When a person harms someone whom they’ve been trusted to care for, it is called abuse. This harm can occur when a caregiver intentionally inflicts injuries or emotional distress upon the victim, or by neglect, which is the failure to take care of the dependent person’s needs. Abuse can come in both physical and emotional forms. The abuser is typically the designated caregiver and can be a parent, paid professional at a daycare center or retirement home, or even children or relatives living with the dependent person at home.
The crime of abuse falls into three major categories, which are domestic abuse or intimate partner abuse, child abuse, and elder abuse. The key to preventing or ending abuse lies in understanding the definition of abuse, identifying the warning signs, knowing what to do when the risk of abuse is high, and who to turn to in the event of abuse.
Intimate partner abuse, also known as domestic abuse, involves violence, neglect or psychological harm that one may inflict upon a spouse or significant other. The goal of most abusers is to gain control of their victim, through a wide variety of means including violence, sexual assault, frequent verbal personal attacks, threats, excessive jealousy, financial restrictions, instilling guilt or fear, isolation, or shaming tactics. Signs of an abusive relationship include when a person is fearful of their partner or they feel like they have to tread delicately to avoid conflicts. Being restricted from the company of one’s family, and being unable to access shared financial resources, are other signs of abuse.
To escape abuse, victims can call the police for help, and should know where to go or who to call in the event of an emergency. It is also advisable to pack clothes, a copy of the car and house keys, and Social Security cards in a suitcase, and if it can’t be hidden in the house, it should be left with a friend or family member in case one has to leave on short notice.
- What is Domestic Violence?: A definition of domestic violence according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The article on the DOJ website lists and explains the different types of domestic abuse.
- Domestic Violence and Abuse – Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationships: An article that outlines domestic violence and abuse in detail. On this page readers will find information about the signs of an abusive relationship, understanding domestic abuse, the cycle of abuse, and recognizing the signs. It also goes into detail about physical and emotional abuse.
- Domestic Violence Topic Overview: An overview of domestic violence on the WebMD website. The article reviews what it is and what people can do to prevent it and get help.
- Domestic Violence and Abuse: Signs of abuse and unhealthy relationships that lead to abuse are the focus of this PDF document. The document includes a section that discusses understanding domestic abuse and men as victims.
- Fifteen Ways You Can Help Stop Domestic Violence: Fifteen tips on how people can help stop domestic abuse. The tips are listed by number on a PDF document.
- Crime Victims Services – Domestic Violence – Types of Domestic Abuse: On the website for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, readers will find a list of the various types of domestic violence as well as examples that illustrate the behavior of the abusive partner.
- Where to Get Help for Domestic Violence: An article on the Oprah website that provides information on how to get help when in a domestic violence situation
When a parent or caregiver harms a child or allows a child to come to harm by act of neglect, it is called child abuse. Harm can include physical injury, death, or damage to a child’s emotional well-being. Abuse of a spouse or significant other in the presence of a child also qualifies as child abuse, according to some state laws. Examples of abuse include but are not limited to abandonment, sexual abuse such as incest, beating, verbal abuse, withholding medical treatment, food or shelter, denying a child emotional support or issuing threats of excessive violence, allowing a child to consume illegal drugs or alcohol, and frequent personal attacks. If a child looks malnourished, has an excessive amount of bruises, welts or cuts, or is often seen around home without adult supervision, these may be signs of neglect or abuse. If a child suffers a sudden drop in academic performance, repeatedly fails to attend school, fears to go home, or tries to avoid adults, these may also be signs of abuse or neglect.
Awareness and vigilance are important tools when it comes to preventing or bringing an end to child abuse. Parents who are overwhelmed should seek help from the community to care for their children, and whenever a person suspects a child is a victim of abuse or neglect, they should report it to the authorities immediately.
- What is Child Abuse?: The types of child abuse – physical, emotional, sexual, and neglect – are listed on this web page. Each of the forms of abuse are followed by a more in-depth description.
- Factsheet What is Child Abuse and Neglect? Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms (PDF): This is a PDF factsheet that explains the signs and symptoms associated with child abuse. While reading the PDF readers will also learn how Federal law defines child abuse.
- Types of Child Abuse and Signs: Read about the different type of child abuse. The page covers characteristics of parent who are emotionally abusive, and signs of abused children and adults who were abused. Family violence, sexual abuse and organized sexual abuse definitions and signs are also reviewed.
- Ten Ways to Help Prevent Child Abuse: Click this link to read a PDF pamphlet on advice for preventing child abuse.
- Child Abuse Basics: The Mayo Clinic has an article about basic definitions of child abuse. It covers sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and emotional abuse.
- Who Does Child Abuse and Neglect Affect?: This article by the Joyful Heart Foundation explains the effects of child abuse and neglect upon the victim and others as well. This article is part of a series of informational documents on the issue that can be found on this website.
Elder abuse and neglect is similar to child abuse except in some cases money is a motivating factor. The perpetrator, usually a caregiver, can be a stranger or the elderly person’s relative or children, who are usually adults. Neglect can occur in nursing homes, and also when an elderly relative is in the care of a family who lacks the resources to care for them. One of the common signs that abuse is occurring or may soon occur is when the elderly person’s caretakers are overwhelmed or cannot afford to fulfill their tasks. In some cases the caretaker is keeping the elderly person around to collect money and does not spend it for the dependent person’s care. Caretakers may take out their frustration and stress on the elderly person, leading to abuse or neglect.
Chronic health issues, malnutrition, bed sores, body odors, dehydration, and signs of injuries, are some of the signs of elder neglect or abuse. The disappearance of personal belongings such as jewelry and other valuables are signs of financially motivated abuse. Elder abuse can be prevented in a number of ways, including providing relief for caregivers or visiting an elderly person to check up on their well-being. Remedies include calling law enforcement, and in some states adult protective services programs are also available.
- Eleven Things That Anyone Can Do to Prevent Elder Abuse: Follow this link to a PDF pamphlet hosted by the National Center on Elder Abuse. Readers will find information on steps for preventing elder abuse.
- What is Elder Abuse?: The American Psychological Association has information about elder abuse on this web page. Topics covered include the definition of elder abuse, prevalence, and demographics.
- Elder Abuse – Looking for Signs and How to Help (Video): Click here to visit an ABC News story about elder abuse. Included on this page is a video and an article about the subject. Topics covered include statistics, signs and clues of elder abuse, and testimony by Mickey Rooney.
- Elder Abuse and Neglect: This web page at Webster University discusses several topics pertaining to elder abuse. Visitors will find information about the types of abuse, warning signs, potential causes and motivations behind elder abuse, and prevention techniques. The issue of self-abuse is also covered.
- Elder Abuse Hurts: The government of the City of New York has a PDF document that talks about elder abuse. The types of abuse, signs of abuse, the consequences, and how to stop elder abuse, are among the subjects that this article covers.
- Age Page – Elder Abuse: Readers who visit this article by the National institute on Aging will find information about various types of mistreatment of elderly people, as well as motivations and how to detect abuse. Anecdotal examples and also demographic information about victims of abuse are also included.