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The 4 differences between abuse and abuse

The 4 differences between abuse and abuse

June 12, 2024

Even today it is relatively frequent that we hear in the news cases of mistreatment and violence of gender or couple, abuse of minors or different types of aggression to some type of individual.

Terms such as abuse and abuse often appear, which are usually used as synonyms . However, these two concepts, although they are effectively related, do not imply exactly the same.

In this article we intend to establish some of the main differences between abuse and abuse.

  • Related article: "Profile of the psychological abuser: 21 features in common"

Defining both concepts

To understand the possible differences between the terms abuse and abuse, it is necessary to first understand what they correspond to or how they are defined.


Definition of abuse

We understand by abuse any act performed by one person towards another in which violence is used or that aims to cause damage to the abused subject. The goal of damage causation can be highly variable. It can be physical, psychic, sexual, patrimonial ...

And not only is it considered abuse the performance of acts, but also its omission as long as it causes harm in the mistreated. It is possible that in some cases the abuse is not voluntary (for example you can ignore the needs of someone causing harm without necessarily having intentionality to provoke them). Although power relations can mediate, it does not have to imply a situation of inequality between both parties of which one of them takes advantage, in which case it would be talking about abuse.


Definition of abuse

Regarding abuse, when we use this word we are referring to the existence of an overreach with respect to something or someone, taking advantage of the subject that carries it out of a specific element, attribute or situation that it has or has been assigned to perform an act or achieve something that does not correspond to it.

It assumes the existence of an unequal relationship. In the interpersonal field, an abuse towards a person implies the use or causation of damages to it by some means, generally employing some type of physical, psychological, sexual, socio-economic or vicarious violence.

Main differences between abuse and abuse

Although often used as synonyms, the concepts of abuse and abuse have a series of differences that make them slightly different concepts. Below we explain some of the main differences between the two.


1. Level of specificity

The term mistreatment includes, as we have seen, all that harmful act caused voluntarily to a person , being or property by a subject. This would also include abuse as a type of abuse in which the inequality between the abuser and the abused is mediated.

2. Relationship of power

One of the main differences between abuse and abuse is that although both terms refer to the presence of some type of violence or harm caused to someone or something, the concept of abuse includes the notion that there is an element that causes There is a relationship of inequality between both subjects.

The element in question can be very variable, from aspects such as physical strength, age and experience, class or social position, position in the hierarchy of power or simply the ability to manipulate or coercion to the existence of an emotional link between both of them. The abusive party takes advantage of this inequality to harm the abused .

3. Intentionality

In general, both in situations of abuse and abuse, we can find that the aggressor intends to harm the aggrieved party. However, there are some types of maltreatment in which this is not necessary, for example due to ignorance of the needs of the affected party (as is the case with some mistreatment of animals) or carelessness.

Although sometimes it is possible that someone is abusing without knowing it (for example that due to his power another person does something for him even if it was not the intention of the subject to take advantage of his position), It is much more common for abuse to be completely conscious and voluntary .

4. Usual use of the term

It is common that when we talk about abuse the first thing we think is the existence of sexual violence . This is because, in order to perpetrate this type of abuse, the abuser uses for his benefit and at the expense of the other his greatest physical strength, age, power, the existence of an affective bond, of emotions such as fear or fear or simply of the surprise to achieve dominate the affected party and achieve commit the act. Examples of this can be found in cases of rape, sexual harassment or child sexual abuse. It is also frequently used to talk about abuses of authority.

On the other hand, when it comes to abuse or mistreatment, it is usually referred to the existence of physical and psychological violence, in which beatings, insults and humiliations appear.

Despite this, we must bear in mind that at this point we are talking about the habitual use of the terms, while the abuse is a type of abuse.


Substance Abuse vs Substance Dependence (DSM-IV) (June 2024).


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