Ironically, the word itself is frequently abused.
I've never seen a time when so many people are feeling so abused. Children being made to order from the kids menu or being told 'no' to certain desserts... are now feeling "abused." When a parent draws a line as to how their child's room is decorated (ie, "no, you can't put that picture up in the corner near the ceiling by itself, pick another place") the word recklessly flies. Even simply feeling insulted is now considered abuse by some.
People use it to describe many things that, arguably, aren't abuse at all. In divorces and legal actions, the word is frequently used to extort... which is an "abuse" of the system.
Culturally, when we throw the word around as loosely as we do, we risk the "boy who cried wolf" syndrome. I wish people would lighten up a little and examine their lives. Some are dealing with real, dangerous abuse every day.
My daughter, for instance.
This morning, I had to endure a story from her mother about a late-night phone call, during which she heard my daughter being hit by her boyfriend, being called names and screamed at. My daughter wouldn't tell her where she was, but asked if she could come home. Unfortunately, she didn't have the courage to leave... she stayed in that environment. This morning, I can't reach her, and am going just a little crazy wondering if she's okay.
That is abuse.
As a father, I'm struggling with how to handle it. My first inclination is to go find the kid and give him a mouthful of broken teeth. Jail time doesn't appeal to me, and I think it would backfire anyway... probably resulting in her resentment of me, and pity for him. I'm truly at a loss for how to handle it. This minute, I finally got a text message from her, so she's okay.
I will spend the day and the weekend considering the options. Meantime, it's a little difficult for me to hear the word "abuse" being thrown around so irrationally, when real, actual abuse is touching my life so profoundly right now.
UPDATE: It's amazing how ridiculous the laws of Missouri are. At age 17, she can move out, do whatever she wants, it's her decision. However, if she gets into trouble, it's still the parents' responsibility until she turns 18. This one of the few states where this age disparity exists.
The result is, I cannot issue an police-enforced ex parte of protection against him. It's up to her to do that... and she won't do it.
However, I have formulated a plan and will execute it Sunday evening. At this point, it doesn't involve the broken teeth scenario, but if he even so much as looks at me funny at the time, that could change. It may be her decision to continue seeing him, but I have the ability to make the abuse stop... and I will do just that.