Physical and Sexual Abuse

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is the non-accidental physical trauma or injury inflicted by one individual on another.The abuser is usually a family member/caregiver or someone known to the victim. Injuries are often the result of, but not limited to, choking, punching, kicking, biting, burning, beating, or use of an object to inflict harm. Physical abuse often, but not always results in bruises, abrasions, burns, broken bones, and internal hemorrhages.

While physical injury may be the most obvious danger, emotional and psychological consequences of abuse are also severe. In its most severe form, physical abuse is likely to cause great bodily harm or even death. Possible signs that a person may have been physically abused:

  • Dressing in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)
  • Having frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”
  • Being depressed, anxious, or suicidal
  • Frequently missing work, school, or social occasions, without explanation
  • Seeming afraid or anxious to please their partner
  • Going along with everything their partner says and does.
  • Checking in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing
  • Receiving frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner
  • Talking about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness
  • Having very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident
  • Showing major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn)

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is any coerced sexualized behavior or undesired exposure to sexualized behavior between two or more individuals. The individuals involved may or may not know each other. Both children and adults can be sexually abused.

  • Any sexual behavior (including exposure to pornography) between an adult and a child
  • Any sexualized activity that includes coercion (force, threats, bribes, manipulation, drugs…)
  • Sexual activity when one party is impaired (drugs/alcohol, intellectually disabled, physically disabled…)
  • Exposure to sexual activity (live or in media)
  • Sexual behavior between children with an age discrepancy of 3+ years
  • Coerced sexual behavior between children
  • Rape is the perpetration of an act of sexual intercourse when:
    • will is overcome by force or fear (from threats, use of weapons, or use of drugs)
    • mental impairment renders the victim incapable of rational judgment
    • the victim is below the legal age established for consent

Possible impact of sexual abuse:

  • Possible impact of sexual abuse – depression, sleep disturbances, nightmares, frequent urinary infections, isolation from family and friends, or withdrawal from usual activities
  • Tendency to become either obsessive or apathetic about hygiene
  • Anxiety, passivity or overly “pleasing” behavior, low self-esteem, self-destructive behavior, and promiscuous activity
  • Adults experience the ramification of sexual abuse through anger, rebellion, self-harm, fear, inappropriate sexual behavior, or difficulty in developing close relationships
  • Many people who have been sexually abused fall into obsessive compulsive behavior patterns such as excessive bathing, teeth-brushing, or hand-washing due to feeling perpetually dirty
  • Many victims of sexual abuse will turn to food as a source of comfort which often develops into an eating disorder: anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating
  • According to the U.S.Department of Justice, 54% of all rapes are of women under age 18.
  • 1 in 3 young women are sexually abused before age 18. (RAINN 2011)
  • Most sexual abuse against children is perpetrated by a family member (e.g., father, stepfather, aunt, uncle, sibling, cousin) or family intimate (e.g., live-in lover or friend of the parent)

If you or someone you know is a victim of physical or sexual abuse, Mercy can help. Our program is completely free to the girls we serve. Call 615-831-6987 for more details, or click here to learn more.

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