Abuse, what does it mean?

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Abuse must be defined in terms of pursuing interests, so the world can understand why it happens and why anyone, or anything, can become abusive.

WASHINGTON, October 17, 2014 — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but it seems the movement to end abuse has stagnated.  Moving beyond traditional efforts like awareness campaigns and zero tolerance policies, which bury open discussion and inhibit rehabilitation of offenders, tackling domestic violence and other forms of abuse starts with defining abuse.

A woman constantly hitting her husband would not be considered abuse, according to some. On the other hand, there are women who claim a man is abusive and controlling because he tells them unhealthy behavior like smoking is bad. In other words, they use the concept of abuse to disarm his peer pressure and suppress his views.

Abuse is a concept people struggle to understand. Most professional counselors would probably be hard pressed to offer a clear, concise working definition of abuse that most people would want to accept.

The violence involved in physical abuse is simply a tool by which abuse is expressed. In reality, controlling behavior, manipulation, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and other forms of personal attacks are just avenues for abuse. Although examples of these types of abuse help people recognize the possibility that someone is being abused, the most effective means of distinguishing between abusive and non-abusive behavior is to build a definition around the purpose of abusive behavior.


The problem with defining abuse is that for every act which can be interpreted as abusive, there are legitimate reasons for responding in such a way. If someone threatens or attacks someone, their response is self-defense whether it involves a violent or aggressive response. Verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse, in general, are often ways of defending oneself, especially when an individual is particularly passive-aggressive. Meanwhile, social abuse, such as bullying, slander, harassment, and abusive uses of peer pressure, can be difficult to distinguish from acceptable behavior.

The real question when dealing with a suspected cause of abuse revolves around whether or not someone is a victim. Aggression and violence are reactions that society either treats as acceptable or unacceptable. Individuals assign the term “abuse” to certain behaviors in order to discourage that behavior. To stop abuse, communities must have a legitimate definition for abuse that authorities, communities, and the bulk of individuals will enforce.

People engage in abusive behavior to try to get their way when others will not, or cannot, comply with their impulses and other demands. Clearly, life is centered on the pursuit of one’s interests while society functions on the balancing of everyone’s interests. Looking at abusive behavior as the extreme of a spectrum that charts the pursuit of one’s interests, the meaning of abuse can be understood in broad terms, not just examples of abusive expression.

Ideally, all individuals, as well as other actors like businesses and governments, are able to pursue their interests in an assertive manner. On the one end of the spectrum, actors harm themselves by pursuing their interests, not necessarily by choice, in passive to apathetic to negligent ways. On the other end, actors harm others and their communities when they pursue their interests in overly aggressive to abusive ways. Any kind of behavior can be abusive. By defining abuse in terms of pursuing one’s interests, efforts to stop abuse can focus on steering abusive actors, which includes more than just people, toward healthier ways of pursuing their interests and expressing any grievances they might have.

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My name is Matthew Justin Geiger; I currently hold a BS in physics and psychology based politics from Allegheny College of Meadville, Pennsylvania. I am the creator/manager/editor of ​The Washington Outsider. I am a freelance writer, political analyst, commentator, and scientist presenting my views through news sites like The Washington Outsider, Communities Digital News (CDN) and Examiner.com. I also host the shows "The Washington Outsider" and "FocusNC" on local news station startup NCTV45 in New Castle, PA. In addition, I have written a short story collection, “​Dreaming of​ Other Realities,” two novellas “​Alien Assimilation” and “​The Survivor,” and a poetry collection, “​A Candle Shrouded in Darkness” available on ​Amazon. My goals are to offer my opinions and skills to those who are in need of an honest, professional consultant or freelance writer.
  • John

    None of the self-righteous journalists care about domestic violence as they wag their finger at the NFL and the Ravens. And punishing Ray Rice now is such a hypocritical and self-serving move, only for the benefit of their image. Anybody who cares about Janay, and anybody who cares about domestic violence, would not want Ray to lose his job. Instead, they should support the couple’s treatment. What happens in a person’s private life has nothing to do with what people do on their job. Punishment should be about behavior on the job. Issues in private life should be dealt with in a treatment supported way, not punished. The punishment only makes their lives harder. It does nothing to reduce domestic violence, and it does nothing to protect any victims.

  • pvbella

    The answer to your question in the headline- It means nothing. Goodell left the door wide open for Ray Rice to return. Just like he did for Michael Vick. Goodell needs to be fired. Rice needs to be banned. There should be no excuse for criminal or reprehensible behavior. You misbehave or commit a crime you suffer the consequences. No pity. No mercy. It would be nice if the corrupt sports writers would stop enabling Goodell, Rice, and others.

  • Ranger

    If you or I did that to one of our wives, we would be handcuffed, put in the back of a cruiser, taken to jail, and booked for assault!

    Not these steroid infused jungle ape animals!

    The NFL is the worst at holding their steroid infused apes accountable for their jungle chimp-out attacks.

    Goodell and all the NFL Owners could care less about how many of these gold-digging whores get beat up by their steroid infused apes. They protect them to make sure that those apes make them money.

    And if any woman is willing to allow a man to punch them in the face with a balled up fist knocking them out, and still marries that violent steroid infused ape, then there should be a law that states they cannot do anything once they are beaten by their jungle ape steroid infused chimp out NFL meal ticket.

    How stupid is that woman to marry him? That is pure proof that she is nothing more than a gold-digging whore.

  • Laws are a reflection of how society reacts to behavior. It’s clear society doesn’t understand that abusers abuse because they choose to. There is no excuse for abusive behavior. We must stop thinking that abusers have a good reason for why they threw that punch or made that threat or stole that person’s life savings. Lots of people are too afraid to make a stand against abuse, because it’s such an ugly topic to get entangled. Too many tongues lashing and cutting and biting. It’s disgusting how abusive commentary around the topic can be. Just look at the comments here. We are NOT a civilized society if we can sit back and just allow abusive behavior go unpunished, whether the punishment comes from the justice system or the community. So let’s not blame any one person or reason. We are ALL to blame for the perpetuation of the violence in our homes and on our streets and the abuse in the government and in corporations and in organizations that claim to be doing good. We are all to blame, because we keep making excuses for why it happens. There is no excuse.