The word abuse has a lot of connotations attached to it and the vast majority, thanks to an uncaring media, are all sexual in nature.
The truth is that abuse can cover a host of behaviours and whilst many would argue there are dozens of different types, they all fall into ten distinct classifications:
- Financial (or material)
- Neglect and acts of omission
- Modern Slavery
Some will be familiar and some won’t but all contain a raft of subcategorizations that will be familiar: discriminating against someone for their sexuality or race for example.
Theft and neglect are two of the most known forms of abuse that occur in a care setting.
Regardless of the type of abuse that you may feel you’re experiencing the base question you need to ask yourself is ‘do I feel like my rights have been violated?’ or ‘has my right to choose been denied me?’
Whilst these may seem a little high minded they are important questions to ask yourself. Essentially, if it feels like what is happening to you is wrong, regardless of what your possible abuser tells you (or anyone else for that matter) then it is.
Recognising that something isn’t right is the most important step.
You are not to Blame
Regardless of what kind of abuse you’re experiencing it’s so important to understand that it isn’t in anyway your fault. No matter what you read or hear to the contrary.
Recognising abuse can be hard because it isn’t always premeditated. At least not at first.
We’ve all seen a frustrated parent manhandling an un co-operative child out of a shop. Strictly speaking this is physical abuse and possibly psychological as well because the child could be feeling afraid of their parent at that particular moment.
In that snap shot of time, without context, we can say that child is being abused. However this can be an isolated incident and whilst that behaviour of the parent shouldn’t be excused, there is a grey area.
However we’re not talking about an isolated incident in which a parent had reached the end of their tether, we’re talking about recurring and premediated instances of mistreatment.
If your right to choose has been taken away: be it control of your money, what happens to your body or how you live your life then you are being abused.
What Do I Do?
Most importantly: remember you are not alone.
There are people to support you. If, for whatever reason, you can’t speak to family or friends about what you’re experiencing there are a range of support services.
Social services can put you in touch with charities, counselling services, shelters and supported temporary accommodation to assist in getting you away from the abuser.
Abuse of any type is a crime so either call the police or contact Crimestoppers [insert link].
If you live in a supported setting notify the management of your concerns as soon as possible. All care and support organisations have policies which detail what they do in terms of notifying the police and/or local safeguarding teams in response to allegations of abuse.
Where possible extract yourself from the abusive environment as quickly and as safely as possible. Arrange to stay with family or friends or work with social services to be temporarily relocated. Do not make yourself voluntarily homeless, in the worst case scenario there are shelters available for those suffering from abuse.
Social services and the police can help you find temporary accommodation if you have nowhere else to go.
The nature of the abuse, the severity and the duration will determine what happens to your abuser in terms of a trial or punishment but rest assured systems exist to protect you.
Intimidating a witness carries with it a prison sentence and a fine so should your abuser attempt to contact you in anyway the law will be firmly on your side.
Law enforcement and social services – as well as your care service provider in the event of supported living – will work with you to keep you protected. Counselling services exist and will be made available to you.
The other thing we recommend is that you be honest with your friends and family about what you have experienced. Keeping it to yourself isolates you and increases that chance of developing mental health issues.
You will not be judged. You are not broken, ruined or stained by your experience and the people who love you will be the first to tell you that, all you need to be is a little bit brave and be open to them.
Encompass Dorset supports individuals with enduring mental health problems in the Dorset area.
If you or someone you know could benefit from our help, contact us today. Or to learn more about our services click the links below.