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Abuse is never justified or deserved

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This week I’d like to talk with you about a subject that brings me no pleasure, because it’s not uplifting or positive but is a reality in today’s world. That topic is abuse as it relates to the elderly and the disabled. For many of us who live with limitations, it’s difficult to imagine life being any tougher or more difficult than it already is. For others, it is a nightmare everyday and not just because they have chronic illness, disability or chronic pain. It’s difficult because someone is causing them additional pain. We all know life is not a fictional romance novel but for some it’s an all too realistic horror film.

Perhaps, we could just share a word first about abuse, in general. It’s usually men who are abusing women and children but there are incidents of male abuse by a female spouse or significant other. Unfortunately, we pick up the paper or turn on the news everyday and see abuse of children by their mothers and often, their fathers. To be honest with you and I always try to be, I have trouble comprehending why this happens. If you love someone enough to live with them; gave birth to them or they gave birth to you, why do you want to cause them harm? As a matter of fact, why would you want to hurt anyone, even a complete stranger? What darkness obsesses the human soul of individuals who do this sort of thing to others?

We all know the frustration of family squabbling, irritation from old problems and differences of opinion. That’s not the same thing as abuse. Abuse is retrieval of perceived loss of power by one toward another. I found an excellent definition of this by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. If I may quote them, “Abuse is rooted in a power imbalance-between individuals, within families and in society. Basically, when one person is considered less worthy than another one-as an individual or because they are a woman, homosexual, Aboriginal (or another race) or disabled person-there is the potential for abuse.” They go on to say, “An abusive relationship is often a confusing mix of love, fear, dependency, intimidation, guilt and hope.”

There are so many types of abuse, it turns my stomach. When I’ve worked as a nurse in emergency rooms over the years, I’ve always been shocked and stunned by the many ways one human being can hurt another. Small children covered with cigarette burns from a parent; suspicious falls by a frail, elderly person, bleeding spouses who will return to the abuser because “they love him,”; and the elderly or the disabled who are too afraid, confused or intimidated to admit they’ve been intentionally hurt. Sometimes, it stretches one’s faith in humankind. One often wonders where the kindness, the affection and the understanding we each deserve is.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, as part of the National Center on Aging there are subcategories of abuse. There’s physical abuse when someone beats up on one who is weaker and more vulnerable than they are. Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t have the nerve to do it. Physical abuse is defined as physical force that causes injury, pain or impairment. It may include such acts as striking with the fist or an object; hitting, beating, shoving, slapping, kicking or burning, among others. You get the idea. Then there’s emotional abuse where the victim is made to feel stupid, inferior or less than the abuser. The NCEA describes this as the inflicting of pain or distress through verbal or non-verbal acts. Emotional abuse includes treating another individual with humiliation, intimidation, harassment, verbal abuse or threats. Then there is sexual abuse which takes many forms but is defined as sexual contact without consent. Sexual abuse can also take the form of infidelity and actually bragging about it to one’s partner, especially if that partner is disabled or too ill to have an active sex life.

Many individuals who are disabled or limited in their physical activity also suffer these same abuses that fall upon the elderly. I had a relative with terribly severe rheumatoid arthritis. Both she and her husband would drink, sometimes on a daily basis. Her husband was a nice enough guy when he was sober, even fun to be around, but when he drank his personality totally changed. He was quite simply a “mean drunk.” He slapped her around many times, once even knocking her down a flight of stairs fracturing her hip. I asked her why she didn’t leave him and she always rationalized his behavior. “Oh, he’s under pressure at work. Oh, he worries about the bills”; and on and on went the rationale.  I know it would have been difficult for her to leave since she wasn’t able to work but she chose to stay. I don’t believe there was much love left there, in the relationship, but leaving would have meant her secret was out and her lifestyle would have to change. I would also imagine there was an element of fear of leaving which forced her to stay in the relationship. She lived a nightmare wrapped in the appearance of privilege. Most never knew what she endured.

Sometimes alcohol is a factor. Other times, when the abuse is financial, it is greed. Sometimes abuse appears quickly, knocking us down in surprise and other times it comes on quietly, surreptitiously and slyly. It can twist and bend our personalities as well as harming our bodies. Next blog we’ll discuss this sad issue further.

In the meantime, remember to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” It all starts with loving yourself. That’s just a polite way of saying, no matter how sick you are, you don’t have to take any crap off of anybody. You have value. No one can abuse you without your consent to let them do so. Therefore, until next time…

Last Updated:4/7/2009
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Video: 'I deserve it' campaign shows some SA kids believe abuse is sometimes justified (Part 1)

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Date: 06.12.2018, 15:23 / Views: 94284