do this, there are lots of services and support available. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if you or someone you know is in a violent relationship or has been sexually assaulted. Though you should not feel personally responsible for a friend’s situation, you can always choose to help.

You can call:

For more information, you can check out our articles on Abusive Relationships and Sexual Violence. Kids Health may also have useful information on sexual abuse.


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Sexual Violence

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Sexual Violence

A closer look at what sexual violence is, how it can affect someone, and important laws you should know

Sexual violence is a crime and can refer to any type of sexual activity where consent is not obtained or freely given. The person responsible for the violence is often someone known to the victim, and can be, but is not limited to, a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor. Sexual violence is never the fault of the victim.

Different types of sexual violence

There are a lot of different ways that people can become victims to sexual violence, and it can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. These acts might include those that:

Do not include physical contact:

  • Sexual harassment

  • Threats

  • Intimidation

  • Peeping

  • Taking nude photos or videos

Do include touching:

  • Unwanted touching

  • Sexual assault

  • Rape

”Sexual assault” in everyday language is a general term that includes rape and other offenses like assault/battery and sexual groping. The definitions and labels for sexual offenses can differ slightly from state to state. In some states, sex without consent is called “rape,” while in others, it is called ”sexual assault,” ”sexual intercourse without consent,” or “sexual penetration without consent.”

Though the term “assault” may bring physical attack to mind, it isn’t just about hitting. Sexual violence can also include using force or fear to make you do things that you don’t want to do.

Why are people sexually violent toward others?

Sexual violence is not about offenders getting pleasure from sex or any other form of harassment, but rather about them asserting power and control over someone else. Some offenders have been abused themselves, but this is not always the case, and there’s no evidence that a victim or survivor of sexual assault will become a perpetrator. To learn more about the theories behind sexual aggression, check out the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

How experiencing sexual violence might affect you

Everyone reacts to the types of sexual violence differently. Individuals can experience a variety of immediate, short-term and long-term effects on their physical and emotional well being. These can include:

Shock and denial. Someone who has been a victim of sexual violence might not accept that it has really occurred. “Has this really happened to me?” and “Why me?” might be common questions that someone asks themselves.

Fear. After any form of sexual violence occurs, a person might be afraid of the offender, other people, or of being alone. A person might also be afraid to deal with the medical, legal or social consequences of the crime, and of being rejected by loved ones because of the sexual violence.

Silence. A sexual violence survivor might be unable to talk about the experience or describe what it means and feels like. There are also social pressures that might keep you from speaking, too.

Anxiety. A survivor might always be on edge. He or she might be unable to relax or feel safe.

Depression. Survivors might be at a greater risk of depression after the incident.

Guilt and blame. A survivor might continually question the events leading up to the violent event, and find fault with themselves or others for the assault. Questions they might ask themselves include, “Why did I go there?”, “Why did I let it happen?” and “Why did I not fight back?”

Low self-esteem. A survivor might feel ashamed or dirty after the assault.

Isolation. A survivor might want to be alone, and have a tendency to close him or herself off from friends and family members. A survivor might also have a hard time getting emotionally close to others after experiencing sexual violence.

Nightmares and flashbacks. Images and memories of the violence might continue in a survivor’s daily life and sleep.

Mood swings. Survivors might quickly change moods from anger and rage to tears and despair.

Loss of confidence. Survivors might become apathetic or self-conscious when working, studying or socializing with friends.

Loss of trust. After an assault, a victim might have a hard time trusting people who weren’t even connected with the incident, including friends and family members.

Lack of intimacy. Survivors might be afraid of, or uncomfortable in, sexual relationships after an assault.

To stay safe, play it safe

Most sexual violence occurs within a relationship (intimate partners, family members, or acquaintances). On average, 74% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger, and 30% are by an intimate partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual violence can also happen outside of relationships. Check out the CDC’s fact sheet on sexual violence or the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network website for statistical or crisis helpline information.

Here are some tips or things you can do to keep safe:

  • Plan to go out and hang out in a group

  • Go out with people you feel safe with and who you know have your best interests at heart. Good friends make sure that their friends are safe and make safe choices.

  • Have transportation plans to make sure you can get to where you’re going and back safely. Carry money for a taxi-cab just in case.

  • Let someone—like your parents, siblings or roommates—know where you’re going and when you’ll be home. If your plans change, let these people know.

  • Alcohol and sex can be a dangerous mix. Remember: if you aren’t in control of yourself, you won’t be able to control your situation.

  • Avoid being alone and isolated with someone you don’t know well. If you start to feel uncomfortable, go with your feelings, and get to a safe place as fast as you can.

  • Take a self-defense class at your local high school, college or recreation center. It might also be a good idea to have pepper spray, wasp spray, a whistle, or a self-defense keychain handy.

Agreeing to one type of activity such as kissing doesn’t mean that it’s a ”green light” for other sexual contact. Remember: it’s OK to change your mind and say no at any stage. Also keep in mind that you shouldn’t stop being careful just because you know the person you’re with. You might not know the person as well as you think.

Sexual violence and the law

In the United States, laws relating to sex and sexual violence can differ between states. Crimes such as statutory rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse can just mean people having sex under a certain age (the age of consent), and do not necessarily include force. The age of consent varies between the states, ranging from 14 to 18, with most states setting it at 16. This means that having sex with someone under that age, even if it is consensual, is a crime. Some states base the penalty for these violations on the age of the offender, with older offenders receiving harsher punishments. For example, in certain states, a minor might receive as little as six months or one year in prison, and an older offender might receive life imprisonment. Most penalties range from 10 to 30 years, depending on age and state, according to the Connecticut General Assembly Report.

The federal government has certain laws to ensure that all victims of violence have their rights. Since 2003, every state has some sort of crime compensation program and victims’ rights legislation. The Crime Victims’ Rights Act, a component of the Justice for All Act of 2004, specifies the roles of various criminal justice officials in supplying the information the victim is to receive, as well as in implementing victims’ rights. A second act, the Violence Against Women Act of 1998, enhances the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women and increases the jail time of the accused perpetrator before the trial. These laws, along with other state and federal laws are continuously updated and reauthorized.

Sexual violence is a crime. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted or was a victim of another type of sexual violence —either recently or in the distant past—you have the right to report it to the police. If you decide to report an assault, an officer will take your statement. If the assault was recent, he or she might also ask you to have a medical examination, during which a health care professional will make sure you’re physically OK and possibly take evidence. Check out the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network for more about what happens during an examination and who might conduct it.

Where to get help

Finding the courage to talk about sexual violence is important.

If you need help, you can call the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673 or the National Center for Victims of Crime hotline at 1-800-FYI-CALL. You can also call The Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000 to find help in your area. You could also check out our Crisis Helplines directory to find additional resource.. Remember: do not hesitate to call your doctor, nurse, or local health professional if you feel comfortable doing so.

Each state has a sexual assault coalition that can provide with state-specific information and resources.  You can access each state’s coalition through the Office of Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice.

For emergency situations that require immediate and urgent assistance, call 911.

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Child Abuse

Child Abuse

A closer look at what child abuse is, why it happens, and what you can do if you’re being abused

What is child abuse?

Child abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver acts in a way that causes a child to be hurt physically or harmed emotionally, or fails to act to prevent such harm. When a person is abused as a child, the harm inflicted can last a lifetime. Research from the Child Welfare Gateway in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that children who are abused can have trouble developing mentally and emotionally, and be at higher risk to abuse drugs and alcohol as adults.

How does abuse happen?

Child abuse can take many different forms. Here are a few examples:

Physical abuse. According to Child Welfare Gateway, physical abuse is any physical injury to a child or young person under 18 that does not occur by accident. Physical abuse can include hitting, beating, shaking, punching, biting, burning or strangling. Under many state laws, physical abuse also includes making threats to harm a child or young person, or putting that young person in a situation that could cause serious harm.

Sexual abuse. Sexual abuse occurs when an adult forces a child or young person to engage in sexual acts, including sexual intercourse, penetration, masturbation, voyeurism (like taking sexual photographs or videos), or incest. Sexual abuse can also include forcing a young person to enter into prostitution.

Emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is a form of abuse that causes a child or young person to feel like they are worthless, flawed, and unloved. Someone can emotionally abuse another by belittling, threatening, bullying, ignoring, or isolating that person from others.

Neglect. Neglect is the failure of a parent or caregiver to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, education or supervision.

Why does abuse happen?

There’s no easy answer to this question. Several factors can contribute to a greater chance for child abuse within a family. For example, parents or caregivers who were abused as children, abuse alcohol or drugs, or have mental disorders like depression and anxiety might be more likely to abuse their children. Child abuse happens in every state, and among families of all religions and backgrounds, but in every situation, it is never O.K. to harm someone else.

The effects of abuse

Abuse is often confusing. It’s hard to understand that the same person that you rely on for survival and who is supposed to look after you can also harm you. Even if the abuse happened a long time ago, it can cause you to feel emotions that might stay with you for years. There’s often a spectrum of feelings that you may have to work through in order to begin healing.

Here are a few things you might experienced:

Fear. For obvious reasons, many survivors of abuse are afraid of the people who abused them. They might also be scared of what will happen if they tell someone else that they’ve been abused. Fear can prevent victims of abuse from getting the help they need to stay safe or to deal with the abuse. Sometimes abuse can make survivors more fearful of people or situations in general and keep survivors from having meaningful relationships with others.

Nightmares and flashbacks. Some events that happen in your life can trigger memories of past abuse. For example, going back to the house you lived in when you were young, or a certain smell or food, might cause you to remember times when you were abused. You might also experience nightmares or flashbacks, which can almost be like reliving the abuse.

Anger. You might feel angry at the person who abused you, the other people in your life who might not have kept you safe, and even yourself. It’s normal to feel angry.

Guilt. You might feel as though you’re to blame for the abuse. For example, you might think that if you had done something differently-like had you gotten better grades or behaved better-the abuse wouldn’t have happened. But this is not the case. You are never to blame for abuse.

Low self-esteem. Abuse might cause you to doubt yourself or feel like you’re undeserving or unworthy. However, no matter what your abuser says, you are or were not worthless or a bad person. For tips on how to build and maintain self-esteem, check out the Self-Esteem article.

Denial. You might try to convince yourself that the abuse didn’t happen in order to bury your feelings. However, acknowledging the fact that you’ve been abused is the first step toward repairing the emotional damage it has done.

Taking the next step

Recovering from abuse can be a long process. It’s important that you have support from people who love you, as well as trained professionals, to work through your feelings.

Here are a few suggestions of where you can go to get help:

Call the police. If at any time you’re in an unsafe or potentially abusive situation, call 911 or your local police immediately.

Talk to someone. Although it might be difficult at first, it’s important to tell someone you trust if you are being abused or have been abused. People close to you, like trusted friends, family members, and teachers can support you and help you find professionals to talk to, like a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone in person, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD. This hotline is free, anonymous, and available 365 days a year. Trained volunteers can connect you to people in your area who can help.

Join a support group. This can be really helpful, as it gives you a place to share your experiences and feelings with people who understand and have been through similar experiences. A counselor or medical doctor can help you find a support group in your area.

The law

The definitions of child abuse vary from state to state, but at a minimum, state laws must protect young people under 18 from physical, emotional and sexual harm and neglect. People who abuse children (and people who fail to report child abuse if they know it is happening) can face jail time and penalties. Parents and caregivers who abuse children can also lose custody and parental rights to their children.

 

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com