Abuse may be defined as the use of physical, psychological , or sexual behaviour to control and maintain power over another person.

relationship abuse

Violence is a learned behaviour; when it works to get the desired result, it is used again and again as long as the perpetrator continues to get satisfactory results and the victim feels helpless to escape.

Violence is most disturbing and destructive when it occurs within the boundaries of a relationship. Youth have a variety of relationships within which violence may occur - parents, siblings, friends, other family members, schoolmates, dates, intimate partners, teammates, neighbours, teachers, employers, coaches, clergy and other professionals.

Violent relationships, be they opposite or same sex, intimate, family or acquaintance, have common elements of intimidation, isolation and fear. Violence becomes a choice, whereby one person in the relationship acquires and maintains power and control over the actions and thoughts of the other.

Abuse occurs along a continuum, starting with verbal insults, disrespect and threats, progressing to minor pushing, sexual touching, slapping or tripping, escalating to hitting, punching, kicking, sexual assault and confinement, and often accelerating to the use of knives, guns or other weapons. Many times, emotional and psychological abuse is not recognized as serious and damaging and is often ignored or accepted as normal.

Although the majority of serious violent acts resulting in injury or death are attributed to males, statistics indicate that females are increasingly likely to use violence. A recent study indicated that the actual numbers of violent acts attributed to women were higher than those attributed to men but that the levels of injury resulting from women’s violence were strikingly lower. (Coker et al., 2000.) Compared to teenage boys, girls sustain 3 times as much mild injury, 2 times as much moderate injury and virtually all severe injuries resulting from dating violence.

Violent behaviour may be changed if the negative consequences are greater than the perceived benefits, and if both the perpetrator and the victim are taught new ways to interact without violence and victimization.