The Different Forms of Domestic Abuse
These are the six main forms of domestic abuse, with a brief explanation of how they can look. It is important to remember, that in MANY abusive relationships, there is no physical assault or violence.
- Emotional and Psychological abuse
Emotional abuse is behaviour that deliberately undermines someone’s confidence leading them to believe they are stupid, a bad person, a bad parent or even that they are going crazy or are insane. It is used by perpetrators to take away a person’s independence, confidence and self-esteem, which helps the perpetrator maintain power and control in the relationship.
Psychological abuse signs and symptoms often start small as the perpetrator “tests the waters” to see what their partner will accept. Before long though, the psychological abuse builds into something that can be frightening and threatening. It includes bullying and gaslighting and can lead to anxiety, chronic depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Verbal abuse
Verbal abuse is when a perpetrator uses words as a weapon to cause significant damage. It is a key feature of emotionally abusive relationships and can lead to physical violence. A perpetrator may also use silence and withdrawal as a means of abuse and punishment.
Some of the signs can include: name calling; continuous criticism; yelling, insulting or swearing; telling a partner what to wear; preventing a partner from seeing their friends and/or family; blaming a partner for the problems in the relationship; comparing a partner to others to undermine their self-esteem and self-worth; making a partner feel guilty; intimidating; and threatening suicide.
- Physical assault
Physical abuse is when a person uses physical force or violence against another person. Physical abuse can include pushing, shoving, hitting, punching, slapping or shaking; kicking; hair-pulling; spitting or biting; punching; attempted strangulation, driving dangerously; sleep and food deprivation and abuse of children or pets. It can also include threats to destroy or actually destroying possessions.
- Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse takes two main forms. The first is any form of forced or unwanted sexual activity. This can include rape; unwanted touching; forcing a partner to perform sexual acts; unwanted exposure to pornography; and forced sex without protection. The second form (and less commonly recognised) is withholding of sex as a form of punishment. The perpetrator uses sex as a means of control and manipulation, and to coerce compliance.
- Financial abuse
Financial abuse can be subtle, with a perpetrator gradually taking control over bank accounts and financial transactions; or it can be obvious, violent and threatening with a perpetrator forbidding their partner from working or spending their wages. It can include the perpetrator taking full control of all the finances, spending and decisions about money so the victim is financially dependent on their partner; denying them access to money, including their own; providing inadequate resources; using credit cards and spending without permission; and refusing to work or contribute to household expenses.
- Digital abuse
Digital abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. Often this behaviour is a form of verbal or emotional abuse perpetrated online. Digital abuse can include being told who you can and can’t be friends with on social media; sending negative, insulting or threatening emails, or other messages; sending unwanted explicit pictures or videos and pressuring you to send them in return; constantly messaging you, making you fear being separated from your phone; and regularly looking through your phone to check pictures, messages and calls.