Understanding Victims of Violence and Abuse
























Jenna Jones

The following will attempt to provide information on the topic of violence and abuse. I will discuss what violence and abuse are, what they look like, victims as survivors, and ways to prevent, identify, respond, and support victims. While much of this information will involve examples with children, it is important to note that anyone can be a victim of violence and abuse, but no one should have to be.


What is violence? (Merriam-Webster)

Exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse (as in warfare effecting illegal entry into a house)

An instance of violent treatment or procedure

Injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation

Intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force

The following video link will further explain what exactly violence is. 


What is abuse?(Merriam-Webster)

A corrupt practice or custom

Improper or excessive use or treatment 

A deceitful act 

Language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily

Physical maltreatment

The following video link will further define 5 of the most common forms of abuse. 








What does violence and abuse look like

Types of abuse are numerous. This includes physical, sexual, mental/emotional, financial, digital, and neglect. The ways in which these types of abuse affect children, adolescents, adults, and elders may vary, yet also have some similarities. Here I will discuss more in depth on child abuse

1. Neglect is the most common form of child abuse (CDC)

  • Neglect- Failure to provide needs or to protect from harm or potential harm 
  • Neglect involves acts of omissions. Harm might not be intended, but it is the result. The following are types of neglectful maltreatment: physical neglect, emotional neglect, medical and dental neglect, educational neglect, inadequate supervision, exposure to violent environments 
  • See the following reference for more information:

Leeb RT, Paulozzi L, Melanson C, Simon T, Arias I. Child Maltreatment surveillance: uniform definitions for public health and recommended data elements, version 1.0. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2008. Available from: Child Maltreatment Surveillance: Uniform Definitions for Public Health and Recommended Data Elements[PDF 4.12MB]

2. Child physical abuse is the second most common form of abuse.

3.Child Sexual Abuse

  • involves sexual activity with a minor; a child cannot legally give consent to any sexual act (CDC)
  • Forms of sexual abuse include the following: Obscene phone calls, text messages, or digital interaction, fondling, exhibitionism, masturbation in the presence of a minor or forcing the minor to masturbate, intercourse, sex of any kind with a minor, including vaginal, oral, or anal, producing, owning, or sharing pornographic images or movies of children, sex trafficking, any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child's mental, emotional, or physical welfare

4. Child Mental/Emotional Abuse





Who can be affected by violence and abuse?

The answer to this is ANYONE!!! Any child you come into contact with, any other teacher, parent, administrator, employee, etc., they can all be affected. Violence and abuse are blind to no one, but no one deserves to become a victim of violence or abuse. See the following resource for more information: http://www.dcadv.org/who-affected-domestic-violence





What can you do if you recognize that someone is a victim of violence and/or abuse?

The first step in this situation is just recognizing that the abuse is occurring, whether you are recognizing yourself or someone else as the victim.

1.If you are the victim…

  • There are signs to look for:

Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings

Do you:

  • feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
  • avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
  • feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
  • believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
  • wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
  • feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Your Partner’s Belittling Behavior

Does your partner:

  • humiliate or yell at you?
  • criticize you and put you down?
  • treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
  • ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
  • blame you for their own abusive behavior?
  • see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?


Your Partner’s Violent Behavior or Threats

Does your partner:

  • have a bad and unpredictable temper?
  • hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • threaten to take your children away or harm them?
  • threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
  • force you to have sex?
  • destroy your belongings?

Your Partner’s Controlling Behavior

Does your partner:

  • act excessively jealous and possessive?
  • control where you go or what you do?
  • keep you from seeing your friends or family?
  • limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
  • constantly check up on you?


  • There are tactics your abuser is likely to use:

Dominance – Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as his or her possession.

Humiliation – An abuser will do everything he or she can to make you feel bad about yourself or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you're worthless and that no one else will want you, you're less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.

Isolation – In order to increase your dependence on him or her, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world. He or she may keep you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone.

Threats – Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members, or even pets. He or she may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against you, or report you to child services.

Intimidation – Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don't obey, there will be violent consequences.

Denial and blame – Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abusive partner may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. He or she will commonly shift the responsibility on to you: Somehow, his or her violent and abusive behavior is your fault. (helpguide.org)

  • There is a cycle that occurs:













       Abuse -  abuse is a power play designed to show you "who is boss."          

Guilt – After abusing you, your partner feels guilt, but not over what he's done. He’s more worried about the possibility of being caught and facing consequences for his abusive behavior.

Excuses – Your abuser rationalizes what he or she has done. The person may come up with a string of excuses or blame you for the abusive behavior—anything to avoid taking responsibility.

"Normal" behavior – The abuser does everything he can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. He may act as if nothing has happened, or he may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time.

Fantasy and planning – Your abuser begins to fantasize about abusing you again. He spends a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and how he'll make you pay. Then he makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.

Set-up – Your abuser sets you up and puts his plan in motion, creating a situation where he can justify abusing you.

*Your abuser’s apologies and loving gestures in between the episodes of abuse can make it difficult to leave. He may make you believe that you are the only person who can help him, that things will be different this time, and that he truly loves you. However, the dangers of staying are very real. (helpguide.org)


2.If someone else is the victim…

  • There are warning signs:

General warning signs of domestic abuse

People who are being abused may:

  • Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner
  • Go along with everything their partner says and does
  • Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing
  • Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner
  • Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness


Warning signs of physical violence

People who are being physically abused may:

  • Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”
  • Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation
  • Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)


Warning signs of isolation

People who are being isolated by their abuser may:

  • Be restricted from seeing family and friends
  • Rarely go out in public without their partner
  • Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car


The psychological warning signs of abuse

People who are being abused may:

  • Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident
  • Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn)
  • Be depressed, anxious, or suicida
  • You SHOULD speak up!...

Do's and don'ts


  • Ask if something is wrong
  • Express concern
  • Listen and validate
  • Offer help
  • Support his or her decisions


  • Wait for him or her to come to you
  • Judge or blame
  • Pressure him or her
  • Give advice
  • Place conditions on your support

Adapted from: NYS Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (helpguide.org)






Case Scenarios

Child Abuse PSA

The following video link will show an example of what child abuse can look like



The following video link will show an example of physical, mental, and emotional abuse


Sexual Assault PSA

The following video link will show an example of what sexual assault can look like 








“You can recognize survivors of abuse by their courage. When silence is so very inviting, they step forward and share their truth so others know they aren't alone.” ― Jeanne McElvaneyHealing Insights: Effects of Abuse for Adults Abused as Children



“Survivors of abuse show us the strength of their personal spirit every time they smile.”― Jeanne McElvaneyHealing Insights: Effects of Abuse for Adults Abused as Children


1.Statistics (National Children's Alliance)

In 2013, an estimated 1,520 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States.1 In the same year, Children’s Advocacy Centers around the country served nearly 295,000 child victims of abuse, providing victim advocacy and support to these children and their families. In 2014, this number was over 315,000.


- An estimated 679,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect (unique instances).

47 states reported approximately 3.1 million children received preventative services from Child Protective Services agencies in the United States.

Children in the first year of their life had the highest rate of victimization of 23.1 per 1,000 children in the national population of the same age.

Of the children who experienced maltreatment or abuse, nearly 80% suffered neglect; 18% suffered physical abuse; and 9% suffered sexual abuse.

Just under 80% of reported child fatalities as a result of abuse and neglect were caused by one or more of the child victim’s parents.  (US DPT HHS)


Among the over 315,000 children served by Children’s Advocacy Centers around the country in 2014, some startling statistics include: 116,940 children were ages 0 to 6 years, 115,959 children were ages 7 to 12 years, 81,025 children were ages 13 to 18 years, 205,438 children reported sexual abuse, 60,897 children reported physical abuse, 211,831 children participated in on-site forensic interviewing at a Children’s Advocacy Center

Among the over 244,000 alleged offenders investigated for instances of child abuse in 2014, some startling statistics include: 154,529 were 18+ years old, 26,294 were ages 13 to 17 years, 20,040 were under age 13 years, 95,913 were a parent or step-parent of the victim, 127,358 were related or known to the child victim in another way, 23,696 were an unrelated person the victim knew 

  • 11 Facts About Child Abuse (Child Welfare)

~1 in 5 children die everyday because of child abuse

1/3 girls and 1/5 boys will be sexually abused before 18

90% of victims of child sexual abuse know their perpetrators and 68% are family members

About 82% of child abuse perpetrators are age 18-44, of which about 40% are just between 25-34

In the US, more than 4 children die from child abuse everyday, over 70% of these deaths occur before age 3

Boys and girls become victims at almost the same rate

There are 2.9 million cases of child abuse reported every year in the US

Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violence crime

~81% of victims of child abuse met criteria for a psychological disorder at age 21

14% of men and 36% of women in prison were abused as children

Abused children are more at risk for STDs because they are more likely to practice unsafe sexually activities and are also 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy


2.Victim Blaming/Shaming

  • “One reason people blame a victim is to distance themselves from an unpleasant occurrence and thereby confirm their own invulnerability to the risk. By labeling or accusing the victim, others can see the victim as different from themselves. People reassure themselves by thinking, "Because I am not like her, because I do not do that, this would never happen to me." We need to help people understand that this is not a helpful reaction.” (Southern Conneticut State)
  • Although typically associated with victims of sexual abuse, victim blaming/shaming can occur in conjunction with any form of violence or abuse

  • The following video link is a TedTalk providing more information on what it means to be a victim of violence and abuse.

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohMve-6LAZU

3.How to Approach Victims/Survivors:

  • Victims/survivors of abuse (especially child abuse) are at risk for many other negative outcomes. It is important to focus on protective factors for these victims/survivors to help them as much as possible. Please see the following resource for more detailed information on promoting protective factors: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/victimscan.pdf





Violence and Abuse Particular to the School Setting

1.Mandated Reporting

  • I list this first because it is important to know that ALL people present within a school building are mandated reporters. This means that if you suspect or know of violence or abuse that is occurring with a child, you are legally obligated to report it to the authorities. It is key to note that regardless of your school’s policy, you are legally bound and have the responsibility to report directly to authorities. Please see the following for more detailed information on this matter: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/manda.pdf#page=2&view=Professionals required to report


  • Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior amongst people that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. (STOP BULLYING.GOV)
  • Bullying can happen to anyone anywhere but is especially present in schools, even amongst educators and administrators.
  • Bullying can take any of the previously discussed forms of abuse.
  • For more detailed information on bullying please see the following resource: http://www.apa.org/topics/bullying/

3.Roles of Educators

  • Educators play a major role in the lives of children. This is especially true regarding violence and abuse. Educators play a role in prevention, identification, response, intervention, and support regarding this topic. In order to be prepared adequately for this, education and experience is needed.
  • Prevention deals with stopping violence before it happens
  • Identification is knowing the red flags, signs, and what violence and abuse looks like
  • Response is knowing your legal responsibilities as an educator in situations
  • Intervention is knowing when and how to step into matters
  • Support is knowing how to help victims/survivors post experience and understanding ther situation
  • The following is a fabulous PDF reference that entails a user manual guide to the role of educators regarding violence and abuse. I highly suggest reading through this or referencing it with questions: 
  • https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/educator.pdf
  • Please also reference the following book from the surgeon general: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44295/ 

4.Tips on Violence Prevention, What YOU Can Do, From a Fellow Educator, Sean Brooks (2015)

  • Read about violence (in research articles, books, the local newspaper), examine causes, and reflect on programs in place in your school to see if they are proven effective.
  • Teach students about preventing violent behavior and let them know that they will be safe in your classroom.
  • Regardless of what you teach, have an open full class period to discuss school violence.
  • Build a reputation for caring for your students.
  • Be consistently fair and honest.
  • Meet all of your children’s parents early in the year and keep them in the loop.
  • NEVER turn a blind eye to violence.
  • Always stand between an unprofessional staff member and a student victim.
  • Do not play favorites.
  • Keep documentation of incidents that occur.
  • Be familiar with health education/violence prevention programs and if a school does not have it, push for an adequate method to be put in place.
  • Start student groups to discuss violence.
  • Never stop educating yourself on violence. Stay current and up to date on research.
  • Stop students from hurting each other. Intervene every time.
  • Hold parent-teacher conferences.
  • Find out who is in charge of discipline in the school building. Understand their rules and policies.
  • Call the police if necessary.
  • Stand up for students who are being harassed.
  • Stop admonishing students.
  • Remove ineffective bullying techniques.
  • Discourage competition in the classroom or amongst classes.
  • Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.
  • Don’t single out students.
  • Constantly evaluate school traditions and rituals to see how they affect students.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from co-workers.
  • Take all allegations seriously and act fast.
  •  Implement peer-mentoring programs.





























Victim Connect

National Hotline for Crime Victims

1-855-4-VICTIM (1-855-484-2846) 

Office for Victims of Crime, Directory of Crime Victim Services

[links to programs and services available to crime victims]

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)  [24/7 hotline]

1-888-628-9454 (Spanish)

Gift from Within 

(Not a hotline. A helpful link for survivors of trauma and victimization)

Jennifer Ann's Group

National Child Abuse Hotline


National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs

National Advocacy for Local LGBT Communities


National Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

National Sexual Assault Hotline

1-800-656-4673 [24/7 hotline] 

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline

1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 (TTY

The Trevor Project 

Crisis & Suicide Prevention Lifeline for LGBTQ Youth

Crisis Call Center

800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week

National Suicide Hotline

800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
800-442-HOPE (4673)
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week

Thursday’s Child National Youth Advocacy Hotline

800-USA-KIDS (800-872-5437)
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week

Your Life Iowa: Bullying Support and Suicide Prevention

(855) 581-8111 (24/7) or text TALK to 85511 (4–8 PM every day)
Chat is available Mondays–Thursdays from 7:30 PM–12:00 AM


866-SPEAK-UP (773-2587) 
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week 

National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST, Monday to Friday 









Brooks, S. M. (2016), Where the Finger Points. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.