What Is Domestic Violence – Abuse Defined

Abuse Defined

Abuse is a pattern of hurtful behavior that one partner in an intimate relationship uses to control the other.

In the past it was believed that abuse was the result of one person becoming angry and “losing control”. Now we know that abuse is actually a way that a person attempts to gain control over their intimate partner. Abuse can take many forms.

Examples of Abuse –

* Please note that this list does not encompass all types or tactics of abuse but provides a variety of examples. Also, it is not necessary for you to identify with several of the examples in order to be in an unsafe situation.

Psychological/Emotional Abuse:

  • Jokes, insults
  • Ignores feelings
  • Withholding approval as punishment
  • Put downs of your roles or abilities
  • Name calling
  • Repeated insults, labeling
  • Private humiliation
  • Blaming you for the faults or circumstances of the abuser
  • Degrading or controlling your choices (clothing, food etc.)
  • Demanding of all attention
  • Resentful of children
  • Threats against the marriage
  • Threats of outing a partner
  • Sends mixed signals
  • Lack of cause and effect between actions and consequences
  • Unpredictable consequences of actions
  • Claims to forget abusive incidents or denies they occurred
  • Questions your sense of reality
  • Causes you to question sense of reality
  • Minimizes or denies abuse
  • Veiled threats
  • Threats against or to take children
  • Threats to harm you
  • Suicide

Social/Environmental Abuse:

  • Uses gender “myths” and “roles” (society reinforces these)
  • Degrades culture, religion, nationality, profession, gender, and/or sexual orientation
  • Uses culture, religion, nationality, profession, gender, and/or sexual identity to maintain control
  • Destroys/damages items belonging to you
  • Shows of strength
  • Controls major decisions
  • Controls money/finances
  • Falsely tells you that you are the one in control all of the time
  • Threats of outing a partner
  • Makes you economically dependent
  • Tracks you or monitors your activities and/or whereabouts
  • Denies your ability to work/gets you fired
  • Limits your outside activities
  • Threatens to hurt your extended family/friends
  • Eliminates support system
  • Alienates your family/friends
  • Threatens deportation
  • Practices child abuse or incest
  • Destroys/maims/hurts a family pet
  • Tells you that you are hysterical, paranoid, psychotic, mentally ill, suicidal/homicidal
  • Suicide

Physical Abuse:

  • Throwing household items
  • Grabbing, pushing, shoving, shaking
  • Pulling hair
  • Jerking, slapping, biting, pinching
  • Bruising
  • Hitting, punching, kicking
  • Targeted hitting
  • Use of household objects as weapons
  • Throwing you
  • Restraining you
  • Restraining while hitting or punching
  • Physical abuse during pregnancy
  • Deprivation (food, sleep, medical needs, etc.)
  • Strangulation/Hands around your neck
  • Lacerations/Cutting you
  • Imprisonment
  • Broken bones, internal injury
  • Threats or use of conventional weapons, such as guns or knives
  • Disabling, disfiguring permanent injury
  • Murder

Sexual Abuse:

  • Sexual jokes or demeaning remarks toward your sex
  • Name calling, sexual labels
  • Criticizing/Demeaning/Questioning your sexuality
  • Ignoring sexual needs
  • Demanding monogamy from you, while insisting on freedom for self
  • Jealousy, assumes you will be with others sexually
  • Humiliation
  • Unwanted/forced touching
  • Justification of unwanted sexual acts
  • Labeling sexual abuse as consensual behavior
  • Forced to look at/engage in pornography
  • Demanding sex with threats
  • Forced sexual acts
  • Coerced/demanding sex following pregnancy/surgery
  • Rape, forced sex, sex against your will

If you need assistance or if you have questions, call our 24-hour Crisis Hotline
(V/TTY available 8am-5pm)

** reprinted with permission from Eastside Domestic Violence Program, Bellevue, WA