Physical Abuse: Violation of Personal Boundaries and Powerlessness

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow

Medico Legal

Reading Time:

Published on: 12 Aug, 2023

Physical abuse is a deeply disturbing act that transcends the immediate pain it inflicts. It represents a profound violation of personal boundaries and often instills an overpowering sense of powerlessness in the victim. To comprehend why this happens, one must delve into the intricate web of human rights, psychology, and the very essence of personal sovereignty. Here’s a comprehensive look into why physical abuse resonates so deeply:

1. Innate Human Rights and Personal Sovereignty:

Every individual inherently possesses the right to personal safety and security. This foundational belief underpins many human rights charters and legal doctrines worldwide. Physical abuse is a direct assault on this very right. When someone experiences physical harm at the hands of another, it isn’t just a bodily injury—it’s a stark infringement on their personal sovereignty and a negation of their inherent human rights.

2. The Intimate Nature of Physical Boundaries:

From an early age, we are taught the significance of our personal space. We learn which touches are appropriate and which are not, how close is too close, and the importance of consent. Our physical boundaries form an integral part of our self-identity. Physical abuse disrupts these boundaries, imposing another’s will onto our bodies without our consent.

3. The Psychology of Power and Control:

At its core, physical abuse is about power and control. The abuser seeks to exert dominance over the victim, using physical harm as a tool. This dynamic inherently creates an overwhelming sense of powerlessness for the victim. They are placed in a situation where their autonomy is stripped away, and they’re rendered vulnerable to the whims of their abuser.

4. Trauma and the Brain’s Response:

From a neurological perspective, physical abuse activates the brain’s threat response systems. When faced with danger, the brain can go into ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ modes. Often, due to the immediate threat and the power imbalance, victims might find themselves in the ‘freeze’ state, furthering the feeling of powerlessness.

5. The Ripple Effects of Powerlessness:

The feeling of powerlessness doesn’t end with the abusive act. It can permeate other areas of a victim’s life, affecting their self-worth, confidence, and ability to trust. They might question their capacity to protect themselves or doubt their judgments, given that their personal boundaries were so starkly violated.

6. Societal Implications:

The societal backdrop further accentuates the violation of personal boundaries and the feeling of powerlessness. In many societies, victims of physical abuse may face stigma, blame, or even disbelief, which compounds their trauma. They might feel isolated or fear retribution, thereby stifling their voice and reinforcing their feelings of powerlessness.


Physical abuse is not just an act of causing bodily harm—it’s a profound violation of one’s personal boundaries and an instillation of powerlessness. By understanding the depth of this violation and its ramifications, society can better address the needs of abuse victims, providing them the support, understanding, and avenues for healing they rightfully deserve.


We invite your question: Comment below


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *