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Types of Abuse


The following are behaviors abusers might use against their victims.

Because each relationship is different, every victim may not experience ALL the various types of abuse, but repeated use of one or more behavior is not uncommon.

Domestic violence typically increases in frequency and severity over time.

Physical Abuse
  • …can be defined as intentional, unwanted physical contact.
    • Examples include punching, hitting, pushing, kicking, biting, burning, pulling hair, grabbing clothing, choking, strangling, restraining, and using weapons.
Sexual Abuse
  • …can be defined as any sexual behavior that is unwanted or interferes with a person’s right to say “no” to sexual activities.
    • Examples include unwanted touching, threatening or forcing someone to perform or watch sexual acts, taking pictures or recording sexual activities without someone’s consent, and purposely exposing someone to sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Verbal Abuse
  • …can be defined as (non-physical) spoken behaviors that work to threaten, insult, humiliate, intimidate, blame, judge, or gaslight.
    • Examples include name-calling, use of profanity, unfounded accusations, yelling/flying into rages, diminishing accomplishments, degrading someone in public, and cruel/hurtful remarks.
Emotional Abuse
  • …can be defined as trying to control or manipulate another person’s feelings or behaviors.
    • Examples include put-downs, lack of trust/suspicion, threatening, ignoring, isolating, criticizing, following/stalking, minimizing, or denying behaviors, and explosive or critical reactions to name a few.
Economic Abuse
  • …can be defined as controlling financial decisions that impacts the family dynamic.
    • Examples include not letting someone have their own money, giving someone an “allowance”, forcing or not allowing someone to work, ruining credit, running up debt, hiding assets, sabotaging someone’s efforts to have a job including interfering with childcare arrangements, employers, and transportation.
Property Abuse
  • …can be defined as destroying property often that is essential and/or sentimental.
    • Examples include stealing or destroying belongings such as clothing or electronics, damaging vehicles or homes, and hurting or refusing pets food, water, shelter, or medical attention.
Digital Abuse
  • …can be defined as the use of technologies to intimidate, harass, stalk, and/or manipulate.
    • Examples include controlling someone’s online friends/followers, sending someone negative, insulting, or threatening emails, messages, and/or tweets, keeping tabs on someone through technology, looking through someone’s phone frequently, and demanding or insisting access to someone’s passwords.

The Power and Control Wheel helps us understand the different ways an abusive partner can use power and control to manipulate a relationship. Each part of the wheel explains different tactics perpetrators use both physically and mentally.