Recognizing Types of Abuse and Abusive Behavior

Abuse is the treatment of others or self in a way that causes hurt or harm. It harms the mind, the spirit, and often the body as well. It is against the teachings of the Savior and the laws of society. Those who have been victims of abuse can be any age, any gender, and any background. They may be those who are less able to protect themselves, such as children, those with disabilities, or the elderly. The Lord condemns abusive behavior in any form—physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional. Unfortunately, abuse can happen to anyone. Understanding what abuse is can help in talking about, recognizing, responding to, and healing from abuse.

Types of Abuse

Abuse can occur in any relationship, whether it is a family member, friend, spouse, or dating partner.

Sexual—Sexual abuse is any interaction that involves touching or non-touching behaviors in which a person is used for the sexual gratification of another person without both people agreeing. Child sexual abuse is any sexual activity between a child (of any age) and an adult. Child sexual abuse can also include sexual conduct between a child and a youth, especially when the youth is older or is in a position of power, trust, or control. It also includes the viewing, creation, and distribution of child pornography as well as viewing pornography with a child.

Physical—Physical abuse refers to the intentional injury of a person, such as striking, kicking, beating, biting, or any other action that leads to physical pain, injury, or visible marks or bruising.

Neglect—Neglect is a failure to meet someone’s basic needs, such as not providing enough food, shelter, or basic supervision; necessary medical or mental health treatment; adequate education; or emotional comfort. It includes leaving someone who needs constant care for extended periods of time without adequate supervision and support.

Emotional and Verbal—Emotional and verbal abuse is treating a person in a way that attacks his or her emotional development and sense of worth. Examples include constant faultfinding, belittling, rejection, and withholding of love, support, or guidance. It also includes a child witnessing domestic violence.

Financial—Financial abuse is when someone withholds, steals from, or controls access to another’s finances or property without permission. It is a form of fraud.

Other Abusive Behaviors

The following behaviors are against the teachings of the gospel. While not all of them would be defined as abuse, they are all harmful behaviors.

Grooming—Grooming occurs when someone befriends or attempts to create an emotional attachment and build trust with another person with the intention of sexually abusing that person. The intended victim is most often a child. Grooming behaviors can include giving gifts or favors, requests for time alone, talking about sexual topics, or showing pornography to or initiating physical contact with a child. Grooming can also occur over the internet and through a child’s mobile device.

Harsh Discipline—Children are helped and strengthened by appropriate and loving discipline. However, criticism or ridicule can undermine their confidence and feelings of self-worth and well-being. Positive discipline will help the child to learn right from wrong. Harsh discipline that causes physical injury is abuse and should be reported to legal authorities.

Harassment—Harassment creates a hostile environment that can cause problems ranging from decreased participation in normal activities to thoughts of suicide. It can include derogatory comments or gestures, innuendo, violating personal space, and looking at or commenting about private body parts. This can also include using online profiles or content to stalk another person or to intimidate them.

Bullying—“Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words, or more subtle actions” (“Bullying,” American Psychological Association, Cyberbullying can include using online profiles or content to bully someone, such as sending or posting messages about another that are mean, intimidating, or threatening. It can also include intentionally damaging someone’s relationships or social standing.

Hazing—Hazing can occur when a peer imposes an inappropriate or humiliating task on another peer as part of an initiation into a group.

Community and Church Resources

(Some of the resources listed below are not created, maintained, or controlled by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While these materials are intended to serve as additional resources, the Church does not endorse any content that is not in keeping with its doctrines and teachings.)