What are Different Kinds of Tortures/Abuse and their Effects on Child’s Mind and Adult Life

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Dr. Shalini Choudhary

Torture is an act of inflicting physical or psychological pain by a perpetrator to the victim. This act may be from mild to severe and prolonged intended to inflict pain and suffering. Abuse on the other hand, is an intense behavior pattern used by the perpetrator to gain control and maintain power over the victim. Both the acts may be intentional or purposive where the perpetrator incurs pain, suffering, harm, hurt and extreme negative feelings the victim, especially if the victim is a child the consequences are severe and long term. there are different types of tortures and abuse. According to Henry Shue, there are three types of tortures.

  1. Torture– This type of torture intends to intimidate other people rather that Deterrent harming the victim. The act of torturing may deter the expression of opposition. This type of torture is to discourage opposition or create fear in people rather than the victim alone. Political pressures or assaults are examples of this type of torture.
  2. Interrogational torture- This type of torture aims to elicit information from the victim. The torture ends once the information is provided. Police interrogation is an example of this type of torture.
  3. Sadistic torture- This torture is to gratify the torturer’s sadism. The perpetrator derives pleasure from the torments of the victim and by dominating the weak. The greater the suffering, the more the pleasure. The tortures inflicted by Adolf Hitler are the historical example of extreme sadism.

Like tortures, abuse can also be divided into six different types.

Physical abuse- This type of abuse includes physical assaults like punching, hitting, slapping, kicking, strangling, or physically restraining a person (adult or child) against their will. It can also include invading someone’s physical space, and in any way making the victims feel physically unsafe.

1. Sexual abuse– Sexual abuse includes both physical and non-physical components of assaults like rape and other forced sexual acts. The feelings centered around sex can be used to gain power and control over the child or adult. Such types of sexual advances against the will of the victim has both emotional and cultural implications as it leads to further complications in terms of physical, psychological and sociocultural resources.

Verbal abuse- Verbal abuse includes such actions as verbally threatening a person by calling names, putting them down or insulting, yelling, screaming and intentionally embarrassing in public. Victims are often unaware of this as they believe that they are not directly harmed and that nobody will believe them. Victims have elicited that verbal abuse is difficult to spot and prove by anyone.

1. Psychological or emotional abuse- Psychological or emotional abuse occurs when one perpetrator threatens or challenges the victims sense of worth, identity, well being and health using a number of actions or words. This type of abuse includes non-physical behaviors such as insulting, constant threatening, excessive fault finding, humiliating, intimidating, isolating or stalking. Such actions by them drains away the sanity of the victims who further doubt their own identity and depend so much on them.

2.Financial or economic abuse- Many times finances are used as a means to gain control and power over the victim whose finances are used against his/her will. This may include controlling all budgeting in the family society or the community at large. Perpetrators do this kind of abuse by not letting the victims have access to their own bank accounts or spending money, or opening credit cards and running up debts in the victim’s name, or simply not letting the victim do a job and earn money. Other forms of abuse- There are some other emerging forms of abuse that arise in an attempt to control and dominate the victim. Cultural abuse is one such type which involves inflicting suffering to the victim’s cultural identity in order to control him/her.

The acts of abuse includes using racial slurs, restricting the victim to follow his/her customs of faith and forcing the victim to adopt the customs, dress code, language or other practices as stated by the perpetrator. Another emerging form of abuse is the digital abuse which includes the use of technology such as texting or social networking to bully, stalk, harass, threaten or intimidate the victim online.

These different types of tortures and abuse, where torture is more physical and abuse being more psychological in nature, pose havoc to the victims especially if the victim is a child. It also disrupts the life of an adult. Apart from making the victim physically weak, vulnerable and diseased, it also impairs the overall psychological functioning of the victims.

The long term consequences of abuse are troubling and lead to many physical as well as psychological disorders. Different types of tortures and abuse may cause similar consequences in children and adults. Victimized people develop behavioral, emotional and cognitive problems in their life in the form of various psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, post traumatic or acute stress disorder, suicidal impulses, substance abuse. Child abuse may lead to personality psychopathology, dissociation, sexual disorders and behavioral as well as emotional problems (hyperactivity, conduct problems defiant behaviors, fear, anxiety and depression).


Shalini Choudhary is a PHD in psychology from university of Allahabad, India. Her PHD topic was borderline personality disorder which is less investigated, less common and less known in the country. She is currently teaching as an assistant professor in the Department of psychology , Shaheed Rajguru college of applied sciences for women, university of Delhi, India.

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