While abuse is often stereotypically portrayed in only one manner, as physical violence, there are actually several types of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is a problem that affects millions of people in all types of relationships — traditional marriages, same-sex partnerships, and relationships where there is no sexual intimacy involved. The United States Department of Justice defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”
The Types of Domestic Violence
According to the U.S. DOJ, five types of domestic violence exist, and each has a devastating effect on those involved — including witnesses of the abuse. These include:
The use of physical force against another. Examples include hitting, shoving, grabbing, biting, restraining, shaking, choking, burning, forcing the use of drug/alcohol, and assault with a weapon. Physical violence may or may not result in an injury that requires medical attention.
The violation of an individual’s bodily integrity (sexual assault), including coercing sexual contact, rape and prostitution, as well as any unwelcome sexual behavior (sexual harassment), including treating someone in a sexually demeaning manner or any other conduct of a sexual nature, whether physical, verbal or non-verbal. Sexual abuse also includes behavior, which limits reproductive rights, such as preventing use of contractive methods and forcing abortion.
Making or attempting to make the victim financially dependent on the abuser. Examples of this include preventing or forbidding an intimate partner from working or gaining an education, controlling the financial resources and withholding access to economic resources.
Intimidation, threats of harm and isolation. Examples include instilling fear in an intimate partner through threatening behavior, such as damaging property or abusing pets, constant supervision or controlling what the victim does and who they talk to.
Further, spiritual abuse may be included as a type of psychological abuse. It involves the misuse of spiritual or religious beliefs to manipulate or exert power and control over an intimate partner. For example, using scripture to justify abuse or rearing the children in a faith or religious practice the partner has not agreed to.
Undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth. Examples of emotional abuse include constant criticism, name-calling, embarrassing, mocking and humiliating.
How to Recognize Domestic Abuse
These types of domestic abuse have many shades and variations, carefully customized by the abuser to use in his or her quest for power and control. Warning signs that a relationship may be abusive include a partner who:
- Makes you feel like you’re never right
- Is unreasonably jealous of other relationships
- Questions time you spend away from them
- Discourages other relationships, including with family
- Shames you
- Frightens you
- Makes you feel like you can’t make decisions
- Controls your actions and/or finances
- Threatens your children or pets, or hurts them
- Sexually mistreats you, or pushes you into sexual acts you’re not comfortable with
- Physically threatens you, or hurts you
Family and friends can also help identify abuse by addressing changes in a loved one’s behavior, such as:
- Inconsistent explanations: Victims may provide different excuses for the causes of their injuries due to fear of alerting others to the severity of their situation.
- Alcohol abuse: Victims may use alcohol or other substances as a means to escape from their everyday reality of abuse.
- Visible injuries: Bruises are the most common form of injury and turn purple to green to yellow as they heal.
How to Get Help
A common misconception surrounding these types of domestic violence is that the victim is not strong enough to leave, but it’s far more complex than that. Walking away from an abusive relationship is a process more than a single action. Victims usually make several attempts before they leave the abuser for good. That’s why community support is so important.
If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence, you are not alone. These three resources are just some of many that can help victims and survivors of domestic violence find support and assistance in their communities.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233): Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, this line is a resource for safety information and can connect any caller with shelters and protection advocates in her area.
- VINE: Active in 47 states, VINE allows victims to search for an offender in custody by name or identification number, then register to be alerted if the offender has been released or transferred, or has escaped.
- Women’s Law: This site has state-by-state legal information and resources for victims, as well as advice on how to leave an abusive situation, gather evidence of abuse, and prepare for court.
Remember, You Come First
If you’re trying to decide whether to stay or leave, you may be feeling confused, uncertain, frightened, and torn. One moment, you may desperately want to get away, and the next, you may want to hang on to the relationship. Maybe you even blame yourself for the abuse or feel weak and embarrassed because you’ve stuck around in spite of it.
Don’t be trapped by confusion, guilt, or self-blame. The only thing that matters is your safety or the safety of the victim you are concerned about. Focus on getting help and protecting yourself and those around you who are being impacted by these types of domestic violence.