Have you ever been confused about what actually represents domestic violence? You’re not alone. Definitions of domestic violence can be tricky to understand, as there are many different forms that it can take. Most people think of domestic violence in terms of physical abuse, but it also includes emotional abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and more. Different organizations and jurisdictions may have slightly varying definitions and classifications of domestic violence. It’s important to educate ourselves on what constitutes domestic violence so that we can recognize it when we see it and effectively support people who suffer from it. While the terminology surrounding domestic violence may seem overwhelming, taking the time to learn about the different types and definitions can make a world of difference in supporting those impacted by this serious issue.
Let’s talk about a few different forms of domestic violence.
Physical abuse is a deliberate and violent act committed against an individual, with the intent of causing them physical harm or injury. It involves using physical force to intimidate or dominate another person, often resulting in serious injury or even death in severe cases. Physical abuse can take many forms, including hitting, slapping, punching, kicking or choking a person. It can also involve the use of weapons such as knives or other objects to inflict harm upon the person. This form of abuse can result in bruises, broken bones, abrasions, and internal injuries which can have lasting effects on the person’s health and well-being.
Emotional abuse is characterized by the repeated mistreatment, manipulation, or belittlement of an individual in order to wear away their self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Emotional abusers use a range of tactics to wear down their victim, often undermining their trust in themselves and others through isolation, verbal attacks, threats and various other forms of intimidation. This type of abuse can leave long-lasting emotional scars that impact all areas of life – from relationships to work performance – and can make it difficult for individuals to feel safe and secure around others.
Psychological abuse, while very similar to emotional abuse, involves patterns of behavior that are designed to harm a person’s entire mental health and well-being. This may include gaslighting, which involves manipulating a person’s sense of reality, denying their experiences, and making them doubt their own perceptions. Psychological abuse may also involve prolonged and severe criticism, humiliation, and degradation, which can leave the person feeling powerless and alone. One of the main differences between emotional and psychological abuse is the degree of control that the abuser exerts over the person. Emotional abuse often involves a degree of control, but the abuser usually does not have complete control over the person. Psychological abuse, on the other hand, involves a much higher degree of control, as the abuser seeks to shape their person’s perception of themselves and the world around them.
Sexual abuse is any unwanted, non-consensual sexual activity, such as sexual assault, rape, molestation, or harassment. It can also include a person taking advantage of someone while they are drunk or otherwise not likely to give consent, denying a person contraception or protection against sexually transmitted diseases, taking any kind of sexual pictures or film of someone without their consent, forcing someone to perform sexual acts for money or other types of gain, or making any kind of threats – even threatening to break up with someone – if the person refuses sex. These are all forms of sexual abuse. People who sexually abuse others cross all socioeconomic, educational, gender, age, and cultural lines. Sexual abuse often causes severe emotional trauma and can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and more.
Financial abuse is a form of domestic violence that involves the use of money and other financial resources to control or manipulate a person. It can take many forms, including denying access to funds, stealing money or property, forging signatures on financial documents, using credit cards without permission, and forcing someone to work against their will. Financial abuse often goes hand in hand with emotional and physical abuse as part of an overall pattern of coercive control. People may be left feeling helpless and trapped, unable to escape due to financial dependence on their abuser.
Other types of Abuse
Aside from physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and financial abuse, it’s important to note that other forms of abuse also exist. For example, spiritual abuse is where a person uses their position of authority within a religious context to manipulate and control others by instilling fear into them. In addition, technology abuse takes place in today’s digital world where perpetrators use online platforms to harass, stalk, blackmail or exploit people. Cultural abuse can also be a form of domestic violence in which a person is causing harm to someone based on their underrepresented identity, causing them to feel ashamed or humiliated. Stalking behaviors is yet another form of abuse that can be involved in domestic violence situations.
Because domestic violence can take many forms, it is essential for anyone who suspects that they or someone they know is suffering from abusive behavior to seek help or support from a trusted professional. Raising awareness and understanding about the types of domestic violence is key to providing assistance to those who need it. By raising awareness about this issue, we can extend our hands to those who suffer in silence and provide them with protection and resources needed to break free from abuse.
Written by Lauren Presutti