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Two weeks ago, we discussed the links between early-life victimization and abuse (i.e., trauma) and later life emotional and psychological issues (including addiction). In that same post, we also discussed the fact that childhood trauma increases the likelihood of becoming an abuser as an adult. This is why various forms of victimization and abuse are so common in addicted households.

Sadly, for adults who were raised in a dysfunctional home and now live in a dysfunctional home, victimization and abuse can be hard to recognize. When you’ve been around abusive behaviors your entire life, such behaviors can seem normal. In fact, many addicts, when they first embark on a process of recovery, will view both their childhood and their current homelife as idyllic, simply because they don’t know any different.

Recognizing this fact, we have decided that as a follow-up to last week’s post we should share a handout on victimization and abuse. This is material that we give to clients at our Seeking Integrity: Los Angeles treatment center for sex, porn, and substance/sex addiction. We hope you will find this useful.



Verbal Abuse: The use of words and body language to inappropriately criticize another person; verbal abuse often involves putdowns and name-calling intended to make the victim feel that he or she is not worthy of love and respect.

  • Heavy sighs anytime someone else speaks or acts.
  • Consistently putting another person down.
  • Name-calling.
  • Telling someone they are weak or defective or not worthwhile.
  • Inappropriate use of offensive language or innuendo.
  • Belittling a person’s looks, character, or abilities.
  • Spreading malicious rumors.
  • Sexist, racist, homophobic, or patronizing remarks.
  • Inappropriate questioning.
  • Purposefully embarrassing or shaming someone.

Threatening Behavior: Any action or spoken threat intended to hurt another physically, psychologically, emotionally, or sexually.

  • Acting like you will punch, hit, kick, slap, use objects or weapons, hurt the children or pets, throw things, make others do things against their will, or do anything else to hurt someone.
  • Telling someone you will do any of the above if they do not behave the way you want. Saying you will run away with the kids, have an affair, file for divorce, not pay child support, share personal information to embarrass them, etc.

Physical Abuse: Any forceful or violent physical action designed to intimidate or to make another person do something against his/her will.

  • Throwing a person.
  • Throwing things at a person.
  • Using any object or weapon.
  • Physically making another person do something against his/her will.
  • Slapping.
  • Choking.
  • Punching.
  • Scratching.
  • Kicking.
  • Spanking.
  • Grabbing.
  • Pinching.
  • Burning.
  • Pushing.
  • Shoving.
  • Restraining.
  • Wrestling.
  • Biting.
  • Poking.
  • Pulling hair.

Sexual Abuse: Any non-consenting sexual act or behavior. Non-consenting can include behaviors “consented to” by minors, adults who are inebriated, and mentally handicapped people.

  • Forcing sexual activity when another person says no, is asleep, is drunk or high and cannot say no, you have not asked first, the other person is afraid to say no, or the other person is not legally able to consent – minors, mentally handicapped, etc.
  • Demanding sex and acting like your marriage license is a “mating permit.”
  • Asking another person to be sexual after an incident of physical or psychological abuse, when the other person is afraid to say no (and most likely does not feel close to you or want to be intimate).
  • Physically attacking sexual parts of the body.
  • Demanding or forcing another person to perform sexual behaviors he/she does not want to do – staged fantasy rapes, golden showers, oral sex, anal intercourse, etc.

Sexual activity is non-abusive ONLY if everyone consents and no threat or force is present.

Psychological Abuse: Hurting another person’s feelings by saying mean things and name-calling. This is also known as verbal abuse. Psychological abuse is “Industrial strength” emotional abuse that causes fear and confusion in the victim. This includes “mind games,” intimidation, and attacks aimed at destroying the other’s self-worth. After your first act of physical or sexual abuse, ALL threats of physical or emotional violence become psychological abuse because the victim feels especially scared and does not know when you will stop.

  • Destroying property, harming other loved ones, harming pets, destroying objects, etc.
  • Interrogating questions, criticisms, and insults.
  • Put-downs of another person’s family or friends.
  • Controlling and/or limiting someone’s use of the phone, seeing friends, leaving the room or house, or anything else the other person cares to do.
  • Stalking and following, checking up on a person’s coming and going.
  • Interrupting eating or sleeping; not letting someone eat or go to sleep.
  • Blaming someone when you make a mistake or when things go wrong.
  • Forcing someone to kneel, beg for forgiveness or money, or engage in any other degrading act.
  • Standing over someone and using your size to intimidate them, or “getting in someone’s face.”
  • Threatening to return to an addiction if someone doesn’t do what you want.
  • Treating a person like a servant, sex object, or someone with no rights.
  • Excluding someone from decisions, acting like you are the boss. Acting like you own someone.
  • Controlling a person with money – not giving enough for groceries and other needs, withholding child support, spending money frivolously on yourself while putting them on a tight budget, leaving them stranded without money, etc.
  • Engaging in reckless driving and creating other dangerous situations to scare someone.
  • Spying on someone, checking their mail, purse, billfold, checkbook, pockets, or any personal property) without permission.
  • Discounting someone’s reality, feelings, or opinion.
  • Using information from therapy or any other treatment against someone.
  • Threatening to hurt or kill yourself to manipulate someone.

Neglect: Failure to provide for the basic needs of one or more dependents. Basic needs include adequate and appropriate food, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and love.

  • Leaving a young child alone and unsupervised.
  • Leaving someone in a place that is not safe.
  • Not providing needed attention and affection.
  • Not providing adequate food, clothing, or shelter to a dependent.
  • Not providing protection from dangers.
  • Not providing adequate schooling and social education.
  • Not providing adequate medical care.
  • Leaving loaded guns or other dangers where a child or dependent might find and misuse them.
  • Unsanitary or unsafe living conditions.
  • Abandoning a child or dependent.

Bullying/Teasing: While not as psychologically damaging in the short-term, chronic bullying and teasing can be traumatic, with lifelong repercussions.

  • Being bullied or teased based on perceived sexual orientation.
  • Being bullied or teased based on perceived financial or social status.
  • Being bullied or teased for being too smart or not smart enough.
  • Being bullied or teased based on one’s religion.
  • Being bullied or teased based on one’s ethnicity or nationality.
  • Being bullied or teased because of a physical disability.

Witnessing Violence: Observing violence in the home or elsewhere can have an impact equal to experiencing the violence oneself.

  • Seeing one parent hit or otherwise abuse and traumatize the other.
  • Seeing a caregiver hit or otherwise abuse and traumatize a sibling.
  • Seeing a sibling perpetrate abuse on another sibling or a parent.
  • Knowing about sexual or other abuse within the home that is not being acknowledged or addressed.
  • Seeing a friend or loved one be abused or traumatized.
  • Witnessing a violent crime.
  • Witnessing bullying or any other form of abuse and traumatization.

Hate Crimes: Abuse based solely on some characteristic such as religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or the color of a person’s skin.

  • Race.
  • Ethnicity.
  • Nationality.
  • Religion.
  • Gender or Gender Identity.
  • Sexual Orientation.
  • Disability.
  • Political affiliation.
  • Financial status.
  • Neighborhood.