Family Law

Lesson 3: Abuse Within Families

What is Abuse?

Abuse within families can take many forms. Some people divide it up into five general classifications:
  1. Physical abuse is the intentional application of physical force or a threat to use it to a family member. Examples are pushing , punching, slapping, shoving, kicking, spitting, pinching, pulling hair, choking, throwing things, striking with an object, using or threatening to use a weapon, locking someone out of the house, abandoning someone in an isolated or unsafe place, and threatening to physically harm someone.
  2. Sexual abuse includes unwanted sexual advances, touching, intercourse, or any other activity where one family member uses his or her power over another to achieve a sexual objective.
  3. Emotional or psychological abuse includes things like constant criticism, intimidation, isolation from friends, controlling with fear, or any behavior that undermines the mental and emotional well-being of another.
  4. Economic abuse involves controlling, exploiting, or limiting another person's access to financial resources, misusing another's funds, and cheating or stealing from a family member.
  5. Neglect is an act of omission that causes significant emotional or physical harm to a family member for whom one is responsible.

However, classifications of this sort are never perfect. All abuse, for instance, can ultimately be called emotional abuse in that it undermines the emotional well-being of its victims. Nevertheless, these broad categories can be useful in coming to understand just how great the potential is for abuse to occur within a family.