What is Physical Abuse? - Definition & Signs

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  • 0:04 Physical Abuse
  • 0:31 Forms of Physical Abuse
  • 2:07 Signs of Physical Abuse
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Physical abuse can be severely damaging to a person. It's important you know what signs to look out for so you can hopefully play a part in ending a person's nightmare.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is an act where one person uses their body in order to inflict intentional harm or injury upon another person. Hopefully, you have never experienced this as it can lead to serious consequences for the abused in the moment, in the moments immediately thereafter, and even for an entire lifetime.

It's everyone's job to prevent physical abuse. That is why you need to know its signs so you can help stop the abuse of a friend, a family member, even a stranger.

Forms of Physical Abuse

First, let's make sure we understand exactly what physical abuse may entail, as the definition given was in some sense a bit broad. Physical abuse can involve someone slapping another person. We often see in movies people slapping one another when angry and then going on about their day as if nothing happened. However, slapping someone is a form of physical abuse. Don't let Hollywood fool you.

Another form of physical abuse sometimes brushed aside as nothing too major is hair pulling. While siblings sometimes do this when they're fighting, that doesn't make it right, especially when its adults involved and it's still a form of physical abuse nonetheless.

Furthermore, do not assume physical abuse always has to involve direct contact. Some forms of physical abuse are indirect. For example, someone may spit at you. Yes, they didn't directly hit you but spitting at someone is still a physical act. Worse, they may throw an object at you, like a chair. Again, direct body-to-body contact didn't occur but the act itself is highly and aggressively physical nonetheless.

Additionally, physical abuse can entail something else we don't think about as being stereotypically physically abusive. For instance, if a person forces you to swallow something that hurts you, like a chemical or even a medication you don't need, that is physical abuse as well. They may not have hit you but what they forced you to do is physically abusive.

Other, more obvious, forms of physical abuse you're probably more familiar with include:

  • Punching
  • Kicking
  • Shaking
  • Suffocating
  • Pinching
  • Biting
  • Scratching
  • Scalding or burning someone

Signs of Physical Abuse

Now that you know a bit more of the forms of physical abuse, you'll be more comfortable in spotting physical abuse as well. Keep in mind that no one sign or symptom will make it obvious that someone is being physically abused. However, putting the entire picture together with these signs will help. Signs of physical abuse include:

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