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Physical Abuse


Physical abuse is the most visible form of domestic abuse. It includes such behaviour as slapping, burning, beating, kicking, biting, stabbing and can lead to permanant injuries and sometimes death.

The perpetrator’s aim is to intimidate and cause fear. If someone in your family or an intimate partner is acting in this way, regardless of scale, this is physical abuse. Assaults often start small, maybe a small shove during an argument, or forcefully grabbing your wrist, but over time usually become more frequent and more severe.  It may be preceded by other abusive behaviours, such as verbal or emotional abuse.

If someone is experiencing physical abuse It’s essential that you seek help from a number of services that provide support.

If you are fearful or believe your life is in danger, it’s important you contact the police immediately.

It’s better to take action before harm occurs, being able to recognise the signs and understanding the information about what abuse is, means we are aware of what can be done to seek help.

If you’re worried that a member of your family or friend is being abused, let them know you’ve noticed something is wrong.

Family members, friends, colleagues, neighbours and community members can be a life-line for those who are living with domestic abuse.

If someone confides in you that they’re suffering domestic abuse:

​• Listen to them and reassure them that they are not to blame
• Acknowledge their courage, it takes strength to talk to someone about experiencing abuse
• Give them time and allow them to talk at their own pace, and don’t try to persuade them to talk if they don’t want to
• Acknowledge that they’re in a frightening and difficult situation but reassure them that you are supporting them
• Make sure to tell them that nobody deserves to be threatened or beaten, despite what the abuser has said
• Be there to support them as a friend, encourage them to express their feelings. Respect them to make their own decisions
• Don’t tell them to leave the relationship if they’re not ready, that’s their decision to make in their own time
• Ask them if they have suffered physical harm and if so, offer to go with them to the hospital or GP and help them report the assault to the police if they choose to
• be ready to provide information on organisations that offer help for people experiencing domestic abuse.

“Some people may not be ready to talk and open up about an abusive relationship, but try to find quiet times in safe places, they can talk and confide in you when they choose to and when they are ready.”

The Details

What is physical abuse? 

Physical abuse is any non-accidental act or behaviour which causes injury, trauma or any other physical suffering or bodily harm to another.

Physical Abuse may be:

• A single act or repeated acts.
• An act of neglect or a failure to act.
• Multiple acts (e.g. an adult may be neglected and financially abused).​

Physical abuse happens when a person uses physical force against another and is unlawfully depriving a person of their liberty.

Two women per week on average are killed by a partner or former partner. In addition, 20 to 30 men are murdered each year. This is not acceptable and we are striving to change these statistics.

Perpetrators of physical abuse may be extremely remorseful after the attacks; they may be tearful and apologetic.  Alternatively they may insist that the victim started or caused the violence.  They may argue that they had not intended to be physically abusive but that they ‘lost it’. They may blame it on drink or drugs.  These conflicting justifications often leave the victim extremely confused and aim to enable the perpetrator to maintain control over the victim. Whatever happens, it is NEVER the fault of the victim, and the excuses will NEVER excuse violent behaviour in the home.

Physical abuse can involve the following:

​• Biting or scratching
• Pushing or shoving
• Kicking
• Throwing
• Poisoning
• Slapping
• Punching
• Hair pulling
• Scalding and burning
• Involuntary isolation or confinement
• Misuse of medication (e.g. over sedation)
• Force feeding or denying someone food
• Throwing objects
• Choking or Strangulation
• Physically restraining (pinning someone against a wall, floor, bed etc)
• Using weapons or objects that could cause someone harm
• Drowning
• Reckless driving
• Forcing someone medication/drugs against their will
• Making someone purposefully uncomfortable (e.g. opening a window/removing blankets)

Recognising the signs of physical abuse and becoming aware of the signs of physical abuse can help us recognise if it is happening to us or someone we know. Physical symptoms to look out for can include frequent broken bones, chronic injuries, bruises, bite-marks or scarring. Physical signs may not always be visible so It’s helpful to also be aware of the emotional/behavioural signs of someone suffering physical abuse.

These can include:​

• Suddenly withdrawn
• Unexplained cuts or scratches to mouth, lips, gums, eyes or external genitalia
• Difficulties sleeping
• Person exhibiting untypical self-harm
• Unexplained burns on unlikely areas of the body (e.g, soles of the feet, palms of the hands, back), immersion burns (from scalding in hot water/liquid), rope burns, burns from an electrical appliance
• Substance abuse
• Unexplained bruising to the face, torso, arms, back, buttocks, thighs, in various stages of healing
• A collection of bruises that form regular patterns corresponding to the shape of an object or which can appear on several areas of the body

• Changes in someone’s eating habits
• Developing eating disorders
• Developing a panic disorders
• Medical problems that go unattended
• Sudden and unexplained urinary and / or faecal incontinence
• Person flinches at physical contact
• Person appears to be frightened or subdued in the presence of particular people
person asks you not to hurt them
• Reluctance to undress or uncover certain parts of the body
• Person wears clothes that cover all parts of their body or specific parts of their body

If you think you are experiencing physical abuse please seek help now. 

If you are worried that you are abusing someone physically please seek help now 


(Lwa-Leave with abuse)

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