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Preventing Abuse

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

A great deal of abuse in life is unavoidable, and can only be escaped once it has taken place. However, there are also some forms of abuse that people get exposed to in their lives that can be avoided to some extent if proper precautions are put in place early on.


  • If you are an adult:
    • You can take the time to learn what abuse is and isn't, so that you immediately recognize abuse if it occurs to you or someone close to you.
    • If you have a tendency to be passive in relationships with others, you can learn to be more assertive, particularly in communicating your boundaries and what is acceptable and not acceptable to you.
    • If you have a tendency to be very assertive with others, you may want to consult with others you trust so as to make sure you are not habitually and unconsciously cross over the line from assertiveness into abuse. If you are told you tend to be aggressive rather than assertive, you can learn how to become more assertive rather than aggressive in your interactions.


  • If you are a parent, you should teach your child in age-appropriate ways:
    • To identify what abuse is and isn’t and how to avoid circumstances that might lead to abuse.
    • The difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching.
    • What their body parts are and how they are appropriately named so that they can properly describe it if someone touches them in an inappropriate place.
    • That someone might threaten them with violence if they tell about inappropriate behavior, but that they should always tell you.
    • That they are allowed to say "no" when someone asks them for something they don't want (being assertive), especially with strangers.

    You should also watch your kids for signs that something has changed for the worse (behavioral, physical or personality changes that suggest something disturbing has occurred), and ask them direct questions if you suspect the worst. Take the necessary steps to track abuse down and stop it from repeating immediately. Please strongly consider getting your children and perhaps your entire family involved in professional psychotherapy with a therapist specializing in the treatment of abuse if your children have been abused.


  • If you are dating:
    • Expect that you might be drugged if you are drinking, and take precautions. Never let your drink out of your sight. Use a Rohypnol test kit to test if your drink has been spiked.
    • Use the buddy system. Go out with friends and do not let each other out of your sight.
    • Be wary and do not take unnecessary and unintelligent risks (such as going home with strangers or meeting them in a non-public place)
    • Tell someone at home where you are going and when you will be back.
    • If you do choose to engage in sexual behavior, be very clear and explicit with your partner about the level of sexual activity you are and are not willing to engage in.
    • Carry your own latex condoms if you intend to have sex with strangers (latex condoms protect against STDs where some others don't) and insist that they be used.