Physical abuse has recently formed an essential part of the discussion on today’s media. It affects virtually all age groups with children being the most vulnerable. Some of the readily notable acts of physical abuse include common and grievous assaults, domestic violence sexual violence and many more. These acts of physical violence cause a lot of psychological, emotional and physical pain. It is the pain referred to as trauma. Some of the effects of the trauma include eating complications, personality disorders, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. The diagnosis of a person suffering from trauma is very hard and so is the treatment. However, in the case of children, consistent counseling is required to enable the child to live normally like any other kids. It is because the brain development of a child is usually at a very young stage. The paper seeks to examine the relationship between physical violence and trauma, the causes of physical abuse and trauma and the effects of trauma on the social, psychological and emotional stability of human beings.

The Trauma of Physical Abuse

Trauma refers to the physical, mental and emotional pain occasioned to an individual as a result of either a physical or psychological injury.  At most times, however, trauma is caused by physical harm. Children constitute a population group that is more vulnerable to trauma due to their immaturity and should thus be well protected. The physical abuse giving rise to trauma may result from rape, sexual violence, and defilement. Physical abuse, on the other hand, refers to any physical connection between two or more individuals occasioning injury on one’s body. Physical abuse may arise due to sexual and domestic violence. 

By its very nature, physical abuse refers to an act that has the intention of causing pain to another individual. The acts of physical violence which are most prevalent in children may result from either the act of parents punishing a child for the purpose of instilling discipline, through corporal punishment or forceful sexual abuse of the child. The pain occasioned from this experience is what therefore leads to trauma. There are two kinds of trauma; trauma type 1 and trauma type 2. The former refers to terrible acts arising from natural disasters and accidents while the latter refers to the pain originating from interpersonal relations. Physical abuse, domestic and sexual violence fall within the trauma type 2 as it arises out of the day to day relations with others. The paper, therefore, seeks to examine critically how physical abuse causes trauma and provide the way forward to the victims.

Definition, Cause and Types of Physical Abuse

Physical abuse refers to an act intentionally directed towards another person with the aim of maiming or causing physical pain to the other person. It may take a form of striking, punching or beating of an individual. Physical abuse is naturally a product of malice from one person to another as it involves intention of the criminal. In most countries, physical abuse refers to a felony or misdemeanor in the various penal codes which means they treat it as an act of criminal behavior in different jurisdictions. It may seem that a victim of physical abuse has a criminal and civil remedy in the courts of law, but the question is whether it full relieves the victim of his pain completely. The act of rape towards a child by his father, for example, even if remedied, cannot get out of the mind of the child, and it would always harm that child every time she or he remembers the ordeal.

Known or unknown persons may either occasion the acts of physical abuse. Acts resulting from actions of strangers may range from assaults to sexual violence. The physical abuse caused by known persons, on the other hand, may be caused by friends and relatives with children being the most vulnerable victims in both circumstances. In the latter case, “physical abuse may result out of an innocent act of a parent trying to discipline a child and thus bruising and wounding the child or through corporal punishment”. Recent statistics also show that sexual violence such as rape and defilement caused by relatives of young boys and girls constitutes a significant cause of trauma in children. Notably, putting into consideration the hopes, aspirations, and guidance that young children look upon their parents and relatives in their state of immaturity, committing such evil acts are unforgotten by the children. The memories haunt the children all the days of their lives.  Whether the culprits end up behind bars through a lawful court order or not, no remedy can compensate the mental and physical pain occasioned to the children.

Definition of Trauma and How It Occurs

Trauma refers to the emotional, psychological and physical pains witnessed by an individual either due to physical abuse, sexual or domestic violence. The consequences of trauma are powerlessness, stress and inability to cope reasonably up with normal lifestyles of an individual. “The events leading to injury leave a person, emotionally and psychologically unstable”. It is the instability that makes a victim hopeless to the extent of contemplating suicide. Trauma may be instant or a continuous experience depending on the kind of physical abuse occasioned to a person. In the event of rape or defilement by a parent to a child or a child to a parent and vice versa, the kind of trauma occasioned is a continuous as opposed to a static one. It reoccurs every time a victim thinks of an incident. A common assault, on the contrary, may only lead to an instant trauma as the pain is felt only within a short period and eventually forgotten. 

Traditionally, trauma was majorly associated with sickness as opposed to any other violent acts. The advancement of the Trauma theory in the early 1970’s, however, changed the perspective in the definition of trauma. “The theory becomes popular after the Vietnam War typically getting the meaning to the Holocaust survivors”. 

Acts causing physical pain could then, later on, be recognized as traumatic events. It, therefore, meant the beginning of recognition of physical abuse as a cause of trauma. Trauma has no cure and therefore, only counseling services can be done to relieve the victim of the pain. Likewise, no legal remedy can compensate the victim or return the victim to the position he was before the traumatic event happened. 


The Relationship between Physical Abuse and Trauma

Trauma being a consequence of physical violence arises out of an unstable mental condition. The thoughts of an inhumane act committed without the contemplation of the victim. Some people may not discern they are suffering from trauma unless diagnosed by a mental health clinic. “Trauma, however, cannot be defined by a single diagnosis, rather it is derived from a variety of factors each of which has negative consequences towards an individual”. The magnitude of trauma, however, is measured proportional to the type of physical abuse, the link and the connection between the physical violence victim and the criminal, the nature of the victim’s family and the relationship between either the child and the parents and the rate of recurrence of ill-treatment. Where for example “a child is continuously abused sexually and warned by his parents of any reporting, the child will suffer a lot of traumas compared to a victim of a simple assault”.

Statistics of Child Abuse Cases in America

“The research on child abuse in America between the years 1980 and 1990 showed that the cases of child abuse occasioned by physical pain doubled each year”. In the early 1990’s the trend still maintained something that has been carried over into the new millennium. Between the years 1990 and 1993 for example, it was reported that the number of physical abuse cases committed especially towards children increased from one million four hundred thousand to two million eight hundred thousand, a figure that is double in rate.  Fatal instances of physical violence against children stand at five hundred and seventy thousand. The increase in the number is, however, positive as it shows that the society is getting enlightened over physical abuse matters thus raising their awareness and empowering them to report to the relevant authorities if the act happens.

In 2006, the United Nations released its statistics and a way forward in fighting child abuse especially. Alarmed by the increasing cases of violence against children leading to a lot of chilling effects was said to be against the best interests of the child. In particular, the secretary-general of the United Nations noted that about fifty-three thousand children succumbed to death worldwide as a result of homicide. The United Nations further noted that about eighty to ninety percent of children faced a lot of harsh physical punishments at home, either from their parents or relatives. Out of this figure, about three percent of the children suffer physical abuse resulting from harm caused by either sharp or blunt objects. The Secretary-General in his report also was alarmed that the number of girls undergoing sexual violence was almost double the number of boys in the year 2002 for the young children under the age of eighteen years. The number young ladies subjected to sexual violence, for example, stood at one hundred and fifty million while the number of boys stood at seventy-three thousand. In Africa, the trauma resulting from the female genital mutilation in girls ranks high on the table with ladies in Sudan and Egypt being the most abused. “In child labor, over four hundred and eighteen million cases were reported in America in the year 2004 indicating a significant threat to the future of then children in the world. From the above statistics, it is, therefore, clear that indeed, physical violence, especially in children, needs urgent attention”.

Traumatic Effects of Physical Abuse

As discussed above, “the dire effects of physical abuse range from one act of physical abuse to the other”.  The nexus, however, is that all the chilling effects caused by physical abuse have a mental effect. “An act of ill-treatment by itself does not condemn someone to live a miserable and hopeless life, but the mental condition of effects is what pushes an individual to suffer”.The act of remembering the painful moments causes psychological pains to a person. The effects are, therefore, grouped into three groups. The effects on children, adolescents and the effects on adults.

Traumatic Effects of Physical Abuse on Children

In most cases, after an act of physical violence, a hormone known as cortisol is responsible for the stress in the mind of the child. The hormone is productive especially when a child is in imminent danger, but it is very harmful when continuously produced and may even cause brain damage. “The continuous production of cortisol hormones is occasioned by the rethinking of the act of physical abuse committed against the child”. High levels of trauma even lead to a child separating himself or herself from the entire community. A sense of inferiority is inculcated in one’s mind. Great depressions end up, being the order of the day and, therefore, interfering with the normal development of the brain and the body of the child. Another condition caused by trauma in children is hyper arousal. It refers to a situation of fluctuating heart bits, abnormal body temperatures and the state of extreme anxiety. “Since young children learn through repetition, a cure of continuous counseling must be initiated.  Otherwise, if the stress if left to recur in the mind of the child, it eventually ruins the life of the child completely because children have a little fighting ability to pressure”.

Traumatic Effects of Physical Violence in Adults

Adults have well-developed brains but if an act of physical abuse was committed to an individual when still a child such memories would still disturb an individual. The thoughts of the horrible experience undergone by the only damage the senses and the brain every time the adult see a perpetrator or remembers the events. It, therefore, leaves an adult hopeless in life leading to the weakening of the body immune system. Many adults would even contemplate suicide. It makes the adults feel inferior to their mates for the fear of unknown. The adults are forced to live lonely and solitary lives. Sometimes women who have undergone sexual violence and gotten pregnant tend to pass the anger to their children as the child reminds them of dark moments in their lives. It is where again most people turn into drug abuse and engaging in the unethical and immoral behavior. The actions do not come out of one’s choice, but they come naturally due to the brain disturbance.

General traumatic effects of Physical violence

The trauma occasioned by physical abuse may cause, a bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, complications in eating such as lack of appetite, and general disorders in the personality of an individual and loneliness due to the fear of the unknown.

Personality Disorders Arising From Trauma

Personality disorders refer to the change in the social patterns of an individual as a result of stress. They may include the act of being too shy or being very fearful etc. A person who suffers from a personality disorder perceives himself as being too inferiors to the rest of the community and would, therefore, indulge in acts that defeat the natural order of things. Personality disorders do not develop instantly but rather take the time to ruin the life of a person completely. “There is a firm belief that if an act of physical violence like for example defilement caused during childhood, the behavior patterns of a person would take time before they ultimately show up”. It’s therefore with no doubt that adults suffering from personality disorders started developing the same during childhood. Personality disorders eat into the active social functioning of a person.

One such behavior is the act of being too paranoid. What I mean by paranoid is the act of having a continuous mistrust towards people. An individual who suffers from this disorder is always suspecting others and creating havoc for no good reasons in the community. Another behavior is the development of an antisocial character. The lack of interest in mingling with the integral members of the society. It is at this stage that a person prefers living a solitary life far away from others. Such people evade marriage, games and even going to social events where they can meet people. They find comfort in staying alone.

Another aspect of people undergoing trauma is the lack of empathy and being coarse and ruthless. They have no mercy for anyone.  They trust they have been wronged by the whole society, and their mission is to revenge against anyone. Admiration is also a weakness to them. When trauma wounds people, they tend to be too much orderly and perfect. They, therefore, become perfectionists. They do not listen to other people’s views. That means that they are not ready to open up to anyone and compromise in any situation. Personality disorders are very difficult to treat.

Eating Complications

People undergoing trauma from physical violence tend to either eat too much to starve themselves. They tend to vomit a lot. Others are very watchful on their body size and fear getting fat. Treatment for eating disorders can be done by a nutritionist, unlike the other effects.


Schizophrenia refers to a very severe condition where a victim of an assault occasionally experiences illusions. He becomes too much concerned with the things that are beyond the reality. The reasoning is interfered with and due to a severe mental condition. The effect is, however, treatable through medication, interaction with the family members. The symptoms include uncouth thinking, hallucinations, lack of self-drive dissociation from the people and unstable emotions.


From the above discussion, it is trite clear that the causes of trauma include many factors not limited to both physical, emotional and psychological effects, both intentional and unintentional and the act of segregation and discrimination. It the paper, however, the causes and types of physical abuse leading to trauma include sexual violence, assault, corporal punishment and domestic violence among others. The effects of trauma are more severe in children than adults because of their brain immaturity. The general effects are cutting across all persons, however, range from personal disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses. Trauma is curable, but it involves a very lengthy procedure and time usually through counseling. Other effects of trauma like eating disorders are however treatable.