The many meanings and forms of “abuse”

April 21, 2008

We have not, in our twenty four plus years of existence, ever experienced anything as horrific as sexual abuse or extended physical abuse, but we have experienced emotional and psychological abuse at various stages in our lives. All three of us have slightly different views on what constitutes “abuse”

Athena’s definition: too much loud noise, too many people, too many questions, too much talking at once confusing and short-circuiting my brain. Stress, extreme sensory overload. Being awake too late because the brain keeps going.

The Integral’s definition: being forced to take heavy psychiatric medication for an illness later found to be a wrong diagnosis. Constant harassment by family members, when one is worn out because of overmedication. We were.

Ivan’s definition: all of the above, and having to tell Athena she can’t release her overload yet………because of things to do. Wears down stamina and our collective mind. That’s internal “abuse” though not external. To most people, these things listed might seem too trivial to warrant being called abuse, but remember that every person’s definition of abuse, or any similar word for that matter, will be slightly different. That’s just because people are different, and by extension so are their thoughts and perceptions of things.

What most people probably think about when first hearing the term “abuse,” if they have never themselves experienced anything warranting the term, is probably “the graphic stuff” like s*xual abuse and SRA and beatings and such. Yeah, all of those are definitely abuse! But being told one is fat, or ugly, or too this or that, constantly, no matter how innocent it seems, is also abuse if the “victim” develops a negative self-image because of it. Sensory overload is definitely abuse for those of us who have to contend with it on a daily basis, or even occasionally.

For us as autistics, and as members of a plural system, we experience sensory abuse from the outside world a lot. Even if we don’t set foot outside our apartment for an entire day, something or other within our immediate environment will cause us overload at some point. Athena for example gets overwhelmed in a messy apartment, to the point of being frozen for a period of time, more than once a day, because of the sheer disorganization of the place. But she doesn’t always have the stamina to pick things up that she’s left or put things away that she’s taken out, when I (The Integral. Athena wrote the first part, now I’m writing) or Ivan are not around for whatever reason.

We had more, but we’re pretty tired and it’s time for submission……….we had so much to do that we didn’t have time to sit and write something more thought out…..

Collaborative, Athena and The Integral, with contributions from Ivan



  1. Emotional and psychological abuse can be very damaging. I experienced it a lot as i was growing up, it has definitely shaped the way i see myself. Nice post. 🙂

  2. glad you liked it……thanks. We wrote it for a disability blog carnival topic. The next one will be on May 8th if you’re interested in submitting anything. I’m not sure what the topic is though.

    The Integral

  3. This was a great post. Victims of emotional and psychological abuse are often overlooked because the wounds aren’t external. Well thought out piece – thank you!

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