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What is abuse?

Abuse is the violent and unkind treatment of another person. When you abuse someone, you disrespect their body, their feelings, or their safety. The person abusing you could be a parent, a family member, a teacher or even a member of your community.

It’s important for you to know that if someone abuses you, it is never your fault. It is not because of something you did.

What does abuse look like?

There are different ways that someone can abuse you. It’s also important to know that abuse is not limited to relationships between men and women. Abuse can happen in any kind of relationship.  

Abuse can be physical

This is when someone does something to you that makes your body sore or leaves a mark like a bruise or scratch. Abuse can be when someone hits, kicks, bites, chokes, throws, burns, or violently shakes you. Abusers will often act like it was an accident or by mistake that you got hurt.

Abuse can be emotional (feelings) or verbal (words)

This happens when someone always shouts, swears, criticizes, scares or even just ignores you. When someone uses emotional abuse on another person, they are hoping to hurt the person by making them feel like they are not good enough. This can happen in-person or online. Emotional abuse can hurt and cause pain that lasts a lifetime.

Abuse can be sexual

This happens when someone touches your body, makes you touch theirs, makes you watch sex or naked people on tv, photos or on the internet, or even has sex with you; without your consent (agreement). 

It is sexual abuse if someone: 

  • Pressures you or tries to change your no into a yes
  • Does not stop if you want them to stop any kind of sexual activity
  • Waits until you’re drunk or high to have sex with you
  • Touches you when you don’t want them to
  • Says anything rude or unkind about your body, sexuality, etc.
  • Sends unwanted sexy texts, pictures, nudes, or forces you to send them.      

In South Africa, you can only give sexual consent once you’re over the age of 16. Sexual abuse can happen between an adult and a child, children, or adolescents.

Abuse can be economic or financial

This could be stealing someone’s money, bribing them with money or other material things (like a blesser who uses gifts to pressure you), keeping someone from going to work or school, forcing someone to work, trying to control what someone does with their money, or breaking someone’s things.

Abuse can be when you are not looked after properly

This type of abuse is called neglect. It happens if your parent/caregiver leaves you alone, doesn’t give you food, love, clothes or they don’t take you to the clinic if you are sick.

If you think that one of these kinds of abuse is happening to you, speak to an adult that you trust. 

To find out more about abuse and domestic violence, watch this video.

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