Physical Abuse


Physical Abuse - Any form of voluntary behavior by one individual which inflicts pain, disease or discomfort on another, or deprives them of necessary health, nutrition and comfort.


Many people who are victims of verbal abuse live in homes or environments where they have become so accustomed to the abuse that they consider it normal and do not consider themselves to be victims of abuse.

Examples of Physical Abuse:

  • Bunny Boiling - Bunny Boiling is a reference to an iconic scene in the movie "Fatal Attraction" in which the main character Alex, who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, kills the family's pet rabbit and boils it on the stove. Bunny Boiling has become a popular reference to how people sometimes exhibit their rage by behaving destructively towards symbolic, important or treasured possessions or representations of those whom they wish to hurt, control or intimidate.
  • Child Abduction - Child Abduction is a serious, yet common occurrence when people who suffer from personality disorders become involved in a custody dispute. Approximately 82% of more than 200,000 child abductions every year are perpetrated by family members.
  • Cruelty to Animals - Acts of Cruelty to Animals have been statistically discovered to occur more often in people who suffer from personality disorders than in the general population.
  • Domestic Theft - Consuming or taking control of a resource or asset belonging to (or shared with) a family member, partner or spouse without first obtaining their approval.
  • Favoritism - Favoritism is the practice of systematically giving positive, preferential treatment to one child, subordinate or associate among a family or group of peers.
  • Frivolous Litigation - The use of unmerited legal proceedings to hurt, harass or gain an economic advantage over an individual or organization.
  • Imposed Isolation - When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family.
  • Munchausen's and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome - A disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.
  • Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression - Explosive verbal, physical or emotional elevations of a dispute. Rages threaten the security or safety of another individual and violate their personal boundaries.
  • Sabotage - The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.
  • Sleep Deprivation - The practice of routinely interrupting, impeding or restricting another person's sleep cycle.
  • Stalking - Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.
  • Threats - Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.

What it feels like:

Abuse can have a confusing, hurtful and frightening effect which makes you feel isolated and emotionally unsafe.

You may begin to doubt yourself, your senses, your opinions, memories, beliefs, feelings, abilities and judgment. You may begin to express your opinions less and less freely and find yourself doubting your sense of reality.

Abuse victims often become isolated from others, fearing that others might blame them for provoking, mishandling or failing to fix the situation.

Abuse victims sometimes think that their situation is unique or rare and that others would not understand.

Abuse victims often believe that their situation doesn't qualify as abuse because it only happens occasionally and there are no horrific visible scars.

Abuse victims often keep silent about their situation for fear that their abuser will find out and get angry.

Abuse victims are often told by their abuser that they are to blame for provoking or not understanding the abusers needs.

You are likely to feel vulnerable, insecure, increasingly trapped and powerless. This may lead you to become defensive and increasingly depressed.

Abuse victims often find themselves "walking on eggshells" around the abuser, hyper vigilant and afraid of when - and how - to say something.

You may find yourself constantly on your "best" behavior around an abuser, unable to relax or enjoy the moment because you are always anticipating the worst. Even when the abuser is in a good mood, you are likely to keep waiting for "the other shoe to drop".

You may also begin to blame yourself for their bad mood, behaviors or actions and hope things will change, especially through your own love and understanding.

People who are abused often long for the nicer, caring side of their partner, family member, friend, boss or co-worker to come back. You may find yourself making excuses for their bad behavior and choosing to focus mainly on getting them back into their good behavior state.

Why abuse victims don't leave:

Coping with Abuse:

If you are abused, get to choose between 2 bad choices:

Staying through an episode of abuse.
Leaving during an episode of abuse.

Which one is the lesser evil?

In the short run they are about equal in pain but in the long run, leaving during an outburst is better for the following reasons:

  • Leaving during an outburst makes it harder for you to do something stupid yourself (such as retaliate).
  • Leaving during an outburst makes it impossible for anything worse to happen directly to you after you leave (although the personality-disordered person may still try to hurt you by making slanderous phone calls, destroying a favorite possession, emptying your bank account, etc.)
  • Leaving during an outburst sends a clear "This is not OK" message. It won't be appreciated at the time but it will not be forgotten quickly either.
  • Leaving during an outburst helps to remind you that YOU are in control - not the person with the personality disorder.
  • Leaving during an outburst gives you an opportunity to talk to a supportive friend to help you calm down.

It's a good idea to have a plan of what you will do and where you will go the next time an outburst hits. This will make it emotionally easier to make a gracious exit the next time you are confronted with abuse. If you have a friend or family member you can pre-arrange with to show up at a moment's notice whenever necessary that will make it easier.

If not, maybe you can find a local low-cost hotel where you can show up at a moment's notice and get a safe room for the night.

Perhaps you want to have a ready-kit which has your credit cards, essential medications, important documents already packed so you don't need to linger when you need to get out in a hurry.

If at all possible, pre-arrange with a friend whom you can call (even during the night) just to talk to if you find yourself in a situation like this. Just having someone on the end of the line who won't attack or judge you harshly for the way you feel is an enormous relief. If you have pre-arranged earlier you won't feel so stupid calling them or showing up at the door at 2 in the morning - so talk to them now.

What NOT to Do:

  • Don't remain in the same room with a person who is abusing you. Remove yourself from the situation as quickly as you safely can.
  • Don't try to handle it all on your own. Call for supportive help and call the police if any threats or violence occur.
  • Don't try to reason with someone who is abusing you. When you are confronted with aggressive behavior there can be a temptation to stand your ground, explain your position and argue for what you feel is right. A person who is trying to hurt you is not thinking rationally and is unlikely to see reason at that time.
  • Don't fight fire with fire and reciprocate. You will regret it and probably find yourself still apologizing for it years later.
  • Don't ignore it, steel yourself and tell yourself that you can handle it and that it does not affect you. Unless you are a robot your feelings are going to be hurt and your behavior is going to change far beyond the moment, whether you admit it or not. The reality is that when your boundaries are being crossed you are being hurt. Ignoring it increases the likelihood that the situation will repeat itself.
  • Don't hide it from others. Most long-term cases of abuse stay that way because the victim stays silent.

What TO Do:

  • Get yourself and any children out of the room and out of the house as quickly as you can safely do it.
  • If violence or threats of violence have occurred, call the police immediately.
  • Stay away from the situation until the abuse stops and you feel calmer and safe.
  • Call at least one trusted confidant and tell them what has happened.
  • Refer to our Emergency page.