Guide to Recognizing and Getting Help for Military-Service Related PTSD

Military veterans are a population that is particularly at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD.

In fact, the National Center for PTSD reports that as many as 20% of returning veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) experience PTSD. What’s more, PTSD is a notoriously under-reported disorder among this population as well.

If you think you are one of the many military service veterans suffering from this debilitating disorder, it’s important to realize that you are not alone and that there is hope.

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can result from witnessing or experiencing life-threatening or deeply distressing experiences, also known as trauma.

After a traumatic event like those that can be encountered in a combat zone, it’s natural for the body and mind to experience a variety of stress reactions like shock, confusion, and other intensely emotional responses.

Over time, these reactions generally subside and though the memory is not usually forgotten, the physical and mental stress reactions from the trauma will become less severe.

With PTSD, however, the sufferer of trauma experiences the initial stress reactions long after the incident occurred. It’s been likened to re-experiencing the event over and over again weeks, months, and sometimes years afterwards.

Symptoms of PTSD can also appear long after the trauma was experienced. As such, veterans may return from a conflict zone without any obvious signs of PTSD for an extended period of time only to develop the disorder later in life. This latency period can be especially problematic and confusing for friends, family, and loved ones, not to mention the victims themselves.

What Does PTSD Look Like?

The first step of coping with and finding treatment options for your PTSD is identifying the disorder in the first place. As PTSD is a psychological disorder, some symptoms might be harder to pick out than others. Some individuals might even notice the signs but will be unwilling to admit they have a problem.

But just like with any problem, whether it be during active duty or in civilian life, the more you know about a situation, the better equipped you’ll be to handle it.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs points out four types of PTSD symptoms: reliving the event, avoiding reminders of the event, experiencing negative changes in beliefs and feelings, and a state known as hyperarousal.

When most people think of the term “post-traumatic stress disorder” they’ll typically envision the first symptom: reliving the event. And while many people might think that people with PTSD simply have strong memories of a traumatic event, the truth is that it usually manifests much more realistically.

PTSD sufferers might have intense nightmares about the trauma or might experience what is called a “flashback,” vivid recollections so realistic that it feels like you are actually experiencing the trauma firsthand. These episodes may be accompanied by visual or auditory hallucinations that can make it even harder to tell what is real and what isn’t.

These flashbacks can be brought on by a variety of environmental details, from news reports or gunshots to simple objects or even smells. Such details that bring about flashbacks are known as “triggers.”

Another symptom of PTSD involves avoiding certain situations that may remind you of the specific trauma. This symptom relates directly to such triggers and can be different for everyone. It could be crowds, certain vehicles, a particular activity or location, or even a specific person. The key here is that an individual suffering from PTSD will go to great lengths to avoid interacting with anything that might make them remember details about the traumatic event.

Negative changes in beliefs and feelings is the third symptom of PTSD and is a bit more vague than the last two. Beyond that, it can be hard to identify a shift in personality and beliefs if you are both the observer and the subject. As such, it might be beneficial to use the opinions of people you are close to in order to judge your situation a bit more objectively.

A few characteristics of this symptom may be that you feel like you are no longer capable of having positive feelings about others and maybe even your own family. You may also have a hard time trusting anyone, especially outside of a combat zone. Another aspect of the symptom may be that you cannot remember certain parts of the event or simply can’t bring yourself to talk about them.

The last symptom of PTSD is hyperarousal, a term that describes the state of being on constant high alert. This can manifest in anger and irritability, anxiety, trouble sleeping or concentrating, and an inability to feel safe in a situation (e.g. only being able to sit in a restaurant with your back against a wall). This hyperarousal may be similar to the feelings involved with being inside a combat zone.

If the above symptoms sound familiar, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder. If you are still unsure though, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a self-assessment tool that can help you determine whether you are exhibiting signs of PTSD.

You should also seek the advice of a qualified medical professional for a definitive diagnosis and any additional treatment options you may require. Your treatment may also be covered by a variety of government programs created specifically to help veterans with PTSD.

For a list of therapists, assessment advice, and ways to see if you qualify for a military-service-based PTSD healthcare program, have a look at these resources from the National Center for PTSD from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

If you would like to talk to someone for more advice on assessing your PTSD symptoms, there are a variety of national helplines that can give you advice and help you find treatment options:

Strategies to Help You Cope with Your PTSD

After identifying the symptoms of your PTSD and realizing that you may have a problem, the next step is learning ways to cope with your post-traumatic stress disorder.

While some sufferers of PTSD will see their symptoms diminish over time, other victims may experience the disorder’s effects for the rest of their lives.

As such, it’s important to develop the skills and strategies necessary to reduce the effects of PTSD and learn to live a happy and fulfilling life.

If you are currently having a hard time dealing with your symptoms of PTSD and feel like you might be a danger to yourself or to others, either call 911 or contact the help center below:

Getting the Help You Need

Transitioning from military to civilian life can be hard for a veteran. Making the choice to get help for your post-traumatic stress disorder can be even harder. But, doing so is the first step towards overcoming the debilitating effects of PTSD.

Use the resources below to get help from qualified professionals.

The Veteran Crisis Line – 1-800-273-8255 and press “1”.

DISCLAIMER: This guide is provided only for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for legal or other professional advice. This guide does not contain nor is it intended to provide legal or other professional advice for any specific situation and readers should not take action or refrain from taking action, based only on the information provided in this guide. Goldberg & Osborne has attempted to provide accurate and current information in this guide, but cannot and does not guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up to date. This guide may contain links and/or search terms that will lead to external websites as a convenience to the reader, but Goldberg & Osborne is not responsible for the content or operation of any website other than its own website. The presence of a link or a search term does not imply and is not an endorsement by Goldberg & Osborne of the website provider or the information contained on any linked website or on any website contained in search results from a search term provided in the guide.

Guide to Recognizing and Getting Help for Substance Abuse

Drug-related overdoses have increased at an alarming rate in the past few decades. In fact, the Center for Disease Control estimates that over 100 Americans die a day from drug-related overdose, the majority of which result from opioids.

If you think you or a friend or loved one is struggling with addiction, it’s important to recognize the signs and get the help needed to overcome this potentially fatal problem.

How Does Addiction Work?

Substance addiction occurs through a complex interaction of many different factors, responses, and patterns of behavior. While it has been a subject of great research and scrutiny, scientists haven’t yet fully tackled all the aspects that go into a substance use disorder.

What they have discovered, though, is that an addiction is chemically fueled by three aspects: pleasure, memory, and tolerance.

The pleasure aspect of substance addiction comes into play through the release of the chemical dopamine. When it comes to any sort of pleasurable activity, whether it’s riding a bike, eating a nice meal, or figuring out a puzzle, dopamine is responsible for activating the areas of the brain responsible for perceiving that activity as enjoyable. This dopamine is released from an area called the nucleus accumbens, nicknamed the pleasure center, and spreads across the brain to create a feeling of reward.

Certain drugs, however, act as a way to bypass the typical requirements for dopamine release and instead hack directly into the pleasure center to release dopamine. Beyond being able to skip the work usually involved in triggering the reward sensation, some drugs can also release two to ten times as much dopamine compared to natural processes. In this way, the brain will experience a more powerful reward than might be possible without it, making such a drug highly addictive.

The memory aspect of substance abuse is a recent addition to the scientific understanding of addiction. Researchers discovered that dopamine also plays a role in the learning processes related to rewards, not just the rewards themselves. As such, using an addictive substance over time can overload the areas of the brain responsible for motivation so that cravings for the drug are stronger and less controllable than many other desires.

What’s more, the chemical malfunction can strongly link drug use to certain situations. This interplay leads to the development of “triggers,” any sort of environmental cue (from bars and parties to cigarette smoke or even certain people) that signal intense cravings for the drug.

Tolerance is another aspect of addiction and, as with the other factors, also has to do with how the brain processes dopamine. As a drug user continually floods his or her brain with this pleasure chemical, the body begins to account for the dopamine overload by decreasing its release rate. As a result, the same amount of a drug that created such a high the first time will be less pleasurable after repeated use.

Due to the interweaving of the memory aspect of addiction, an addict will be chemically driven to achieve that same high to the point of putting a potentially fatal amount of a toxic substance into their body.

The complex entanglement of these three factors of addiction are the main driving forces behind how easily someone can develop a substance abuse problem. Now that you know a bit about the mechanisms behind addiction, let’s take a look at some of the warning signs to help you identify if you or a loved one has a problem.

Identifying a Substance Abuse Problem in Yourself

One of the most difficult things a substance abuser has to do on the road to recovery is to first admit they have a problem. Part of this difficulty comes from the fact that their brains have already become so altered to seek out the drug that they are incapable of using objective reasoning when it comes to their problem.

This is called a “cognitive bias” — a way of thinking that impedes rationality. As such, many addicts will subconsciously come up with justifications for their substance abuse like “I just use it to unwind after a hard day” or “at least I’m not using as much as my friends.” These types of justifications keep a substance abuser from admitting they have a problem and, ultimately, keep them from having to give up the drug.

Here is a list of criteria provided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM 5), that can be used to determine if you have a substance use disorder. In general, meeting two to three of these criteria correlates with a mild substance use disorder, four to five indicates moderate, and six to seven mean a severe substance use disorder.

  • Taking the substance in larger amounts and for longer than intended
  • Wanting to cut down or quit but not being able to do it
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining the substance
  • Craving or feeling a strong desire to use the substance
  • Repeatedly being unable to carry out major obligations at work, school, or home due to substance use
  • Continuing use despite persistent or recurring social or interpersonal problems caused or made worse by substance use
  • Stopping or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities due to substance use
  • Recurrent use of substances in physically hazardous situations
  • Consistent use of substances despite acknowledgment of persistent or recurrent physical or psychological difficulties from using substances
  • Experiencing tolerance as defined by either a need for markedly increased amounts to achieve intoxication or desired effect or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount
  • Experiencing withdrawal or using the substance to avoid withdrawal

Withdrawal is the body’s natural response to no longer being under the influence of a particular substance. As the chemistry of your brain was once supplemented by the drug, the sudden absence of this drug causes the brain to overreact, usually resulting in a variety of symptoms like anxiety, cold sweats, nausea, and insomnia.

Not all substances produce the same withdrawal effects. Here are a few resources provided by MedlinePlus, a government organization that’s part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. If you think you may have a substance abuse problem, recognizing the withdrawal symptoms outlined below may be key to moving towards getting the help you need.

Identifying a Substance Abuse Problem in Others

While recognizing substance abuse in yourself can be hard, seeing it in others can be just as challenging.

On the one hand, if your friend or loved one comes to you for help and admits they may have a substance abuse problem, you can use the above-mentioned DSM 5 test to evaluate their situation. Although you can ask them the questions directly, it’s worth noting that some people may not be entirely truthful with you or may be unwilling to answer the questions. Sometimes just pointing these individuals to the test can be enough to help them realize their abuse problems and start looking for the help they need.

Other people may not be as forthcoming with their problem or may be ignoring it entirely. In this case, you may have to rely on identifying certain signals of abuse. Here is a list of some possible changes you may have noticed that could point to substance abuse.

  • Changes in physical health: decreased motivation or energy, frequent sickness
  • Problems at their job or school: frequently calling in or missing work, sudden apathetic disposition, decreased performance
  • Sudden behavioral shifts: avoiding contact with friends and family, secrecy about their activities, unusual mood changes
  • Neglected physical appearance: decrease in hygiene, grooming, or clothing style
  • Money problems: frequently asks for money, may be stealing money or items from you or others to support their habit

If you notice a sudden shift in any of these behaviors, it’s possible your friend or loved one is struggling with a substance abuse problem. The next step is getting them the help they need.

Getting Help for a Substance Abuse Problem

As mentioned above, if you have a substance abuse problem, one of the biggest hurdles is simply admitting it. Once you get to that point, it’s only a matter of finding a proper treatment facility or program.

While some drugs like nicotine and tobacco might allow abusers to quit on their own, other more serious substances and addictions require the help of qualified professionals. Trying to quit certain substances “cold turkey,” for instance, may actually lead to a variety of health problems like seizures, coma, and even death. A treatment center gives substance abusers access to the expertise of a medically certified staff so that your safety will never be compromised.

Such centers will also typically provide supplemental services like counseling, stress management, talk and group therapy, and ongoing support to reduce the likelihood of relapse. While no treatment plan works the same for every patient, the incorporation of these services has been proven more effective than drug-based therapy alone.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is one of the best resources for finding a treatment facility near you. It can also provide answers to condition-specific questions and treatment advice as well. Their national helpline is available 24/7, 365 days a year and is absolutely free.

  • SAMHSA National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Persuading someone you care about to seek out help can be particularly challenging, especially if they do not think they have a problem. Displaying anger or harsh judgement may cause them to overreact or ignore you entirely. In that same vein, abrupt interventions popularized by modern television have shown no difference in the likelihood of beginning treatment. What’s more, they could backfire and result in aggression or violence.

Instead, let an addicted friend or loved one know that you care about their well-being and because of the reasons above, you think they might have a problem and should seek help. If they refuse to check in to a treatment center, try to get them to agree to see a qualified physician. Oftentimes, an unbiased medical opinion can be all it takes to make your friend or loved one realize they have a problem.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine has a Find a Physician feature that can help you get in touch with a qualified physician near you for this purpose.

If you have any questions regarding substance use disorders or need advice on how to handle it for yourself or someone else, feel free to visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse or SAMHSA for more information or call the SAMHSA national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) any time, day or night.

You can also use search terms like “substance abuse advice,” “substance abuse counseling,” “substance abuse recovery”, or “drug addiction help” in your area in search engines for more information.

Conclusion

Dealing with a substance abuse problem can be one of the hardest things a person will ever do. The idea of living life without the crutch of a particular substance might seem like a daunting task. But with the help of friends, family members, and the qualified expertise of professionals at a treatment center, you or your loved one can move on to a happy and sober life.

DISCLAIMER: This guide is provided only for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for legal or other professional advice. This guide does not contain nor is it intended to provide legal or other professional advice for any specific situation and readers should not take action or refrain from taking action, based only on the information provided in this guide. Goldberg & Osborne has attempted to provide accurate and current information in this guide, but cannot and does not guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up to date. This guide may contain links and/or search terms that will lead to external websites as a convenience to the reader, but Goldberg & Osborne is not responsible for the content or operation of any website other than its own website. The presence of a link or a search term does not imply and is not an endorsement by Goldberg & Osborne of the website provider or the information contained on any linked website or on any website contained in search results from a search term provided in the guide.

Guide to Dealing with Child Abuse

The Center for Disease Control reported that in 2014 alone, an estimated 702,000 children were confirmed to be the victims of child abuse.

The agency also estimates that at least 25% of children will experience child abuse at some point in their lives, and one in seven have experienced it in the past year.

While childhood is supposed to be a time of development, exploration, learning, and safety, it’s clear that it can be the opposite of that for a shocking number of children. What’s more, since the abuse occurs during the developmental stages, the effects of this mistreatment may be felt for the rest of an individual’s life.

Helping put an end to child abuse takes education about what actually constitutes child abuse, learning to recognize its signs, and knowing how and where to report it. Taking the time to inform yourself about such information is not only important, it could end up saving a life.

The Four Types of Child Abuse

While many people may think of child abuse only as physical abuse, the truth is that there are three other types of abuse that can occur as well, each with their own immediate and lasting impacts. These hidden types of abuse are emotional abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse.

The most recognizable form of child abuse is physical abuse. Any action that results in unreasonable physical harm of a child is considered physical abuse. This might include slapping, hitting, yanking, and grabbing a child too roughly, among other things.

One of the biggest problems when it comes to identifying physical abuse is knowing where discipline ends and abuse begins. For example, despite carrying a greater probability for lasting effects such as aggressive and defiant behavior, spanking a child is still considered by many people to be a reasonable method of discipline.

It is worth noting, however, that each state has different laws regarding what constitutes abuse. You can find out your state’s laws on the issue here.

In general, physical abuse and discipline is differentiated by the motivation behind the action. Discipline, for instance, is meant to instruct a child – to show them why a certain behavior or act is inappropriate. Their future behavior then is shaped by the clear boundaries that a parent’s discipline reflects.

Abuse, on the other hand, is built on unpredictability and a lack of self-control. A parent might hurt their child for a certain action one day and brush it aside on another. It just depends on how they’re feeling. The key here is the discipline which constitutes physical abuse comes as a result of emotion and not out of a desire to teach the child. However, the desire to teach a child can be taken too far by an abusive person and can be used as an excuse for the abuse.

Emotional abuse is another form of child abuse and is commonly overlooked. Don’t be fooled by a lack of physical scars; emotional abuse can be just as crippling as physical abuse. This kind of abuse can be broken down into six types: rejecting, ignoring, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting, and exploiting. Listed below are some examples of each:

  • Rejecting: harsh and unreasonable criticism, humiliating remarks, refusing affection, kicking a child out of the home, excessive teasing
  • Ignoring: lack of emotional engagement, failure to provide medical care or attention, inability or refusal to meet developmental needs of the child
  • Terrorizing: either verbally or physically threatening the child, belittling the child in front of friends and family, promoting a hostile atmosphere
  • Isolating: refusing to allow the child to see other children, not allowing interaction at social events, leaving unattended for extended periods
  • Corrupting: allowing use of or exposing a child to illegal substances like drugs and alcohol, promoting sexual activities that are inappropriate for their age, encouraging behaviors that may be unethical like lying and stealing
  • Exploiting: having an unreasonable expectation of a child to care for his/her siblings, giving a child an excessive number of chores, setting unrealistic intellectual and physical developmental standards

Another type of child abuse is neglect. Like the other forms of abuse, sometimes they  overlap. For instance, physical abuse is commonly accompanied by emotional abuse like terrorizing and ignoring. Neglect is also similar to certain types of emotional abuse but is more focused on the inability to meet the child’s basic needs.

A child has a wide variety of needs for development and growth such as a safe home, adequate food, a healthy level of hygiene, and general supervision. Failure to meet such needs is considered neglect.

It could be that a parent is physically or mentally disabled and unable to care for the child properly, or maybe that they are working long hours and leaving their children to care for themselves, or possibly the parent has a drug problem. In any case, not providing the right environment to meet these needs, whether it’s a parent’s fault or not, is still considered neglect.

The last type of child abuse is sexual abuse. While other forms of abuse can be particularly hard to spot and are often underreported, sexual abuse typically carries with it a social stigma. As such, many instances of sexual abuse are never brought to light and the victims can carry the guilt and shame with them for the rest of their lives.

One aspect of sexual abuse that is generally misunderstood is that it doesn’t always involve physical touching. Some acts that constitute non-physical child sexual abuse are sexual phone messages or online interactions, exposure to pornographic material, owning or sharing child pornography, masturbation in the child’s presence, or even talking about inappropriate sexual topics.

It’s also important to note that while some sexual abuse can come from an adult, the perpetrator can also be an older sibling or a similarly-aged friend.

Long-Term Effects of Child Abuse

Child abuse is an especially harmful type of abuse because the victim is still developing both physically and mentally. As such, any form of abuse may have lasting effects that extend well into adulthood. In addition, these effects may not even be noticeable until years after the instance of abuse due to repression.

Some of the long-term effects of such child abuse may include stunted mental development, lack of social and emotional development and skills, decreased linguistic ability, a higher risk of psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, dissociative identity disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and even higher risks of physical problems like heart and lung diseases and obesity.

Another long-term effect of child abuse is the perpetuity of abuse. For instance, about 30% of child abuse victims go on to abuse their own children. As such, the cycle of abuse can start with a single individual and continue throughout multiple generations.

Signs of Child Abuse

One of the first steps to stopping child abuse is identifying the signs. While signs of general abuse may include rebellious behavior, psychological disorders like depression or anxiety, or sudden changes in behavior or school performance, the Mayo Clinic provides specific signs to look for that correspond with each of the four types of abuse.

  • Physical Abuse
  • Injuries and bruises with inadequate explanation
  • An attempt to hide such injuries by wearing inappropriate clothing (e.g. long sleeves or a jacket during summer)
  • Continually untreated medical issues
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Desperately seeking the affection of an adult
  • Lack of emotional development
  • Depression or lowered self-esteem
  • Decreased school performance
  • Social withdrawal
  • Neglect
  • Noticeably poor hygiene
  • Weather-inappropriate clothing (e.g. shorts during the winter)
  • Frequently misses school
  • Eating large amounts of food at once or keeping food for later
  • Lack of necessary medical attention
  • Sexual Abuse
  • STD or pregnancy
  • Age-inappropriate sexual knowledge or behavior
  • Sexually abusing other children
  • Complaints of genital pain
  • Blood in the underwear of the child

If you consistently notice these signs in a child, it’s important that you take the steps to address the possibility of abuse.

How to Report Child Abuse

If you think a child is being abused there are a variety of resources you can use to report the abuse.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you can contact the Childhelp organization through the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) for more advice. You can also find a list of various numbers and services for reporting abuse organized by state here. This list is provided by the Child Welfare Information Gateway from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

If you have seen signs of sexual abuse and would like to contact organizations specifically devoted to this type of abuse, you can contact RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) at (800) 656-HOPE (656-4673) or Darkness to Light at (866) 367-5444. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children can also offer valuable information at (800) THE-LOST (843-5678).You can also contact your local law enforcement.

For more information on child abuse, including what it is, how to recognize it, and steps to take to correct or report it, use the search terms “child abuse signs,” “child abuse resources,” and “report child abuse” on any search engine.

No child deserves to be abused. By educating yourself about what constitutes child abuse and learning to recognize the signs, you can help put an end to this incredibly damaging type of abuse.

DISCLAIMER: This guide is provided only for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for legal or other professional advice. This guide does not contain nor is it intended to provide legal or other professional advice for any specific situation and readers should not take action or refrain from taking action, based only on the information provided in this guide. Goldberg & Osborne has attempted to provide accurate and current information in this guide, but cannot and does not guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up to date. This guide may contain links and/or search terms that will lead to external websites as a convenience to the reader, but Goldberg & Osborne is not responsible for the content or operation of any website other than its own website. The presence of a link or a search term does not imply and is not an endorsement by Goldberg & Osborne of the website provider or the information contained on any linked website or on any website contained in search results from a search term provided in the guide.

Guide to Dealing with Physical or Emotional Abuse

If you suspect or know that you are in an abusive relationship, it is important to remember three things: you are not alone, it is not your fault, and abuse of any kind is never excusable.

This guide will help you to understand:

  • what constitutes abuse
  • the different kinds of abuse
  • how to build a support system
  • the steps to take to address the abuse or leave the abuser

If you or your family are in immediate danger, call 911.

Identifying Abuse

The first step in preventing, coping with, and eliminating abuse is to first identify what types of behaviors are considered abusive.

Physical abuse is typically quite easy to identify. It can include a variety of actions like hitting, kicking, biting, scratching, shoving, grabbing, burning, slapping, restraining, and throwing things, among others.

Emotional abuse, sometimes referred to as psychological aggression, can be harder to point out as there is typically no physical evidence of the abuse. A few of the more obvious forms of emotional abuse are yelling and threatening but emotional abuse extends far beyond that.

Many times, emotional abuse can also be much more subtle. For example constant name calling, humiliation, and belittling can all be considered emotional abuse. If an individual willfully limits their partner’s access to transportation, money, family and friends, they are also committing emotional abuse by exerting coercive control.

What’s more, some abusers falsify, downplay or deny events, conversations, or actions in order to make their partners question their own sanity. This is a manipulation technique called “gaslighting” and is also considered a form of emotional abuse.

Understanding Abuse

In the cases of both physical and emotional abuse, the end goal of the abuser is to gain control over their partner.

Oftentimes, your partner may try to make it seem like their abusive behavior is your fault, that they had no choice. Regardless of whether they actually believe this or if they are using it as a manipulation tactic, the truth is that no one ever, in any relationship, deserves to be abused.

They may even go out of their way to be especially kind after an abusive event or express guilt, only to later begin the abuse again. This is referred to as “the cycle of abuse”, which can be broken down into four stages:

  1. Tension Building – tensions increase, communication breaks down, victim feels fearful
  2. Incident – physical and emotional abuse, anger, blaming, arguing, threatening, intimidation
  3. Reconciliation – abuser apologizes, gives excuses, blames victim, denies that the abuse ever occurred or trivializes it
  4. Calm – incident is “forgotten”, no more abuse, “honeymoon” phase

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cycle_of_Abuse.png

(Image courtesy of Avanduyn via Wikimedia Commons)

After the “calm” stage though, the cycle begins again as tensions start to build up. That’s why it’s important to address abuse as soon as possible. Otherwise the cycle will continue, leading the victim into a false sense of hope that the relationship will ever change.

Identifying Emotional Abuse in Your Relationship: A Checklist

Emotional abuse can be difficult to identify and victims may not even realize that abuse is taking place. The following is a checklist provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to help you identify if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship.

Does your partner:

  • Embarrass or make fun of you in front of friends or family? Put down your accomplishments or goals?
  • Make you feel like you are unable to make decisions?
  • Use intimidation or threats to gain compliance?
  • Tell you that you are nothing without them?
  • Treat you roughly – grab, push, pinch, shove, hit, choke, or burn you?
  • Threaten or abuse your pets?
  • Call you several times a night or show up to make sure you are where you said you would be?
  • Use drugs or alcohol as an excuse for saying hurtful things or abusing you?
  • Blame you for how they feel or act?
  • Pressure you sexually for things you aren’t ready for?
  • Make you feel like there “is no way out” of the relationship?
  • Prevent you from doing things you want, like spending time with your friends or family?
  • Try to keep you from leaving after a fight, or leave you somewhere after a fight to “teach you a lesson?”

Do you:

  • Feel safe at home?
  • Sometimes feel scared of how your partner will act?
  • Constantly make excuses to other people for your partner’s behavior?
  • Believe that you can help your partner change if only you changed something about yourself?
  • Try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry?
  • Feel like no matter what you do, your partner is never happy with you?
  • Always do what your partner wants you to do instead of what you want?
  • Stay with your partner because you are afraid of what your partner would do if you broke up?

If you recognize any of these situations happening in your own relationship, reach out to someone you trust or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Abuse in a Relationship

Abuse in a relationship, also called intimate partner violence, is a serious issue and can be extremely damaging to both an individual’s sense of physical safety and their emotional well-being.

According to the World Health Organization, there are two major types of abuse: physical (which can be broken down to physical violence and sexual violence) and emotional (further categorized as psychological abuse and controlling behaviors).

Both physical and emotional abuse is more common than most people think. Intimate partner physical violence, for example, has been estimated to occur as frequently as nearly 20 incidences per minute (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence [NCADV]) on average.

As emotional abuse is reported far less frequently, it is difficult to gauge just how common this type of abuse really is. Many experts agree, however, that emotional abuse is even more widespread than physical abuse.

Although the wounds created by emotional abuse can’t be seen, that doesn’t mean it is any less damaging. In fact, emotional abuse may be even more destructive as it can turn the victim against themselves.

Additionally, what starts out as emotional abuse can often lead to physical abuse. That’s why it’s important to recognize the signs of abuse before they intensify.

In What Kinds of Relationships Does Abuse Occur?

Contrary to what some people may think abuse is not just between a man and a woman. Instead, abuse can be found in any type of relationship, whether it be a heterosexual relationship or a homosexual relationship. Men can also be physically and emotionally abused as well.

In addition, intimate partner violence (both physical and emotional) occurs in relationships regardless of social, economic, educational, religious, or cultural background. It also happens in every country around the world.

Abuse can also occur in just about any type of relationship, such as between family members, bosses and employees, clergy and parishioners, friends. Recognizing it and finding a way to deal with it is the healthiest approach in an abusive situation.

No one deserves to be hurt.  You deserve to be safe at home.

Healthy Relationships: An Example

Many victims of intimate domestic violence don’t take steps to end their abuse. In fact, many don’t even admit to themselves that it’s abuse at all.

Part of the reason is that many victims feel that they actually deserve this type of treatment. Many victims of domestic abuse also tend to be younger and may not know what a healthy relationship actually looks like. They also may not know how to support themselves if they were to get out of the relationship.

Below is a list of characteristics that constitute the values a healthy relationship is built on and describes the type of relationship that everyone deserves.

  • There is no abuse, either emotional nor physical
  • Both partners are able to handle conflicts without threats or despair
  • Both partners willingly share their wants and needs without feeling shame
  • Both partners feel the relationship is nurturing and comfortable
  • Both partners are willing to hear feedback and do not lash out after receiving criticism
  • Both partners feel comfortable saying “no” to requests and openly communicate if they feel hurt or uncomfortable
  • Neither partner fears the other

These are qualities that exemplify the type of relationship that everyone deserves. If your partnership does not exhibit these characteristics or if you feel uncomfortable approaching your partner about working on any of these areas, you may be in an abusive relationship. Most relationships experience conflicts and arguments at some point, but it’s how those situations are handled that differentiates a healthy relationship from an abusive relationship. In a healthy relationship, communication typically leads to resolution without physical violence or emotional scars left behind. In an abusive relationship, conflict can lead to physical and/or emotional abuse.

Getting Help

Once you’ve identified your relationship as abusive, the next step is to reach out for help. Isolation is one of the biggest factors in why a victim does not leave an abusive relationship. They may feel like they cannot make it on their own, they have nowhere to go, or believe they do not deserve to be happy.

Creating and maintaining a support system of friends and family is incredibly important in dealing with these fears. They will not only help you gain an outside perspective on what kinds of relationships are healthy, they will also give you the support you need to take action against your abuser. This can come in the form of emotional support, financial support, or simply a place to stay after leaving.

Victims of abuse should also reach out to professional services for help by calling one of these 24-hour hotlines. They can provide you with resources in your area to help you evaluate your situation and form an action plan. They may also provide access to free services specifically for victims of domestic abuse such as childcare, temporary housing, job training, and legal aid.

National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline – 1−866−331−9474 or TTY 1−866−331−8453

These resources can also help you find relationship counselors that may offer the chance for you and your partner to discuss the abuse in a safe environment under the guidance of a professional.

Leaving an Abuser

If you decide to leave an abusive relationship, you should prepare a safety plan since doing so may be dangerous, depending on the degree of abuse. The most important thing to consider is your safety (and your children’s safety if applicable). A violent abuser may become even more violent after separation.

Here are a few things to do before leaving your abusive partner:

  • Make a checklist of important items to take with you, and your children if applicable. In addition to the essentials (money, clothes, cell phones, medicine, cash or credit cards, children’s favorite toys, etc.), you should also be sure to bring any important documents like marriage or divorce papers, health insurance documents, and work permits.

Use this Safety Packing List provided by WomensHealth.gov to ensure that you have everything you need before leaving.

  • Be sure to carry a cell phone with you at all times. If possible, use a prepaid cellphone that the abuser does not have access to. Contact a domestic abuse hotline for more information as some domestic abuse shelters offer free prepaid cellphones.
  • Create a code word between your friends and family that lets them know you are in danger.
  • Do not use social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) as this may give the abuser information about you plans or your location.
  • Keep extra car and house keys outside of your home in case you must leave in a hurry. Keep a packed bag for you, and your children if applicable, with someone your trust.
  • Find somewhere safe to go. Whether it be staying with a friend or family member or a domestic abuse shelter, make sure that it’s somewhere you’ll be safe if your abuser tries to find you.
  • Contact a domestic abuse hotline for help in getting a court order of protection. They can help you find a lawyer who may work for free to legally represent you.
  • Teach your children how to call 911 and where they should go if they are scared.

Finding More Information

Anyone looking to find more information on coping with physical or emotional abuse should use the resources listed below or use the search terms “domestic abuse”, “intimate partner violence”, or “relationship abuse”.

Resources

National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline – 1-866-331-9474 or TTY 1-866-331-8453

WomensHealth.gov

WomensLaw.org

FuturesWithoutViolence.org

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) – www.ncadv.org

Centers for Disease Control – Intimate Partner Violence – https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/

Resources by State – https://www.womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women/get-help-for-violence/resources-by-state-violence-against-women.html

DISCLAIMER: This guide is provided only for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for legal or other professional advice. This guide does not contain nor is it intended to provide legal or other professional advice for any specific situation and readers should not take action or refrain from taking action, based only on the information provided in this guide. Goldberg & Osborne has attempted to provide accurate and current information in this guide, but cannot and does not guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up to date. This guide may contain links and/or search terms that will lead to external websites as a convenience to the reader, but Goldberg & Osborne is not responsible for the content or operation of any website other than its own website. The presence of a link or a search term does not imply and is not an endorsement by Goldberg & Osborne of the website provider or the information contained on any linked website or on any website contained in search results from a search term provided in the guide.

Guide to Dealing with Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is a very serious issue. Whether it was an isolated incident or a series of events, no one ever deserves to be sexually abused. If you or your family are in immediate danger, call 911 for help.

This guide will help you to understand:

  • what types of acts or behaviors constitute sexual abuse
  • what are the different kinds of sexual abuse
  • how to cope with being sexually abused
  • where to go for guidance and support

Sexual abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse, and is one of the least reported. In fact, it’s been estimated that 63% of sexual assaults are never reported to the police and 88% of child sexual abuse goes unreported.

These statistics are even more shocking when the frequency of these acts is taken into account. One in five women, for instance, will be raped in her lifetime according to experts. Beyond that, almost half of all women and 20% of men have experienced some form of sexual assault at one point in their lives.

Since this type of abuse is so often unreported, the victims will rarely get the help they need to overcome the emotional damage it has caused.

What Kinds of Sexual Abuse Are There?

Listed below are three categories that many instances of sexual abuse fall under:

  • Sexual Assault: Sexual assault is defined by the United States Department of Justice as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” It can include acts such as fondling, groping, attempted rape, and forced masturbation.
  • Rape: Rape is a type of sexual assault that usually involves some degree of sexual penetration or intercourse and is performed without one person’s consent.
  • Child Sexual Abuse: Child sexual abuse can be physical and non-physical. All sexual touching between an adult and a child or between a significantly older child and a child is considered child sexual abuse. Non-physical acts of child sexual abuse can include acts such as exposing oneself to a child, child voyeurism (spying without consent), exposing inappropriate sexual material to a child such as pornography or overly sexual language, as well as the viewing, creation, and distributing of child pornography.

It is also important to remember that there are other types of sexual abuse that do not fall into these categories. Verbal sexual abuse, for instance, is also quite common and can be just as damaging as physical abuse. Some examples are catcalling and sexual harassment.

Acts known as “revenge porn” are also a form of sexual abuse. This is a term used to describe sharing explicit material (such as photographs or videos) of intimate partners or ex-partners to other people without their consent. It usually occurs after a separation and can be spread through the Internet.

In many states, any type of sexual abuse, whether it be physical, verbal, or otherwise, is illegal and is punished with tough penalties, fines, prison time, and may require the offender to be listed on a registry of sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is more common than most people think. Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, and over 321,000 people aged 12 or older are sexually assaulted every year in the United States. Furthermore, experts estimate that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.

Another alarming fact about sexual assault is that the attackers are usually someone that the victim knows. In fact, only 3 out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by a stranger, leaving 70% of the assaults perpetrated by someone the victim knows.

One type of abuse that accounts for a large portion of sexual assault cases is “date rape”. Also known as “acquaintance rape”, date rape is a form of rape that occurs between individuals that may have had a romantic or potentially sexual relationship. It is most prevalent on college campuses and can go hand in hand with drug and alcohol use, sometimes resulting in the victim being raped while unconscious.

No matter the situation, any type of sexual behavior that occurs without both parties’ consent and should be taken very seriously.

What to Do If You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted

If you have been sexually assaulted, it is important that you follow these steps:

  1. If you are still in danger, CALL 911.The most important thing to do after being sexually assaulted is to make sure you are out of harm’s way by finding a safe location such as the home of a friend, family member, or trusted individual. A medical facility or police department would also be a safe place, if you know that you want to report the assault.
  2. Contact a local sexual assault crisis center or a national sexual assault hotline such as the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). They can help connect you with a local crisis center and give you information on what to do next.
  3. Consider reporting the incident to the police. If you decide to report the assault, you need to be guided to a facility that will utilize a rape kit to help preserve any DNA evidence that can be used against your attacker.
  4. Consider scheduling a medical examination as well to check for internal injuries, sexually transmitted diseases, or pregnancy. The more your medical practitioner knows about the situation, the more they will be able to help you.

Support After Sexual Assault

Sexual assault can cause serious emotional and psychological problems for victims, which is why it is important to build a system of support. Confide in friends and family who you trust to be there to help you.

You can also utilize the following resources to help you cope with the lasting effects of your sexual assault:

Additionally, you can perform an online search for the terms “sexual assault support” and “rape support” in your zip code to find other resources and support groups that are ready to help you recover.

Sexual Abuse in a Relationship

Sexual abuse doesn’t only occur among acquaintances or strangers. In fact, 1 out of 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner and 15.8% of women and 9.5% of men have experienced some form of sexual abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.

Also known as intimate partner sexual violence (IPSV), this type of sexual abuse can be particularly devastating, as many victims don’t even know that they are being sexually abused at all. However, it is important to realize that any time a participant in a sexual act does not give consent, even if this act is with their sexual partner, that act is still considered sexual assault. You should never be forced into a sexual situation unwillingly.

Some examples of intimate partner sexual violence include:

  • forced sexual acts such as vaginal, anal, or oral penetration
  • forced sexual acts with others
  • unwanted touching or groping
  • forced masturbation
  • emotional abuse as a result of not giving in to sexual demands

Taking Action Against Sexual Abuse in a Relationship

Many victims of intimate partner sexual violence choose not to seek help due to the nature of their relationship. It could be because they are concerned with their safety and the safety of their family members, they do not want to hurt their partners, or they don’t even know that what is happening to them constitutes abuse.

It is important to realize that sexual abuse is an enormous risk factor for physical abuse, emotional abuse, and possibly homicide. In fact, a physically abused woman who is also sexually abused is 7 times more likely to be murdered than other abused women. That’s why taking the steps to either seek help or end the relationship is so critical.

Support for Victims of Sexual Abuse in a Relationship

If you are suffering from sexual abuse in your relationship, reach out to friends and family for emotional support. You should also contact the RAINN national helpline for sexual abuse at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for professional advice.

You can also find more information and support groups through the following resources:

Additionally, you can perform an online search using the terms “domestic sexual abuse”, “partner sexual abuse”, or “intimate partner sexual violence”to find even more information and support.

Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is more common than most people would like to think. For instance, the National Center for Victims of Crime reports that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are the victims of child sexual abuse. Furthermore, some studies show that 5% to 10% of adult males and 20% of adult females recall a childhood sexual assault or incident of sexual abuse.

Just as with other forms of sexual abuse, the attacker is most often someone that the child knows. They can be a family member, neighbor, teacher, coach, friend of the family, or a child that is significantly older (usually 3 years or more).

Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children

Recognizing the signs of sexual abuse in children is a crucial step. Use the lists below (provided by ParentsProtect.co.uk) to help you determine if someone you know and care about may be the victim of sexual abuse. Keep in mind that these signs may be caused by a variety of factors and may not point definitively to sexual abuse.

  • Non-Physical warning signs of sexual abuse in children
    • Acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys or objects
    • Nightmares, sleeping problems
    • Becoming withdrawn or very clingy
    • Becoming unusually secretive
    • Sudden unexplained personality changes, mood swings, and seeming insecure
    • Regressing to younger behaviors, e.g. bedwetting
    • Unaccountable fear of particular places or people
    • Outburst of anger
    • Changes in eating habits
    • New adult words for body parts and no obvious source
    • Talk of a new, older friend and unexplained money or gifts
    • Self-harm (cutting, burning or other harmful activities)
    • Running away
    • Not wanting to be alone with a particular adult, child or young person
  • Physical warning signs of sexual abuse in children
    • Pain, discoloration, bleeding or discharges in genitals, anus or mouth
    • Unexplained soreness or bruises around genitals or mouth, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy
    • Persistent or recurring pain during urination and bowel movements
    • Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training

Support for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse

If you or someone you know has been the victim of child sexual abuse and needs help on who to talk to or what steps to take, call one of these national helplines:

  • RAINN Helpline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)
  • Darkness to Light National Child Sexual Abuse Helpline: 1-866-FOR-LIGHT (367-5444)
  • National Center for Missing & Exploited Children: 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678)
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AC-HILD (422-4453)

You can also find more information on the subject as well support groups using these resources:

You can find more information online by conducting a search for “child sexual abuse support”.

If you are an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, use the resources below to find additional information and support groups.

http://pandys.org

DISCLAIMER: This guide is provided only for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for legal or other professional advice. This guide does not contain nor is it intended to provide legal or other professional advice for any specific situation and readers should not take action or refrain from taking action, based only on the information provided in this guide. Goldberg & Osborne has attempted to provide accurate and current information in this guide, but cannot and does not guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up to date. This guide may contain links and/or search terms that will lead to external websites as a convenience to the reader, but Goldberg & Osborne is not responsible for the content or operation of any website other than its own website. The presence of a link or a search term does not imply and is not an endorsement by Goldberg & Osborne of the website provider or the information contained on any linked website or on any website contained in search results from a search term provided in the guide.