Physical abuse can be devastating. The physical scars are a constant reminder of what the individual endured. What many people do not understand is that, even though the abuse is horrendous, the victim will often remain with the abuser. Whether out of fear or misguided loyalty, the victim sometimes adamantly refuses to leave. Many victims do not know where to go.
What Is Physical Abuse?
The definition of physical abuse is any unwanted or unsolicited physical contact between two individuals. The physical contact can consist of one, any or all, of the following:
- Any unwanted sexual interaction.
In Great Britain, children one year old and under face the highest mortality rate among all age groups when it comes to homicide, with 21 per million residents. The next highest mortality rate is that of 16 to 29 year olds with 15 deaths per million. Physical abuse in its many forms, represents 16 to 25% of all reported violent crimes in the United Kingdom on a consistent basis.
Signs and Symptoms of Physical Abuse
According to the The signs and symptoms of physical abuse include, but are not limited to:
- Broken Bones.
- Strains and sprains.
- Unexplained head injuries.
- Poor hygiene.
- Emotionally withdrawn.
- Unexplained outbursts.
- Needless aggression.
The signs and symptoms of physical abuse will range from person to person. However, statistics show that most people show at least some type of indication that abuse is occurring, no matter how they try to explain it away. Physical abuse in children is often much more noticeable than when it occurs in adults. Shaken baby syndrome is one of the highest ranking forms of child abuse that results in death. If a baby survives shaken baby syndrome, they may end up with severe mental retardation, irreversible physical damage and the possibility of one or more severe learning disabilities.
Short Term Effects of Physical Abuse
People who try to define physical abuse often look to its short term effects to gauge their severity. The short term effects of physical abuse can include:
- Shying away from physical contact.
- Avoiding eye contact.
- Physical bruising.
- Recent wounds.
Individuals who experience physical abuse can be diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder much like soldiers who have witnessed combat during military deployment. The trauma of being exposed to that level of fear and physical pain can cause short term injuries and long term scars that can last for an entire lifetime.
The short term effects of physical abuse can be treated through medical intervention and rigorous counseling to help the victim cope with what has happened. Especially where children and young adults are concerned, immediate intervention is needed to lessen the effects of the abuse. It is extremely important that the perpetrator be removed from the situation as quickly and expeditiously as possible to prevent any further damage or injury.
Statistics on Physical Abuse in the United Kingdom
Statistics on physical abuse in the United Kingdom are available, but many authorities do not think they are reliable or accurate. A few of the most commonly agreed upon statistics include:
- Close to 800,000 incidents of physical abuse were reported in 2011/2012.
- Between the years 2005/06 and 2011/12, the overall increase in prosecutions of individuals charged with physical abuse is 65%.
- The number of convictions during that same time period, has increased to 99%.
- Women have a much higher victimization rate than men when it comes to physical abuse, stalking, sexual violence and other violent crimes.
- Between 85-90% of the 500,000 reported cases of sexual assault are against women.
- It is roughly estimated that in the United Kingdom, only 15 percent of all physical abuse attacks are reported to police.
- In cases where the most serious offenses were committed, over 90% of women knew their attacker.
- In those same cases, almost 56% of the women’s attackers were former or current boyfriends.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline operates in conjunction with the Women’s Aid and Refuge organization. It is a free hotline available to anyone who is experiencing physical abuse of any kind. During its first year in operation, the call center fielded over 250,000 phone calls. Between 2011 and 2012, the average number of phone calls per day was approximately 445. Of that number, at least 78% of the calls were answered.
What Can Be Done to Stop Physical Abuse
With less than 30% of all acts of physical abuse being reported, it is difficult to create a definitive plan of action. The average physical abuse definition includes all unwanted physical touch, many of which are accidental and would not need to be reported. It is the intent to harm or malice behind a physical touch or contact that makes it abuse.
In the UK, law enforcement officials encourage victims to come forward and report instances of abuse that result in emotional or bodily harm. The goal is to stop the pattern of abuse before it progresses to the point where someone is seriously injured or killed.
A British Crime Survey indicated that repeat victimization occurs in almost 44% of the cases. Of that number, over 56% indicated to authorities they were victimized at least three times by the same person. This included sexual abuse, physical abuse and stalking. Living in this type of situation has led many to move out of their homes to find security in the streets. Over 40% of homeless women claim they left their homes due to repeated abuse.
Becoming homeless is not the answer. If the abuse is to stop and the victim be allowed to move on with their lives, they must first find a safe place to live. Shelters are available for short term housing and will most often accept women as well as their children. This is not a long term fix, however, and women must immediately begin to find other means of housing.
Breaking the Ties
Breaking the ties between a victim and their abuser is extremely difficult. More than half will return to their abuser at least once before attempting to sever ties and move on with their lives. British authorities report women who leave abusive husbands sometimes face lengthy periods of time where the perpetrator tries to get them back, either by force or by giving in and agreeing to their demands. This normally doesn’t last, however. Within a few months, the abuse repeats itself again.
Women who begin counseling after leaving an abusive relationship will often do better during the initial transition period and are less likely to fall victim to the perpetrator a second time. A study commissioned by the Women’s Aid clearly shows that women are at the most risk of homicide or severe bodily injury during or immediately after a break up. The abusive partner will go to any extreme to get them back if they believe they can succeed. Counseling is beginning to change the way many women think.
Part of the healing process after an abusive relationship is understanding how the physical abuse affected a person’s mental and physical health. It is estimated that at least 75% of domestic violence cases involve bodily injury to the victim. Treating the physical injuries caused by physical abuse exceeds 1.2 billion pounds every year..
Counseling centers in the UK report that almost one in five of the women they see have been in abusive relationship or are currently in one. Mental illness and depression are commonly caused by repeated abuse. It is estimated that treating mental illness and depressive disorders associated with physical abuse exceeds well over 176 million pounds each year.
Breaking the cycle of abuse is the only way to prevent it from recurring. The perpetrator of the violent behavior can seek treatment once they admit they have a problem. In relationships where both parties are willing to work on the situation, counseling can help. The core of the problem, however, lies within the individual and must be addressed on a personal level if true change is desired.