Child and spousal abuse is an intentional act that results in physical and/or emotional or psychological injury on a child or spouse (or partner) by a parent or a mate, respectively (Gelles 2004). In a child, abuse more often takes the form of neglect. Child and spousal abuse and violence are major social concerns today.
The extent that children are abused by their parents or adult caretakers is difficult to measure, although it appears to occur most frequently among lower-income communities and certain ethnic and religious minorities. Abuse of children ranges from physical and emotional abuse and sexual abuse to physical and emotional neglect (Gelles). Effects of physical abuse are varied and visible: unexplained bruises, fractures and burn marks. Emotional abuse destroys the child's sense of security and self-esteem. Sexual abuse includes all acts that expose them to the sexual satisfaction of the parent or adult caretaker. Physical neglect means failure to provide at least the bare subsistence to the child, and emotional neglect, the cold, distant and un-loving behavior (Gelles).
The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect estimated that, in 1997 alone, there were around 3 million children in the United States reported to government agencies as neglected or abused. From these numbers, 56% were subjected to physical or emotional neglect, 25% to physical abuse, 13% to sexual abuse, 16% to emotional abuse, and the remaining 13% to abandonment or a combination of the common forms of abuse. The Center estimated that 2.3% of all children in the United States, or about 1.5 million, experience abuse or neglect every year. It emphasized that around 2,000 under 18 are killed by their parents or adult caretakers annually and that more children under 4 die from abuse or neglect than from any other cause, including falls, choking, drowning, fires and vehicular accidents, and that more than 18,000 of them will be permanently physically, emotionally, socially or mentally handicapped on account of abuse or neglect for the rest of their lives (Gelles). And the effects are myriad, disastrous and far-reaching: brain damage, permanent disabilities, even death; very low self-esteem, inability to relate productively with others, learning disorders, depression, dissociative identity disorder, anxiety, prostitution, aggression, and other behavioral problems, such as violence and juvenile crimes.
Abused children also encounter academic problems, agitation, a loss of a sense of belonging, great emotional distress, insomnia and nightmares (Newton 2001), obsessive behavior, a vengeful attitude, a subconscious sense of guilt and withdrawal. In adulthood, an abused child also tends to develop alcohol and substance abuse, violent practices and sexual problems.
Children who are abused are, furthermore, forced to shed off their childhood too soon to behave more like adults (Newton), such as by caring for younger siblings, cooking, cleaning, and even taking over the responsibility of parents in earning for them. These children soon become isolated from other children who can otherwise be close friends. They become either extremely extroverted or extremely introverted. Some become overachievers. Children who witness or experience domestic violence also passively respond to it in the form of anger, misery, intense terror, abnormal fear of death or of a parent dying - things that obstruct their normal emotional and social development into healthy, functioning adults at their time and with confidence in the world and in themselves. Domestic violence or abuse can and does interrupt or destroy this natural process and, instead, fill them with shock, which they cannot handle.
Even toddlers and infants, who are subjected to abuse, respond to it in different forms, such as sleep disturbances, irritability, regression in toilet habits and speech development, fear of being alone and disturbed personal autonomy (Newton).
Spousal violence or abuse occurs when one of the partners dominates the other by physically harming or verbally demeaning him or her (Jacobs 2001). Physical harm includes sexual abuse or performing sex against the will of the dominated partner.
Nine out of 10 spousal abuse victims are women, aged 19 to 29 (Jacobs). Physical signs of spousal violence or abuse include fractures, injuries in other parts of the body and un-explained bruises and cuts, some of which may be in different stages of healing.
Low self-esteem, depression and anxiety are among the symptoms of spousal abuse. It can happen to people of whatever religious, ethnic origin or income level. Studies, though, indicate that a man is more likely to abuse his wife or partner if he has a violent past or if one of them has committed child abuse…