What is Abuse? — The Root

Abuse has been defined and described, and yet every description or definition I’ve seen leaves gaps.  Abuse cannot really be completely quantified by a list of behaviors because the list can never be comprehensive enough.

So what is the root?  What is the driving force, the principle behind abusive behavior, the motivation?

At its most basic root, abuse is based in disrespect.  An abuser “knows” he is superior to his victims.  He may not even be consciously aware of this disrespect; it is a fundamental presupposition. 

A person who is abusive isn’t abusive to everyone he knows.  He is only abusive to those he perceives as “less” than himself.  He is just ”correcting” his victims flaws, weaknesses, stupidity, sinfulness, etc.  He may even feel he’s being reasonable about it.  In fact, he may even believe it is his duty and responsibility to correct those “under” him.

If an abuser believes he has an inherent position of authority or superiority over his victims he may also view any and all attempts to reason with him or stop him as a direct assault against his authority.  It is his right and his responsibility to correct those under him.  If they question him, he will not listen to them – they are inherently wrong.  But he will increase his efforts to control them.  If they don’t submit to verbal correction, he has to escalate to intimidation.  If intimidation doesn’t work, he has to escalate to use of physical pain.  After all, that’s what punishment is, right?  (Not, right, but this is a common misconception of punishment, and certainly within the mindset of an abuser.)  If “corporal punishment” doesn’t work, he has to escalate to greater force, more pain.  Where does it stop?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop.  Either the abuse victims submit to avoid enflaming the abuser or the abuse continues to escalate.  Usually, the victims submit to try to avoid the abuse because, whether they admit it to themselves or not, they know it will only get worse if they don’t.



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