Child Abuse

Abuse, including child abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse


Abuse is defined in the dictionary as "an evil or corrupt practice; deceit, betrayal,  molestation, violation" and comes in many forms, eg sexual abuse, physical abuse, child abuse, abuse of power, bullying, harassment, stalking, rape, torture, etc. All abuse is violent, be it physical, emotional, psychological, or a combination. We define seven types of abuse below. The common denominator of all abuse is the collection of behaviors we call bullying.


The abuser is an individual who lives in a state of unusually high anxiety and who has not learned to deal with that anxiety in the way normal people have. The abuser is insecure, immature, and inadequate, especially in the areas of interpersonal and behavioral skills. If the abuse is of a sexual nature, the abuser is usually sexually inadequate.

The high anxiety seems to be the result of an inability to relate to other people combined with the fear of exposure of that person's inadequacy, immaturity and insecurity. This leads the abuser to want to control and dominate others, having never learnt how to interact with others in normal ways. Often, the abuser is psychopathic (physically violent) or sociopathic (psychologically violent) and despite being fearful of exposure, doesn't show the normal activation of the fight or flight mechanism.


Abusers are usually brought up in a dysfunctional family, and the more abusive the adult, the more dysfunctional the family. Often, the father, if present, is violent and abusive. Perhaps the mother is co-dependent, a successful survival strategy when living with a violent partner; however, co-dependency also perpetuates the violence as it avoids dealing with the issue. Usually one or both parents are sociopathic or psychopathic. Occasionally, the child is over-protected, usually by the mother, and thus never allowed to develop as an individual human being. Sometimes, the child is ignored in favor of a sibling.

Before blaming the parents, the reason parents are dysfunctional is because they were brought up in dysfunctional families. The more dysfunctional the parent, the more dysfunctional were their parents ... and so on. Most people are never taught parenting skills. The sole teachers of parenting skills are thus ... our parents. It's not that we actively teach our kids to parent - kids learn by example. We grow up and repeat what they did to us. If all you have ever known is abuse, that is the only way you know how to behave. Human beings do not automatically know what is right and what is wrong; we have to learn it.

The child lives in a dysfunctional environment where abuse, violence or neglect is the norm; as the subject of abuse, the child cannot predict the behavior of the responsible adults, and therefore has no control. The child learns, usually from an early age, that using bullying behaviors brings relief from anxiety. With so few people able to recognize bullying for what it is, and with strategies of denial, distraction and feigning victimhood perfected by about the age of five, the child has found a successful strategy for reducing anxiety, and thus surviving. Controlling other children through violent behavior means brings a sense of power (control) to the child; he can't predict or control his parents but he can control other (smaller or less physically strong) children. His targets also become useful objects onto which he can freely displace his own aggression.


The seven types of abuse:

1.  Physical abuse, including assault and any deliberate act resulting in physical injuries, including beatings in the guise of corporal punishment but which are delivered with fists or to the child's head. The work of Lewis and Pincus in the States is relevant here - in many violent criminals, especially serial killers, they've found evidence of brain damage during childhood from parental beatings and accidents which have resulted in a smaller than normal cortex, with consequent lack of ability to control violent tendencies.

2.  Sexual abuse, including incest, rape, buggery or any pedophile activity for the gratification of the abuser. The abuser usually has a sexually dysfunctional or unsatisfying relationship with their partner; sexual relations may be violent or inadequate or non-existent, and the child becomes a convenient substitute.

3.  Tactile abuse, where there is little or no physical contact between parent(s) and the young child, and any contact tends to be violent, punitive, unjust and inappropriate. Physical contact seems to be especially important in the first five or six years. Some children enjoy a cuddle into their teens. Sadly, with abuse coming into the open, many parents (especially fathers) now fear that physical contact with children may be regarded and misconstrued as abuse (Note: with malicious accusation, it is invariably the accuser who is guilty of the abuse.

4. Existence abuse where the existence and rights of the child are ignored

  • Neglect of needs:
      Physical (food, clothing, shelter)
      Intellectual (education)
      Psychological (self-development, self-confidence, self-esteem, maturity)
      Behavioral (company, friendship, interpersonal and communication skills, relationships)
  • Ignoring the child's existence
  • Rejection as an only child
  • Ignoring one child and loving all others (rejection)
  • Ignoring the child as a separate human being and using the child as an extension of one's own existence (as in MSBP, Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy - almost killing the child then rescuing them in a dramatic attention-seeking manner by arriving at hospital casualty at the last minute, then revelling in the adulation of the concerned mother who nearly lost her child)
  • Abandonment

5. Religious abuse or cult abuse

  • The child is forced to accept the narrow, exclusive religious views of the parent or guardian to the exclusion of any other belief or possibility of any belief
  • Any behavior by the child not in line with the parents' rigid religious zeal is met with punishment and abuse
  • The child is starved of development in interpersonal skills and relationships in the name of religion
  • The child is subjected to strange, unnatural and often perverse beliefs on sexual matters and sexual development in line with the religious belief
  • The child is discouraged or prevented from associating with any person not sharing the religious belief of the parent or guardian

6.  Emotional abuse, including

  • Refusal or unwillingness or inability to express love
  • Deliberate withholding of love
  • Conditional love (eg "I don't love you when you behave like that")
  • Loving one child to the exclusion of all others
  • Cocooning and smothering, denying the child the opportunity to develop as a separate individual
  • Being forced into any conflict between parents
  • Being used as a pawn by warring parents
  • Being forced into a caring or caretaker role at an inappropriate age
  • Witnessing alcohol or substance abuse, especially on a regular basis, perhaps being forced to participate
  • Witnessing violence between parents or adults

7.  Psychological abuse, including

  • Constant criticism of a trivial and unjustified nature
  • Unjustified blame, often for things that have no connection with the child (scapegoating)
  • Refusal to value
  • Refusal to acknowledge the child and their achievements
  • Refusal to praise
  • Inconsistency in judgment
  • Unclear, shifting and inconsistent boundaries, sometimes no boundaries, at other times very tight boundaries
  • Refusal to make eye contact with the child over a long period
  • Refusal of parents to agree with or support each other when dealing with children
  • Unpredictable behavior on the part of the parents

Violent adults tend to be those whose childhood was characterized by experiencing the above behaviors on a regular basis, combined with lack of affection and lack of expressed love. The three influencers of stress, namely control, prediction and expectation are pivotal. When a child is brought up under these constant conditions, those areas of the brain, which deal with interpersonal, behavioral and social skills, simply fail to develop normally. In many cases of violent offenders (eg serial killers), their brain's frontal lobes - which modify and mitigate violent urges - are measurably smaller than in normal people. See the work of Dorothy Otnow Lewis and Jonathan Pincus for further insight into violent adult behavior and its origins in childhood.

A child who is subjected to regular abuse, even if entirely non-physical, needs an outlet for their consequent aggression; frequently they will act out their violent impulses on another child at school (bullying), or sibling, or family pet. Being violent towards others because they are violent towards you combined with the fact that you are unable to deal with other people's violence is called displacement aggression. Violence towards animals (eg torturing the cat or killing the dog) is now recognized as a common early warning sign of forthcoming violence in adulthood.

We're all guilty of some of these things (especially the emotional and psychological abuse) some of the time, either unwittingly or when we are stressed. However, children are resilient and if you avoid physically punitive responses (eg use restraint and the promise of a bonus or reward for good behavior rather than punishment for bad behavior), educate them in how to show dignity and respect, teach them the skills of assertiveness (which include psychological self-defense), talk to them and assure them of your love regularly, they're likely to grow up to be normal, well-adjusted and intelligent people - who will then pass on these benefits to their children.


The aggressive anxious adult learns that bullying results in relief from anxiety, which produces that nice warm feeling called satisfaction. Gratification is the indulgence in the feeling of satisfaction resulting from relief from anxiety brought about by bullying. Bullying is therefore emotional and psychological displacement aggression. Gratification is a behavior loop in which the adult is trapped, and is the common denominator behind most forms of violence, especially sexual abuse and sexual violence.


Pornography has always been a traditional outlet for sexual frustration, and probably always will be. Its acceptability is determined by current social values. Whilst most people do not object to "soft" porn (and may even secretly indulge occasionally, perhaps just to see what they are missing), many doubt the value and wisdom of "hard" porn (except those who make their living from the profits thereof). However, the harder the pornographic content, the more abusive it tends to be.

It could be said that an individual's need, and hence dependency, on pornography is directly proportional to that individual's inadequacy. Others may regard it as a substitute for lack of opportunity.

Reporting abuse

Why don't targets of abuse report their abuse? There are many reasons:

  • Abuse is a betrayal; the target trusted and depended on the integrity of another (eg child on adult, pupil on teacher, subordinate on manager) and that person betrayed them. The target fears and anticipates, often with justification, that when they report the abuse, they will be betrayed again.
  • Those in authority did nothing to prevent the abuse while it was happening, nor did they do anything subsequently. Very often it was the person in the position of authority who was the abuser. Trust in authority is low, with justification.
  • The target fears, with justification, that no one will believe them
  • Disbelief and denial are everywhere; people not trained in abuse and with no experience of dealing with abuse find it easier to disbelieve and deny the abuse
  • If the target reports the abuse, and initiates legal action, prospects for future employment may be impaired
  • Abusers often operate in networks, sharing information, and even, in pedophilia, sharing victims; sometimes the networks are loose, sometimes they operate covertly within organizations, especially those of a secretive nature
  • The abuser relies on compulsive lying, Jekyll & Hyde nature, and charm and uses denial, counter-attack, projection and feigning victimhood to evade accountability. Charm has a motive - deception.
  • The target felt fear at the time of abuse and continues to feel fear - fear of violence, fear of loss of job, fear of humiliation, fear of what others will think, etc
  • The target feels ashamed of what happened, having been encouraged by the abuser to believe that they were responsible rather than that the abuser was responsible
  • Because abuse can be of an intimate nature (eg as in sexual abuse), the target feels embarrassed about what happened and continues to feel embarrassed talking about it now (embarrassment is a function of society's attitudes to sexual behavior)
  • The target felt and continues to feel guilty about what happened, having been encouraged by their abuser to believe they were responsible
  • Fear, shame, embarrassment and guilt are how all abusers control their victims; they are instruments of power
  • The target probably has unusually high levels of naivety which are heightened by the trauma and which the abuser has exploited and continues to exploit; the target may have been encouraged to withdraw from legal action by the abuser feigning victimhood and playing on their target's forgiving chord and other people's sympathies
  • The target feels bewildered and often still cannot believe that it happened; the target often feels responsible in some way, as evidenced by the nagging thought "Why did I let it happen to me?"
  • Abuse causes trauma that prevents the target from articulating what is happening to them.
  • trauma and fear also prevent the target from being able to find the right words to identify, unmask and call to account their tormentor
  • Abuse causes (PTSD) and any thought, memory or reminder of the abuse immediately results in the sufferer experiencing the following PTSD DSM-IV diagnostic criteria:

B4. intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
B5. physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

as well as

C1. efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma
C2. efforts to avoid activities, places or people that arouse recollections of this trauma
C3. inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
D3. difficulty concentrating

PTSD is a normal and natural emotional reaction to a deeply disturbing and shocking experience. It's possible half the population suffers PTSD to varying extents; mostly it is diagnosed as "stress" and "anxiety". Many supposed mental illnesses are probably symptoms of PTSD resulting from abusive experiences in childhood and should more properly be regarded as a psychiatric injury.

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