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This is a particularly
‘unsavoury’ topic. Unfortunately it needs to be addressed and requires attention as a separate issue,
despite its relationship to other illnesses, disorders & behaviours.
There are basically two (2)
areas of abuse that can be applied to the ‘definition of abuse’.
Abuse refers to the use or treatment of something (a person, item,
substance, concept, or vocabulary) that is seen as harmful. The term comes
from the words "abnormal use". It can be used for anything ranging from the
misuse of a piece of equipment to the severe maltreatment of a
Material :- this applies to substances, money, possessions, privileges,
position, status etc
this relates to that which is inflicted on other
human beings. Other living
creatures might also be included in this type of
There are consequences to the 1st
type of abuse; to not only the abuser but also those directly & indirectly associated. Drug & Alcohol abuse, excessive gambling, excessive spending,
expectation of favouritism & unreasonable ‘rights’ with respect to profile & distorted
perception of one’s self & standing in society, property damage, disrespect of the laws and conventions of
the day etc. These are types of abuse that serve no purpose other than sully the reputation of the abuser,
potentially ruin their lives and result in untold ‘collateral’ damage to
The 2nd is the focus of this section. Abuse can
take many forms; physical, emotional, psychological & sexual. It is more prevalent than most would like to
believe and is one of the most damaging and destructive of all experiences one might encounter or be subjected
to. It is not restricted to any gender, socio-economic group, age etc.
The consequences of abuse are
‘far reaching’. Not only does it potentially destroy the lives of the ‘victim’, it also
impacts severely on those directly & indirectly associated.
The perpetrators of
‘abuse’ may or may not know they are abusing. They may feel it is ‘normal’. This may be the
result of their own past experiences and the manner in which they were ‘raised’, or it may be based on
internal drives, impulses, thoughts, beliefs that are expressed through ‘abuse’. It may also be the
result of cognitive impairment through
injury, congenital defect, illness etc. The
latter refers to the individual’s impaired capacity to truly appreciate the consequences or reality of their
In some ways, it is irrelevant to
spend excessive time determining the reasons for the abuser’s behaviour, given that the focus should be on the
victim and ‘breaking the
cycle’ of abuse.
The truly saddest and most
devastating age groups to experience abuse are those involving children &
Child Abuse Awareness
Please click here for ABC transcript of interview with Peter's wife
Abuse always has consequences.
The ramifications of the abuse will vary according to the individual and the circumstances involved, though
there can never be a positive experience or effect as a result. The degree of damage caused is the primary
issue. Many victims of abuse have had their lives destroyed as a result; be it physically, emotionally,
psychologically and/or socially. In some instances, all four (4) aspects are involved. Many have developed or
utilize coping strategies & defence mechanisms so entrenched that they require lengthy & intense
interventional treatment therapies &, even then, there is no guarantee of success.
Some examples of the
manifestations of abuse or illnesses to which it is a major contributing factor are:
Probably the most significant
consequence of abuse is that of ‘extremes’. From either end of the spectrum – psychologically,
socially, emotionally & behaviourally.
Each of the extremes is enlisted
by the ‘victim’ and developed in response to the abuse and as a means of coping, protection, false
comfort, retaliation and/or defence.
Social effects are commonplace,
as is behaviour. A person with a history of abuse may withdraw and become suspicious & fearful of others or
they may become gregarious, outgoing extroverted people tending toward the mania exhibited in Bipolar Disorder. Recurrent or chronic depression,
self harming, risk taking behaviours and often para-suicide & failed suicide attempts.
Extremes of emotions are often
seen, along with difficulties in establishing, maintaining & valuing relationships. Psychotic symptoms have been reported and
the development of disabling and chronic mental illness is not uncommon.
Perhaps the most tragic of all
the consequences of abuse is the possibility that the cycle of abuse continues. There is evidence to suggest
that those who have had the injustice of abuse directed toward them can often develop into perpetrators of abuse
themselves. As such, the need for intervention & serious treatment is essential if we as a society are to
move toward the eradication of this most sinister & destructive act.
Punitive measures for the abuser
are of course necessary and I for one am not suggesting that rehabilitation or extensive counselling is an
alternative or even a successful adjunct to incarceration and it is certainly not an
area to which I wish to devote time here. The victim of abuse,
however, needs all the resources available and optimum professional treatment for their dreadful experiences. We
have a better chance to meet the needs of the victim and society at large, if we can provide adequate
intervention and a pro-active approach.
Unfortunately abuse continues
with account after account being noted in the media and passing through our court system. Most of us are left
shocked, horrified, angered and mystified as to how & why this could occur. What has happened is that the
heightened public awareness, via the media and reflected in our laws, of the problem has inhibited parents from
executing their responsibilities with respect to discipline & boundary setting for fear of retribution. As a
sensible & sophisticated culture, one would hope that commonsense would prevail & people’s earnest
attempt to somehow rationalize abuse in their own minds by indiscriminate reporting of ‘supposed’
abuse, would be taken realistically and not overly emotively.
There needs to be a balance.
Children need boundaries; they need discipline; they need to know they are loved and protected; they need to
know and be comforted by these factors. Society sets boundaries & applies discipline for its citizens, yet
as parents we are dissuaded from this course. Lost in this entire battle regarding abuse are the needs of the
child. Pro active & preemptive is far better than reactive & retrospective.
Life is not easy, nor is the
world an easy place to live. Without the necessary tools for life, we run the risk of ‘falling by the
wayside’ or being consumed & ‘lost’. I am not an advocate for any particular type of
discipline or boundary setting, nor am I fence sitting or conversely siding with any particular belief regarding
method or type of discipline. Each individual is different, each child is different. Basic needs are the same at
a rudimentary level though the means by which these basic needs are met can vary.
If we go back to the definition
of ‘abuse’ one can see why there are so many different & opposing viewpoints regarding the issue. I
would suggest that there are very clear guidelines regarding sexual abuse and aspects of physical abuse.
Emotional & psychological are a little vaguer. The recipient of purported ‘abuse’ and the initial
& early effects noted is the most effective way of establishing if indeed they have been subjected to
A simple guideline to any form of
discipline proposed is the response of the child for whom it is intended. Similarly, there needs to be a
graduated process in any form of discipline or boundary setting. To apply a ‘heavy handed’ approach
initially is not the wisest move. You will most probably achieve the desired result, though out of fear,
distress and anxiety. Anyone can control another, particularly the vulnerable, by means of fear &
intimidation. Is it humane; is it in the best interests of the recipient; is it your feelings, emotions, ideas,
beliefs, personal history etc. that guides you to this action or has it been well thought out, sensible,
practical & caring? Be careful not to tread the path of abuse in an effort to provide guidance for those
under your care. As I stated before, many abusers do not even know they are abusing.
Given the serious effects &
consequences of abuse, it would be foolish to dismiss or treat lightly the subject of discipline & boundary
setting and the manner in which we choose to implement them.
The other type of abuse, not
generally covered, is that of witnessed abuse. This is abuse that is directed elsewhere and is a kind
of ‘collateral’ or ‘secondary’ abuse. For example, the child that witnesses a violent father physically assaulting
his/her mother, yet never behaves that way to them. Abuse in this scenario can also be of a verbal or sexual
nature. It instills fear & apprehension in the child and feelings of powerlessness &
As Rugby League players, Coaches,
Administrators etc. you need to be aware of the prevalence & effects of abuse. As with the tragic case of
Peter Jackson, sometimes you will never know. What you end up with are the illnesses, disorders, personalities, drug & alcohol abuse, antisocial behaviour. Having knowledge of the reality of abuse and a willingness to make yourselves
available to help those with mental health issues, you may ultimately uncover evidence of past abuse. From that
point, steps can be taken to have the issue addressed.
Similarly, active abuse may be
occurring within your club. Whether it is players, coaches or other staff or volunteers, the essential need to
protect the victim & direct the abuser to the appropriate professional for help. Should the abuse you become
privy to be of a serious &/or grossly illegal nature, you have responsibility to take immediate action and
report it to the necessary authorities. There must be a zero tolerance indicated by the
Within the arena of Junior Rugby League,
the coaches & those who are actively involved with the young players must provide sound role modeling and
display appropriate behaviours. The realm of Junior League is a major area of a young player’s life and plays a
significant role in their overall development. Abusive conduct should never be allowed to be witnessed by young
players and they should never be subject to this type of behaviour. Standards for all associated with Juniors
should be as exemplary as possible. You are part of the growth and development of these young people, just as
are parents, peers & schools. They look to you for guidance within the framework
of the game – be it on the field, during training or personally. The responsibility is great, but the rewards
can be greater.
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