[[AbuseTropes Many tropes involve interpersonal abuse of some sort]], from AbusiveParents to BastardBoyfriend to DomesticAbuse to FinancialAbuse to many of the SexualHarassmentAndRapeTropes. What, though, is abuse in RealLife? How is it recognized as such, and how does it differ from healthy (or even unhealthy but non-abusive) interpersonal interactions? While providing an entirely exhaustive treatment of abuse has both been done elsewhere and is beyond the overview of Wiki/TVTropes, this article exists to provide a short summary defining abuse itself, the most common types of abuse, warning signs of abuse, and to dispel some common myths (found in tropes or otherwise) about various types of abuse.

!What is abuse?
Abuse is an individual act of harm and/or a pattern of harmful acts between individuals that have some sort of perceived interpersonal connection. If no interpersonal connection exists, the harmful or criminal act is not, technically, abuse. For example, if a stranger punches you in a BarBrawl, it is definitely an assault and a crime, but it is not abuse, because no interpersonal relationship or ongoing contact exists. (Note "perceived" there: as noted later, there are some forms of abuse that only require the abuser to perceive interpersonal connection where none actually exists)

The perceived interpersonal relationship aspect and ongoing contact is what often makes abuse as traumatizing of an experience as it is. Again using the BarBrawl example, while you may be traumatized and injured from being punched, you can be fairly sure you won't be punched again at least for a while. In an ongoing situation of DomesticAbuse, on the other hand, you can never be sure it won't happen again (and reassurances that it won't are often worthless). In the case of a stalker or someone wanting to commit a hate crime, you cannot convince them that you or what you are is not somehow connected to their life, which leaves you a target for ongoing abuse.

You can also write off the bar brawler as a drunken jerk who was 100 percent at fault, whereas if you are being abused continually, you may even develop sympathy for your abuser or blame yourself, despite your being no more at fault than as if you'd been targeted by a random stranger.

!What are some common myths and misconceptions about abuse?
* "I deserve it/it's my fault." No one deserves to be abused in any way. Someone engaging in abuse is not looking out for someone, not helping someone, not "disciplining." They are hurting the person they abuse. Reasons and causes are various, from wanting control over another person to their own mental issues to some form of gain for them to sadism to psychopathy to a personality disorder to lacking self-control to a twisted thought pattern that only makes sense to them. This misconception connects to the next one.
* "I could have/should have prevented this." The only way to prevent abuse is to ''stop interacting with the abuser'' and even that is not foolproof. This cannot be stressed enough: nothing YOU do or do not do can change or stop an abuser's conduct.
* "Things will be different in the future." Abuse is a set pattern that is incredibly hard to change and that can only change with major work on ''the abuser'''s behalf and willing. Some situations could resolve with abuse ending (e.g. if the abuse is precipitated by substance use or by UsefulNotes/{{trigger}}s or the abuser having been abused and the abuser recognizes this AND gets treatment for it rather than blames the victim), but these situations are ''rare''. Not only are they very rare, they are also the result of the abuser being truly reflective and repentant as opposed to the victim trying to appease the abuser.
* "It could be worse. Therefore it is not abuse." This is a very common one. Especially in regard to forms of abuse such as emotional abuse and financial abuse, a victim may think that being made to feel suicidal or being forced to hand over all of their income is not "abuse" because it isn't something like daily beatings or rapes. Keep in mind that abuse comes in many forms. It's defined by its effect of an interpersonal relationship becoming unbalanced and controlled by one individual to the harm of the other. If a victim keeps thinking "It could be worse", it will probably ''get'' worse as the abuser takes more liberties with them. Abuse should be stopped as soon as it is identified, like cancer.
* "Only women and children can be abused, DomesticAbuse is the only abuse." Abuse can happen in ANY interpersonal relationship. In DomesticAbuse alone, you can have men abusing women, women abusing men, men, women, or both abusing children, adult children abusing parents, and/or siblings abusing each other. GLBTQIA couples are also not immune to DomesticAbuse. Nor is DomesticAbuse the only context in which abuse can happen, there are other contexts:
** Bullying/mobbing (physical or emotional abuse in the context of workplace and/or education)
** Sexual harassment/sexual abuse in the context of workplace or education
** Financial coercion (financial abuse in the context of work or education)
** Bullying (physical, emotional, or financial abuse between children)
** Child on child sexual abuse
** Religious/spiritual abuse (the use of a religious or spiritual context to perpetuate control and abuse of victims by religious leader(s))
** Particularly exploitative and/or toxic friendships (which often take on a lot of the characteristics commonly associated with abusive relationships)
* "Abuse requires the people involved to know each other." Generally, it does - which is part of its dynamic in most cases - but note "perceived" connection. Stalking and harassment can occur without the victim knowing their abuser in any meaningful way (the abuser perceives a relational connection that does not exist), and some forms of emotional abuse (specifically that that takes place online, hate crimes, and hate speech) can also happen in this manner (the connection is proximity and the abuser perceives a connection [[FeelingOppressedByTheirExistence that the abuser does not want when none actually exists]], e.g. the mere fact that someone else on social media/their new roommate/a random person on the street is black/female/gay/whatever else they find objectionable is all it takes for the abuser to begin attacking them).
** In the case of some abusers, they choose to prey upon people that have no specific connection to them aside from proximity, but who fit a specific appearance/class/demographic that they fetishize or hate (or sometimes both) - e.g. predatory pedophiles who will lose interest in a victim as soon as they age to puberty and move on to other young children, or white supremacists or homophobes who choose to abuse or attack random individuals simply on the basis of perceived differences of race or sexual orientation.
* "Abuse is always intentionally or mindfully performed on the part of the abuser." While many examples of abuse are indeed done with the act in mind, there are times where the abuser has no idea what they are doing to the other person, either due to culture justifying their behavior in some way or another, due to the influence of substances, due to being abused themselves and their seeing it as "normal," etc, etc. This is mostly done with emotional abuse, but physical abuse, financial abuse, and some of the milder forms of sexual abuse (relating to the grayer areas of questionable consent and the like) can also happen in this manner. Mostly this form of abuse is a lot more mild than a person who is intentionally doing it, but its effects can still be harsh to the victim even after abuse has stopped. Mostly it will happen when the abuser is angry, upset, or abusing lighter substances (alcohol or soft drugs), and will happen in the form of insults or speeches given by the accidental abuser to try and vent their frustrations, in ''mutual'' physical fights without intent to inflict major damage or kill, overspending with no concern for their financial well being (as opposed to intentionally trying to take their money), or in being "pushy" or "insistent" on requesting sex from a partner despite being declined. Although the results are (usually) not as bad, as this form of abuse can come to an end if something that is causing the person to engage in abuse in the first place is gone, the person is educated or undergoes therapy/treatment, escalation ''does not happen,'' and there is no express intent to cause harm (which generally precludes the worst abuses such as severe beatings and forcible rape) as well as generally being more mild, they can still cause trouble, such as bringing already existing emotional or mental problems to a worse degree or inflicting negativity where there was none before.
* "It takes two." [[NeverMyFault Easy to say or imply for an abuser, who doesn't want to take responsibility for own behavior, pretending part of the hear lies in a target.]] Mutually abusive relationships do exist, but even in those cases, they are ''never'' that simple.
* "Love conquers all." No amount of love can improve an abuser. This notion often keeps people under abusive control. Psychopaths in particular can exploit love just like any other vulnerability, being devoid of conscience or empathy.
* "Everyone should just forgive and forget." An abuser can escape accountability in many ways. One of them is this. An abuser can insist on letting bygone be bygone to ''appear'' conciliatory and get people off his/her back. Psychopathic abusers especially are notoriously slick at escaping accountability in any way possible. For "forgive and forget" to even ''be'' a healthy decision, people(not just a target for abuse) need to keep responsibility on an abuser without letting him/her off the hook. The abuse has to ''actually be over''. An abuser has to actually be of mind to become a better person, not just change stripes(this shouldn't be counted on to happen) and pretend to be while really just being more stealthy. Abuse can't be just in the calm parts of an ongoing cycle of abuse or continuing covertly(which often happens after public "amends" have been made). Stopping abuse can't be just lip service. Talk is cheap, after all. An abuser has to be held responsible for improving his own behavior and stopping abusive conduct. Even if any of this is possible or likely, a victim of abuse can justifiably be uncomfortable around abusers, even former and repentant ones. "Forgive and forget" is a dangerous and harmful platitude. People involved should maintain separate lives with no obligation to "forgive and forget", preferably with zero contact. An unlucky party, who's experienced abuse, has a right to continue his/her life without any interference of an abuser.
* "Don't sink to their level" is another, equally harmful and hurtful part of this that is more often than not aimed at people who just want catharsis and for their abuser to face accountability - it implies that anything that doesn't involve forgiving and forgetting is petty and childish, which is ''extremely'' insulting to someone who has finally escaped an abusive situation and wants their abuser to face actual consequences.

!What are the primary kinds of abuse?
!!Physical abuse
Physical abuse is the stereotype of DomesticAbuse. It is nonsexual violence or the threats of it by the abuser against the victim. It can include everything from "minor" verbal threats, pinches, shoves, slaps to horrific beatings, torture, and murder. It almost always also includes emotional abuse, sometimes includes sexual abuse, and has a very nasty tendency to escalate - a fancy term for getting far, far worse. As in, the person who starts out shoving you away from him or her or slapping you may, over time, be the person who kills you.

!!Emotional abuse
Emotional abuse is far more insidious and far less obvious than physical abuse in most cases, and the most common form of abuse. It consists of tactics to make the victim feel worthless, threatened, fearful, [[{{Gaslighting}} crazy]], helpless, confused... and entirely controlled by and dependent on the abuser. Whereas physical abuse hurts the body, emotional abuse hurts the mind and emotions. An emotionally abused victim may suffer from stress, may be misdiagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses or actually develop them as well as develop physical illness, suffer from reduced societal and career opportunities, and even be DrivenToSuicide - all of the effects of physical abuse including death are effects of emotional abuse as well. In fact, it could be argued that emotional abuse is ''worse'' than physical abuse in at least one way - it is very easy for those who inflict it to present the victim as crazy/dangerous/TheMentallyDisturbed... and unlike physical abuse, it is very ''difficult'' for an outside observer to understand what really happened.

For example, if someone goes to the hospital with obvious facial wounds and a broken arm, and the victim's partner is with the victim, and when questioned, the partner comes up with BlatantLies or outright brags about how he beat up the victim - the partner will, at least in most of the Western world, be immediately arrested and the victim will be given full legal support in pressing charges, getting a restraining order, filing for separation/divorce/etc.

If the same person, however, turns up at the hospital with an overdose/slashed wrists/self-inflicted gunshot wounds/another form of SelfHarm or outright suicide attempt, however, the first conclusion is usually that the victim is suffering from an extreme mental illness and is unable to care for himself or herself, and their partner or parents can easily slide into the role of "loving, worried caregiver," even if hours earlier they were screaming at the victim to kill himself or herself, even if they worked to consciously destroy the person's self-worth/self-concept/ability to live independently/etcetera. Unless someone thinks to ask AND the victim can actually, coherently describe what has happened to them (which some can, but others cannot) AND be believed, there is a ''very'' high chance the victim will be ''returned to their abuser'' except with a diagnosis "proving" all the awful things the abuser said and giving them even more control over the victim because, after all, the abuser(s) are "just trying to help that poor crazy person."

This is the reason that, when possible, ''anytime'' someone seeks care for suicidal thoughts/suicide attempts or major depression, ''especially'' if the "patient" is showing lack of self-worth and free will, overwhelming submissiveness and [[ApologizesALot apologies]], or similar or seems to have "given up on life," a thorough inventory for emotional abuse should be done - *after* the person has been given some time to rest and calm down away from their partner or parents and in complete confidentiality, and with it being understood the person may or ''may not'' know the proper terminology to express what has been done to them.
** Also, a victim of emotional abuse may actually present as self-blaming in general, as angry or despondent at [[RantInducingSlight a seemingly small slight]] compared to what their larger problem is (for example, flying into an uncharacteristic rage at someone criticizing their beliefs/partner, or crying and despondent over losing a seemingly minor belonging or being caught [[FelonyMisdemeanor doing something relatively harmless or even normal]] in fear of the emotional abuse they will later get if they ''don't'' defend/for what they've done), be afraid ''they'' are the abuser/caused the abuse, believe they are only hurting because they are "weak" or simply go mute and/or otherwise dissociate. This pattern is ''especially'' common in male victims in male-dominated societies, because of the cultural belief that men aren't supposed to ''have'' emotions.

!!Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse encompasses abusive acts that have a sexual component. Rape (and various forms of dubiously-consensual sex), forced or coerced sex of any sort, child molestation, forced sex work, sexual harassment. Almost always contains strong elements of emotional abuse as well - in fact, it could be argued that sexual abuse is a combination of physical and emotional abuse, and is often found with both.

FinancialAbuse is abuse centered around either the control of money as a means of control and/or around forcing the victim to engage in financial behaviors that profit the abuser at the expense of the victim. It can include anything from taking all profits from the victim's work or income, forcing the victim to work beyond the victim's capacity, exploiting the victim's financial resources, outright stealing from the victim and/or selling their possessions, or forcing the victim to commit crimes for financial reasons. Emotional abuse is often a very large part of it simply because emotional abuse enables financial abuse to exist.

!!Religious abuse
Religious abuse is, simply put, physical, emotional, sexual, and/or financial abuse either codified by a religious system (No RealLife examples allowed, but the CorruptChurch, PathOfInspiration, ReligionOfEvil, ScamReligion and {{Cult}} are some tropes that describe some aspects of this + fictional versions) or practiced by members of a religious system using religious justifications for either practicing or covering up abuse. Often one of the most absolutely crushing forms of abuse to victims, because religion and spirituality is both important to and often an all-encompassing part of life to those most likely to be victimized, and finding out that one's religious leaders (or worse, one's religion itself) is a fraud constructed solely to harm people is often almost as traumatizing an experience as the abuse itself.
* While this is not absolute in any way, [[http://www.neopagan.net/ABCDEF.html The Bonewits Scale]] provides a generalized guide to determining if a specific religion/seminar/other social group practices this kind of abuse or is ripe for its presence to begin. The higher a group pings on the scale (especially with high numbers in multiple categories) it's likelier that this form of abuse is occurring or can easily begin to occur.
* Cult expert Steven Hassan has described the "[[https://www.freedomofmind.com/Info/BITE/bitemodel.php BITE model]]" of control tactics that are often used by cults and other high-control groups-- Behavior control, Information control, Thought control, and Emotional control. If a religious (or otherwise) group exhibits many of the behaviors on his list, it's pretty safe to flag them as abusive.

!What are some major warning signs of abuse?
There are many warning signs of abuse (many specific to the specific type of abuse), which you can find in the resources available online, but out of those, there are some that are almost always signs of abuse occurring, to the point that if you see them happening to you or to someone else, you should almost always suspect abuse.
* ''Total control of one person or group of persons by another person or group of persons''. This is a major warning sign of emotional abuse (which often underlies all abuse) and it enables all forms of abuse. If a religion imposes it, it's almost always a sign of religious abuse afoot. In fact, it is arguably the most obvious warning sign of abuse ever to exist. The ''only'' times this could arguably not be a sign of abuse is if it is the limited result of a Total Power Exchange or Gorean kink relationship - and even there it should be watched very, very carefully for development into abuse.
* Sudden development of anxiety, depression, or especially fearfulness and/or timidity, ''especially'' concurrent with a new relationship, new job, new friendship, or other new interpersonal interaction.
* Fear of an individual, place, situation, or organization. If something is terrifying someone or "keeping them in line" there may be a very bad reason why.
* Unexplained, repeated wounds, injuries, or scars - or injuries with very flimsy explanations are often a sign that physical abuse is occurring.
* [[UsefulNotes/{{Suicide}} Suicidal]] behavior or feelings are a warning sign of abuse often enough that abuse should at least be considered as a reason, specifically in cases which the suicidal person is living in a situation controlled by others (living with family or a member of a restrictive religious group for example). This is often dismissed assuming that the family member(s) or group is always supportive rather than the source of problems - it shouldn't be, because while many suicides and suicide attempts ''are'' the result of mental disorders, it ''is'' possible to be DrivenToSuicide, specifically if someone in an abusive situation is or is made to feel so limited in choices that the only choices are suicide or staying in the situation. The risk for suicide increases when help is only partial (e.g. someone is told the situation is abusive but is given no concrete, workable way to escape it) and when emotional abuse is the largest component (e.g. someone regularly getting into physical fights with a partner when they drink but where there is no ongoing effort by either partner to destroy the other's self-worth and self-concept is less likely to commit suicide than someone who is continually made to feel inadequate, worthless, useless, stupid, sick, dependent, etcetera, even though both situations are abuse. This is both due to the nature of emotional abuse itself, and that a situation involving it often ''does'' seem more hopeless or harder to escape, and sometimes ''is,'' than a situation that is one of overt physical violence.)
* Acting out sexually in ways that are out of character or [[TroublingUnchildhoodBehavior age-inappropriate.]] This is often one of the biggest warning signs of sexual abuse, [[NotWhatItLooksLike though there can be other explanations why]]. It can also be indicative of other forms of abuse, e.g. a financially abused person doing sex work for money or an emotionally abused person seeking "love" even if it is from total strangers.
* Odd or extreme financial behaviors such as donating huge amounts of money to a religious or self-development organization, being unaware of how much income one has and unable to ask about it, working to a degree that risks health or safety, taking out massive loans (especially of predatory types like student or payday), or suddenly engaging in embezzlement or theft. While all of this behavior could have other explanations, it could be indicative of either direct FinancialAbuse (the abuser is making the victim do it) or of a victim desperate to escape physical or emotional abuse and willing to make any sacrifice to do so.
* ''Rationalization of abusive acts'' is a MAJOR warning sign of almost every form of abuse, and it generally means the person is so controlled by their abuser that they may not even be able to make it out by themselves/that they are a victim of MoreThanMindControl on behalf of their abuser(s). Some examples would be someone saying "but I deserved it," in reference to injuries inflicted by a partner, someone in a religious group justifying any of the forms of abuse in this article or other means of controlling and harming people (especially children), or someone explaining why they are exactly the bad person someone told them they were.

!How can I get help?
Abuse is a horrible experience to go through, and all too often the victims are shamed by their attackers into silence. If this is you, you need not be afraid. YouAreNotAlone. There are people who can and will help you, and there are also many people who have had similar experiences and have escaped and survived them, as you can.
* Contact your local police station (if you are in a Westernized country); they have lists of local groups and organisations who will give you assistance and support.
* ''Seek medical help.'' This is ''highly'' important especially with prolonged physical abuse or with sexual abuse - beatings especially can inflict damage beyond even visible damage - postconcussive syndrome and other traumatic brain injury from repeated blows to the head or face, nerve damage from being hit elsewhere, and one can have STDs or internal injury from sexual abuse or rape. Medical professionals, in the US, are also mandated reporters if you tell them you are being abused or have injuries that suggest abuse - which can be valuable if you wish to contact the police. Even if you've already escaped your abuser and do not need law enforcement intervention, mentioning what has happened to you in the past is important so you can be properly tested for any conditions from the abuse, and they can be treated.
** Seeking psychological help and therapy is also a good idea, though that depends on how you are personally dealing with it. ''Some'' people can survive abuse of various forms without needing counseling or therapy - ''not every'' abuse survivor or rape survivor develops PTSD or C-PTSD or other mental health issues - but if you ''are'' having mental health issues as a result of abuse, seek out proper mental health care.
* If you don't wish to contact the police (at least immediately) and/or are in a location where the police won't be of any help/are an adult victim of primarily emotional abuse/are leaving an abusive religious group, there are other resources available - if your abuser won't be checking your internet history or doesn't know you are online, finding a survivor's community or forum for victims of abuse is probably the best way to do this - sometimes there are even specific communities or forums for the emotionally abused or for people who are contemplating leaving/have left specific high-demand abusive religious organizations.
* The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1800799SAFE (18007997233), also available at [[http://www.ndvh.org]]
** List of child abuse reporting hotlines by state: [[https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/reslist/rl_dsp.cfm?rs_id=5&rate_chno=W-00082]]
* Safe Horizon: 1-800-621-HOPE (1-800-621-4673), also available at [[http://www.safehorizon.org]]
* In the UK, there's Refuge: 0808 2000 247, also available at [[http://refuge.org.uk]]
* In Scotland, you can call 0800 027 1234, or visit [[http://www.famouspeople.org.uk]]
* In Australia, you can call the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Helpline: 1800 200 526.
* In France, you can call this free number (which is anonymous) to get a safe haven : 115.
** 03 22 52 09 52 to get advice and talk to someone.

!!Support and advocacy groups:
* [[https://www.rainn.org/ RAINN]]: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: 1-800-656-4673
* [[http://www.snapnetwork.org/contact SNAP]]: Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests (and other clergy) : 1-877-762-7432
* [[http://www.malesurvivor.org/ MaleSurvivor.org]]: Specific resources for male survivors of sexual abuse or rape.
* [[http://journeyfree.org/getting-help-2/ JourneyFree]]: Resources for survivors/victims of abusive religious sects.
* [[http://www.ascasupport.org/index.php ACSA]]: Adult Survivors of Child Abuse
* [[http://www.havoca.org/ HAVOCA]]: Help for Adult Victims of Child Abuse (UK)
* [[http://netgrace.org/ GRACE]]: Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment

!Literature about abuse

* ''In Sheep's Clothing'' by George K. Simon
* ''Bully in Sight'' by Tim Field
* ''Why does he do that?'' by Lundy Bancroft
* ''Stalking the Soul'' by Marie-France Hirigoyen
* ''The Emotional Rape Syndrome'' by Michael J. Fox
* ''Verbally Abusive Relationship'' by Patricia Evans

!Online articles about abuse

* [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_abuse Wikipedia -article about psychological abuse]]
* [[http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-emotional-abuse.html# Goodtherapy.org briefing]]
* [[http://outofthefog.net/CommonBehaviors/EmotionalAbuse.html Out of the Fog]]
* [[http://evolutioncounseling.com/two-headed-monster/ Evolution Counseling; two attitudes that hinder moving on]]
* [[http://evolutioncounseling.com/gaslighting/ Evolution Counselling; gaslighting]]
* [[http://eqi.org/eabuse1.htm EQI.org]]
* [[http://www.hiddenhurt.co.uk/warning_signs.html Hiddenhurt; warning signs of an abusive relationship]]
* [[http://www.hiddenhurt.co.uk/verbal_abuse.html Hiddenhurt; verbal abuse]]
* [[http://bullyonline.org/workbully/amibeing.htm Bullyonline; What is bullying?]]
* [[http://bullyonline.org/workbully/serial_introduction.htm Profile of a serial bully]]
* [[http://counsellingresource.com/features/2011/11/08/gaslighting/ Gaslighting]] [[http://counsellingresource.com/features/2014/03/25/gaslighting-revisited-a-closer-look-at-this-manipulation-tactic/ revisited]]
* [[http://counsellingresource.com/features/2008/09/10/what-is-a-character-disorder/ What is a character disorder?]]
* [[http://www.manipulative-people.com/serious-abusers-and-psychologys-failure-to-understand-them/ Serious abusers and psychology's failure to understand them]]
* [[http://www.heartless-bitches.com/rants/manipulator/emotional_abuse.shtml Heartless Bitches International; the creator Natalie P.:s thoughts on emotional abusers]]
* [[http://counsellingresource.com/lib/therapy/self-help/understanding/ Some personality disorders make for very toxic individuals to be involved with]]
* [[http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pathological-relationships/201211/dissociation-isnt-life-skill Dissociation and how it can put at greater risk of abusive relationships]]
* [[http://counsellingresource.com/features/2011/10/26/jig-up-for-controllers-caution/ When the jig is up for controllers]]
* [[http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/stalking.html NoNonsenseSelfDefense; Stalking and Domestic Violence]]
* [[http://counsellingresource.com/lib/therapy/self-help/loser/ Identifying losers, controllers and abusers in relationships, avoiding and detaching]]
* [[http://ericpazdziora.com/spiritual-abuse-awareness-month/ Spiritual Abuse awareness]]