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Extended Definition Essay: Defining the Term “Abuse”

Defining the Term “Abuse”

The term “abuse” is used in different contexts to describe unwanted behavior. Different ideas such as exploitation, misuse, mismanagement, wrongdoing, and manipulation have been presented in the definition of abuse. The term has also been used to describe behavior in relationships, religious organizations, work settings, etc., marred with various forms of aggression. Despite the different meanings accorded to the word “abuse,” in the basic sense, abuse is a pattern of behavior implemented to attain and sustain control over an individual or a situation.

Meaning of the Term “Abuse”

In the dictionary, the term “abuse” is defined as a verb and a noun. As a verb, “abuse” is the use of something for a bad purpose, also defined as the misuse of something. Additionally, as a verb, abuse refers to the treatment of an individual with violence or repeated cruelty, also defined as mistreatment. As a noun, abuse is the improper use of a product, for instance, alcohol abuse.

While the original meaning explains abuse as an undesirable act or misuse of a substance, a different meaning of the term exists. In most instances, abuse is used to describe a wrongdoing that is intended to demean another person. The term is also used to describe an act that is focused on causing emotional pain to an individual with the goal of achieving some power over the victim. Abuse is thus considered an act that results in the demeaning of the victim and the abuser accomplishing some power and control over the affected persons.

I tend to believe that “abuse” is more concerned with belittling and achieving control over a person. In my opinion a behavior should only be referred to as an abuse when the ultimate goal of the actions is to attain some power or manipulation of the victim. Other meanings, such as use of a substance for a wrong intention, may also describe the term; however, such meanings give room for use of other related words such as misuse or misapplication. Thus, in my opinion, abuse is an unwanted behavior that is focused on accomplishing some control over a person.

Forms of Abuse and Illustrative Examples

The pattern of behavior that is classified as abuse takes different forms. There are various forms of abuse, including physical, emotional, and mental, that are reported in different settings. Many people tend to think of physical violence upon the mention of the term abuse. Actions such as hitting, strangling, or kicking against the will of the other are considered abuse. Additionally, the physical forms of abuse also include infringing on the space of an individual and instilling a feeling of physical insecurity in a given population.

Besides the physical component of abuse, the term has also been used to explain the non-physical component of the occurrence. In case of a person that has been sexually assaulted, the behavior of the offender conveys a sense of both physical and mental manipulation. The sex can be used as a weapon or a strategy to assign value to a person, an act that is emotionally manipulative. This form of abuse results in the control of the victim.

A series of activities that derail the mental well-being of an individual are also regarded as abuse. Actions that make one doubt their self-worth or sanity are not just manipulative but are considered detrimental to the victims involved. In different settings, stories of people fighting to monitor movements of individuals, isolating them from friends, and judging them harshly have been presented. Due to the absence of a physical attack, these actions are rarely classified as abuse. However, undertaking such actions over an extended period results in the individual becoming subservient to the demands of the abuser. In most cases, the victim tends to depend more on the abuser following the damage to their self-esteem and feeling of worth.

Apart from the emotional and physical means of achieving control, finances can also be used to reach such power. Through control of budgeting or limited access to finances, an abuser will always want to have excessive oversight over the victim’s finances. Most abusive marriages represent the emotional, physical, and financial forms of abuse. An individual that finds it difficult to leave a marriage due to insecurity or lack of self-worth must have been subjected to some form of financial abuse, which explains the feeling of not wanting to leave. Manipulation to achieve power is also evident in the religious context where infliction of suffering based on identity or beliefs is observed. The cultural and religious forms of abuse are focused on belittling the values and faith of an individual. The goal of such abuse is to achieve superiority over the victims by controlling their worldviews.


A behavior that is focused on manipulation or mistreatment to control others is known as abuse. The act may be witnessed in different contexts, but the ultimate goal of the behaviors observed is control and power. People employ physical, emotional, or sexual abuse because they want to achieve dominance and portray their superiority. Abuse as a misuse of objects, persons, or positions is also done for purposes of achieving control. While the term can be employed in different contexts, it is worth noting that all abusive behaviors or decisions are executed with the ultimate goal of achieving supremacy over the targeted victim.

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