Domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behavior, including sexual violence. When people think of the terms associated with domestic violence, they often think of battery and physical blows. This also helps to perpetuate the myth that only women are abused by their partners. However, there are many other types of abuse; silent abuse that leaves emotional scars instead of physical wounds. Emotional abuse is much harder to pinpoint, and misleadingly perceived less harmful as that of a physical nature. Listed below are the different types of abuse and how to spot the red flags.
Different types of abuse and how to identify them:
Many of us enjoy being able to control our lives, as much of the science of anxiety is centered around the ability to control one’s environment and reactions to triggers. However, control becomes dangerous when it becomes a way for an abuser to dominate the life of a victim. Some signs of control abuse:
- Randomly checking in during the day to ensure his/her partner is where he/she should be.
- Not allowing goals, hobbies or ambitions outside of the relationship.
- Invading privacy by not allowing space.
- Deciding how the partner should dress, style his/her hair and behave in general
- Using the children to spy on the victim parent
- Threatening to kidnap, hurt or even kill the children and threats to call child protective services if the abused leaves the relationship.
Physical violence may place an individual at higher risk, simply because it faster leads to lethal outcomes. Physical violence includes:
- Any physically aggressive behavior, withholding of physical needs, indirect physically harmful behavior, or direct threats of such.
- Slapping, kicking, biting, shaking, pushing, pulling, punching, choking, beating, scratching, pinching, pulling hair, stabbing, shooting, drowning, burning, hitting with an object, threatening with a weapon, or threatening to physically assault.
- Deprivation or rationing of physical needs including sleep or food; transportation, or help if sick or injured; or locking victim into or out of the house.
- Abusing, injuring, or threatening to injure others like children, pets, or special property.
- Forcible physical restraint against the victim’s will; being trapped in a room or having the exit blocked; being held down.
- Hitting or kicking walls, doors, or other inanimate objects during an argument, throwing things in anger, destruction of property.
- Holding the victim hostage.
The forcing of sex on someone as a tool for intimidation or exploitation. There is a misconception that once a person has consented previously or when they are married that they should always be available for sexual intercourse. This is not correct; approval is needed every time. Sexual abuse can be both verbal as well as physical. A person may be able to identify sexual abuse by searching the following list, noting that it is not limited to just this list.
- Using force, pressure, guilt, or manipulation or not considering the victim’s desire to have sex. This may include making the victim have sex with others, have unwanted sexual experiences, or be involuntarily involved in prostitution.
- Exploiting someone who is unable to make an informed decision about involvement in sexual activity because of being asleep, intoxicated, drugged, disabled, too young, too old, or dependent upon or afraid of the perpetrator.
- Laughing or making fun of another’s sexuality or body, making offensive statements, insulting, or name-calling in relation to the victim’s sexual preferences/behavior.
- Making contact with the victim in any nonconsensual way, including unwanted penetration (oral, anal or vaginal) or touching (stroking, kissing, licking, sucking or using objects) on any part of the victim’s body.
- Exhibiting excessive jealousy resulting in false accusations of infidelity and controlling behaviors as an excuse to limit the victim’s contact with the outside world.
- Having affairs with other people and/ or using that information to taunt the victim.
- Withholding sex from the victim as a control mechanism.
Emotional abuse is usually the targeted manipulation of a person’s more vulnerable characteristics, i.e. insecurity. People who are emotionally abused are not an easier target than anyone else, nor should they be considered less or weak-willed. Anyone can suffer emotional abuse, from a partner or any other closely involved person. Obvious signs of emotional abuse include but are not limited to:
- Issuing insults or criticism to undermine the victim’s self-confidence (includes public humiliation, and deliberate actual or threatened rejection).
- Threatening or accusing, either directly or indirectly, with intention to cause emotional or physical harm or loss, such as threatening to kill the victim, or commit suicide, or both.
- Using reality distorting statements or behaviors that create confusion and insecurity, by stating untrue facts as truth; or neglecting to follow through on stated intentions. This can also include denying the abuse occurred, accusing the victim of fabricating it; or crazy-making behaviors like hiding the victim’s keys and berating him/her for losing said keys. This is also referred to as gaslighting.
- Consistently disregarding, ignoring, or neglecting the victim’s requests and needs.
- Using actions, statements or gestures that attack the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth with the intention to humiliate.
- Tring to convince the victim of being mentally unstable, or incompetent.
- Forcing the victim to take drugs or alcohol.
- Prohibiting the victim from practicing his/her religious beliefs; isolating him/her from the religious community; or using religion as an excuse for abuse.
- Using any form of coercion or manipulation that may disempowering to the victim.
Keeping people inaccessible from anyone, especially those who love them, is a very powerful tool in abuse and manipulation, and it goes hand-in-hand with controlling behavior. It is thought that if a victim is kept far away from others they are less likely to build up the courage to leave an unscrupulous situation.
- Isolation often begins as an expression of love, with statements like, “If you really loved me you would want to spend time with me, not your family”, and progresses with expanded isolation, limiting or excluding contact with anyone but the abuser.
- In limiting a person’s freedom and choice of who to see, what to do, and even how to think, feel or set goals; the perpetrator is isolating the victim from the resources (personal and public) required to leave the relationship.
- A victim may also develop self-isolation from the shame of evident bruises; a fear of public humiliation; or to evade the possibility of (further) maltreatment. The victim may also feel guilty for the abuser’s behavior, the condition of the relationship, or a myriad of other reasons, depending on the messages received from the abuser.
Coercion, Threats, & Blame.
Using words can either uplift or destroy someone. When an abuser decides to use embarrassing, threatening and degrading words toward their partner in the attempt to keep them in line.
- Yelling, screaming, rampaging, terrorizing or refusing to talk
- Name calling (‘ugly’, ‘nasty’, or ‘stupid’)
- Telling the victim that he/she is unattractive or undesirable.
- Threats to hurt or kill the victim or his/her children, family, pets, property or reputation.
While both men and women do experience abuse, majority of the victims are female. We live in a very male-dominated society, and in some places it is the law that men have more rights than women. While not every woman in society has experienced abuse, statistics do indicate that one out of three have and many women have the lingering fear that it could happen to them.
Four widespread cultural conditions allow and encourage men to abuse women. These are:
- Objectification of women, and the belief that women exist for the ‘satisfaction of men’s personal, sexual, emotional and physical needs’.
- An entitlement to male authority with a right and obligation to control, coerce, and/or punish a woman’s independence.
- That the use of physical force is acceptable, appropriate, and effective.
- Societal support for his dominance, controlling and assaultive behavior: failing to aggressively intervene against the abuse, is condoning the violence.
This is very straightforward in that one person in the relationship controls the finances and does not allow the other to make financial or economic decisions. Signs include, but are not limited to:
- Controlling the family income and, either curbing the victim’s access to money or rigidly limiting access to family funds;
- Keeping financial secrets or hidden accounts; putting the victim on an allowance or omitting the victim’s opinion of how money is spent;
- Compelling the victim to turn over his/her paycheck to the perpetrator;
- Causing the victim to lose a job by triggering late arrivals at work; refusing to provide transportation to work; or by calling/harassing the victim at work.
- Spending money reserved for necessities (food, rent, utilities), on nonessential items (drugs, alcohol, hobbies)
While stalking is seldom acknowledged as domestic abuse, it actually is. In general stalking is linked to strangers, usually criminals or people who are obsessed; some intimate relationships may become abusive to the point that the abuser feels compelled to secretly follow the victim around so as to always know the whereabouts of said victim. This can also occur when an individual chooses to leave a relationship, but the partner refuses to let go.
Stalking may come in the form of:
- Mailing cards or other cryptic messages
- Breaking windows, breaking into or vandalizing partner’s home or vehicle
- Randomly showing up at locations the person is known to frequent
- Taking partner’s mail, or stealing other possessions
- Leaving things, such as flowers on doorstep or at work
- Watching partner from a distance
- Following partner with a vehicle or on foot
- Hiding in bushes or other surrounding areas of partner’s home
- Surveillance of partner at work
- Not respecting visitation limitations
- Harassing telephone calls or notes
- Violation of restraining orders