Difference Between Abuse and Assault

There is often a confusion that surrounds abuse and assault, with many thinking that both may mean the same exact thing or entirely different. To clear up the air, I would love to dive in deeper and dissect the two.

Abuse

Abuse is improper treatment or usage, which can be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal or a combination of any or all of these. Abuse can also be considered to take the form of hate crimes directed at people just because of their race, religion, abilities, gender, or sexual orientation. Bullying has also recently been recognized as a form of abusive behavior.

People may engage in abuse or unfortunately end up in an abusive situation for a multitude of reasons, but victims of abuse must recognize that it is not your fault, as abusers often project this onto their victims. 

Researchers have come to a few conclusions as to why abuse happens, such as abusers having been victims of abuse themselves as well as not being able to manage their feelings properly. Many people do not fully comprehend what abuse is and may not understand that they may be in an abusive dynamic.

Examples of abuse: 

  • Forbidding you from eating or sleeping
  • Abandoning you in unfamiliar places
  • Gaslighting
  • Forcing or manipulating you into having sex or performing sexual acts
  • Reproductive coercion
  • Controlling finances
  • Controlling who you can or can’t be connected to socially

Assault

Assault can be considered a different form of abuse, with assault involving physical harm or unwanted contact. Sometimes it can be a threat or attempt to commit such physical harm and can involve or completely omit sexual harm.

Examples of assault: 

  • Threatening to hit or kill someone
  • Pointing a weapon at someone and threatening them
  • Swinging and missing
  • Using language that threatens or harms someone’s reputation
  • Throwing an object at someone
  • Planning an attack on someone that may inflict physical harm

Regardless of the type of abuse occurring, if you or someone you know may be undergoing abuse, contact your local authorities and report abuse anonymously online through: https://reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us/

Sources: Safe Haven Shelter and Resource Center

New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

Wikipedia on assault

Teens Health from Nemours on Abuse

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