The Different Types of Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is a growing problem that affects millions of people in all kinds of relationships including traditional marriages, same-sex partnerships, and even relationships where there is no sexual intimacy involved. While physical violence is the most blatant form of domestic abuse, sometimes called intimate partner violence, it not the only form of domestic abuse.

The Main Types of Abuse

Domestic abuse can be emotional, physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and financial. It is harm inflicted by a current or former spouse or partner.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse involves actions designed to destroy a person’s sense of self-respect or self-worth. It includes constant, an unrelenting verbal onslaught of insults and criticisms designed to humiliate and belittle the victim. It is often combined with other forms of abuse and used as a method to gain control over the victim. Although there are no physical scars, the emotional scars can be debilitating to victims.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse not only includes rape and sexual assault, but it also includes demeaning behavior like exposing a partner’s body to friends, forcing a partner into posing for pornography, secretly videotaping a partner while engaging in sex, or forcing a partner to have sex without using protection. Reproductive coercion, which is forcing a partner into having an abortion is a form of domestic sexual abuse.

Another form of domestic sexual abuse is sexually assaulting someone who is unable to refuse due to disability, illness, intimidation or the influence of alcohol or other drugs. 

There are three main categories of sexual abuse:

  • Using physical force to compel someone to have sex against their will, whether the act is completed or not.
  • Attempting or having sex with someone who is unable to understand the nature of the act or unable to decline participation or is unable to communicate their unwillingness.
  • Abusive sexual contact of any kind.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse involves injuring, disabling or killing the victim. Physical abuse can be performed with a weapon or restraint or merely using body, size or strength to harm another person. The injury from the abuse does not have to major. For example, an abuser could forcefully shake the victim in anger. While the victim may not require medical treatment, the shaking would still be a form of physical abuse.

Physical violence can include burning, biting, choking, grabbing, pinching, punching, pushing, throwing, scratching, shoving, shaking, or slapping.

Threats of Violence

Violent threats involve the use of words, gestures, motions, looks or weapons to communicate a threat to frighten, harm, injure, disable, rape or kill. The act does not have to be carried out for it to be abusive behavior.

Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse is a broad term that includes acts, threats of acts or coercive tactics to cause someone fear and trauma. If there has been previous physical or sexual abuse in the relationship, any further threat of abuse is considered psychological violence.

Psychological abuse can include:

  • Humiliation
  • Controlling what the victim can and cannot do.
  • Withholding information.
  • Diminishing or embarrassing the victim.
  • Isolating the victim from friends and family.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is one of the most common forms of domestic abuse and also the difficult to recognize, even for the victims. It can involve a partner denying the victim access to money or other resources. Refusing to allow a spouse to work or get an education is also a form of financial abuse. It is often seen in homes where an abuser forces the victim into isolation by limiting when they can communicate with family and friends. Isolation makes it more difficult for a victim to have any form of financial freedom.

Get Help Immediately

Research shows that domestic violence usually gets progressively worse. Rarely does it stop because the abuser promises that it will never happen again. If you are in an abusive relationship, there are many resources available to help. You do not have to stay with an abusive partner. It is important to seek help immediately.