Digest of terms

abuse

treatment of one individual by another in such a way that their humanity is disregarded and they are personally damaged. The most common usage until recently has related to the physical abuse of children by beating or to domestic violence between partners, usually but not always on the part of the male against the female. Whereas regular incidence of rape, even marital rape has been acknowledged, it is only in recent years that the extent of sexual harm to children has become known. The sense of moral outrage against this kind of invasion of children's vulnerability, has led to extensive publicity being given to the dangers from paedophiles (literally 'lovers of children'). The incidence of such activities within religious institutions and on the part of trusted authority figures comes as a major shock and embarrassment to believers, but it has been documented across religions no less than other public organisations. Accordingly, many have now put in place independent monitoring arrangements. Less attention has been given to the sad fact that most abuse, including sexual abuse, still takes place within families. Although within religious traditions the use of physical punishment to discipline both children and adults has been common in the past and still occasionally persists, there is no moral justification for abuse in any form. Whoever is abused needs and deserves rescue and special support. In turn, abusers need direct restraint, appropriate punishment and healing interventions.

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