Physical abuse

Physical abuse can take many forms, and anyone might be a victim of abuse. Children are often more likely to experience abuse at the hands of a parent, caretaker, or sibling, while an adult might be physically abused by a spouse, partner, or significant other. Elder abuse—mistreatment or neglect of an older adult—may also include physical abuse and is often perpetrated by a caretaker, who might be a paid professional or a family member. Those in positions of power might also physically abuse individuals in their care.

While physical abuse may be considered by some only to be abuse when physical harm is the result, many types of behaviors are, in fact, abusive. In general, an individual who brings unwanted physical harm to an intimate partner, child, or elder may be considered to be abusing that person. These actions may also be defined as assault.

The following actions are typically considered to be abusive:

  • Punching, kicking, slapping, pinching
  • Grabbing or physically restraining in a harmful way. A parent who yanks a child out of the path of a bicycle is not intending to harm the child and thus would not be considered to be abusing that child.
  • Burning
  • Shaking, especially of a baby or small child
  • Beating, whipping. Some cultures do not consider beating, whipping, or spanking a child after misbehavior to be abusive. However, this behavior is typically considered to be abusive in the United States and in many other countries.
  • Poisoning or otherwise causing illness
  • Any form of deliberate injury that causes harm
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