Types of abuse

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender.

It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating.  Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

Abuse is a repetitive pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate partner. These are behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish or force them to behave in ways they do not want. Abuse includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation. Many of these different forms of abuse can be going on at any one time.

 

A relationship can be unhealthy or abusive even without physical violence. Verbal abuse can cause both emotional pain and trauma. Survivors may often internalize the abuse and begin to believe the messages they receive: that they brought the abuse upon themselves, they deserve to be hurt, or that they are unworthy of being loved.

Emotional Abuse may also include:

  • Name calling and put downs
  • Yelling or screaming
  • Intentionally embarrassing partners in public
  • Preventing survivors from seeing or talking with friends and family.
  • Telling their partners what to do and wear.
  • Using online communities or cell phones to control, intimidate or humiliate victims.
  • Blaming the survivor for their abusive or unhealthy behavior.
  • Stalking.
  • Threatening to commit suicide.
  • Threatening to harm you, your pet or people you care about.
  • Pressuring their partners when they don’t consent to sexual activity.
  • Threatening to expose secrets such as your sexual orientation or immigration status.
  • Starting rumors.
  • Threatening to have children taken away.
Financial abuse is one of the least discussed and understood types of relationship abuse but can be one of the most powerful methods an abuser uses to keep a survivor in a relationship. Surveys of survivors show that the worry of being able to provide financially for themselves or their children is one of the top reasons they stay or return to abusive relationships. In some relationships, financial abuse is prevalent throughout the relationship, while in others it may not present until the survivor has left of is attempting to leave.

Financial abuse may include:

  • Forbidding the victim to work
  • Sabotaging work or employment opportunities by stalking or harassing the victim at the workplace orcausing the victim to lose her job by physically battering prior to important meetings or interviews
  • Controlling how all of the money is spent
  • Not allowing the victim access to bank accounts
  • Withholding money or giving “an allowance”
  • Not including the victim in investment or banking decisions
  • Forbidding the victim from attending job training or advancement opportunities
  • Forcing the victim to write bad checks or file fraudulent tax returns
  • Running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts
  • Refusing to work or contribute to the family income
  • Withholding funds for the victim or children to obtain basic needs such as food and medicine
  • Hiding assets
  • Stealing the victim’s identity, property or inheritance
  • Forcing the victim to work in a family business without pay
  • Refusing to pay bills and ruining the victims’ credit score
  • Forcing the victim to turn over public benefits or threatening to turn the victim in for “cheating or misusing benefits”
  • Filing false insurance claims
  • Refusing to pay  or evading child support or manipulating the divorce process by drawing it out by hiding or not disclosing assets

Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence, 2015.

You may be experiencing physical abuse if your partner has done or repeatedly does any of the following tactics of abuse:

  • Pulling your hair, punching, slapping, kicking, biting or choking you
  • Forbidding you from eating or sleeping
  • Damaging your property when they’re angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)
  • Using weapons to threaten to hurt you, or actually hurting you with weapons
  • Trapping you in your home or keeps you from leaving
  • Preventing you from calling the police or seeking medical attention
  • Harming your children
  • Abandoning you in unfamiliar places
  • Driving recklessly or dangerously when you are in the car with them
  • Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol (especially if you’ve had a substance abuse problem in the past)

© 2011 Duluth Model Power and Control Wheels from Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs

Reproductive coercion is a form of power and control where one partner strips the other of the ability to control their own reproductive system. It is sometimes difficult to identify this coercion because other forms of abuse are often occurring simultaneously.

Reproductive coercion can be exerted in many ways:

  • Refusing to use a condom or other type of birth control
  • Breaking or removing a condom during intercourse
  • Lying about their methods of birth control (ex. lying about having a vasectomy, lying about being on the pill)
  • Refusing to “pull out” if that is the agreed upon method of birth control
  • Forcing you to not use any birth control (ex. the pill, condom, shot, ring, etc.)
  • Removing birth control methods (ex. rings, IUDs, contraceptive patches)
  • Sabotaging birth control methods (ex. poking holes in condoms, tampering with pills or flushing them down the toilet)
  • Withholding finances needed to purchase birth control
  • Monitoring your menstrual cycles
  • Forcing pregnancy and not supporting your decision about when or if you want to have a child
  • Forcing you to get an abortion, or preventing you from getting one
  • Threatening you or acting violent if you don’t comply with their wishes to either end or continue a pregnancy
  • Continually keeping you pregnant (getting you pregnant again shortly after you give birth)
  • Reproductive coercion can also come in the form of pressure, guilt and shame from an abusive partner. Some examples are if your abusive partner is constantly talking about having children or making you feel guilty for not having or wanting children with them — especially if you already have kids with someone else.
Sexually abusive methods of retaining power and control include an abusive partner:

  • Forcing you to dress in a sexual way
  • Insulting you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names
  • Forcing or manipulating you into to having sex or performing sexual acts
  • Holding you down during sex
  • Demanding sex when you’re sick, tired or after hurting you
  • Hurting you with weapons or objects during sex
  • Involving other people in sexual activities with you against your will
  • Ignoring your feelings regarding sex
  • Forcing you to watch pornography
  • Purposefully trying to pass on a sexually transmitted disease to you
  • Sexual coercion

Sexual coercion lies on the ‘continuum’ of sexually aggressive behavior. It can vary from being egged on and persuaded, to being forced to have contact. It can be verbal and emotional, in the form of statements that make you feel pressure, guilt, or shame. You can also be made to feel forced through more subtle actions. For example, an abusive partner:

  • Making you feel like you owe them — ex. Because you’re in a relationship, because you’ve had sex before, because they spent money on you or bought you a gift
  • Giving you drugs and alcohol to “loosen up” your inhibitions
  • Playing on the fact that you’re in a relationship, saying things such as: “Sex is the way to prove your love for me,” “If I don’t get sex from you I’ll get it somewhere else”
  • Reacting negatively with sadness, anger or resentment if you say no or don’t immediately agree to something
  • Continuing to pressure you after you say no
  • Making you feel threatened or afraid of what might happen if you say no
  • Trying to normalize their sexual expectations: ex. “I need it, I’m a man”
  • Even if your partner isn’t forcing you to do sexual acts against your will, being made to feel obligated is coercion in itself. Dating someone, being in a relationship, or being married never means that you owe your partner intimacy of any kind.

Content courtesy of The National Domestic Violence Hotline.