One of the most common misconceptions about domestic violence is that it has to be physical. While there’s no doubt that hitting, pushing, biting–and worse–are all abusive behaviors, they’re not the only ways that someone can be abusive. Abuse usually includes more than just physical violence. For example, research shows that 95% of men who physically abused their victims also psychologically abused victims.
The trauma from non-physical forms of abuse is real and may be made worse by people refusing to acknowledge it. It’s crucial for people who experience abuse like that below to seek resources and protection from further abuse.
Mental or psychological abuse attempts to control the person’s thinking. It can include making threats, making someone doubt things they’ve experienced, lying, and other manipulation tactics. This type of abuse can happen over the phone or via text, not just in person.
Emotional abuse is closely related to mental abuse and focuses on eroding a person’s self-esteem and emotional well-being. Humiliation, yelling, insulting, ignoring, intimidating, lecturing, using sarcasm, infantilizing a person, blaming the victim, accusing the person of certain behaviors, including abuse itself, and trivializing the victim’s feelings. Physical actions such as breaking things or harming other people or animals–or threats of doing those–can also be mental abuse.
Stalking, where someone maintains physical or visual proximity to the victim or their immediate family, causing fear of harm, can be emotional abuse. But it might also be physiological if the stalker lies about their behaviors.
Financial or economic abuse is a tactic for the abuser to gain power and control in the relationship. It can include preventing someone from acquiring a job, forcing them to quit, getting them fired, preventing a person from having financial input, and limiting their access to money and information about finances. Hiding assets or stealing are also examples of financial abuse, as is spending money intended for necessities on other things. Victims of financial abuse may not have the resources to leave the situation and find themselves trapped with their abuser.
Sexual assault is a type of sexual assault where someone touches or forces someone else to touch them sexually without consent. Sexual abuse may involve physical force, coercion, or altering someone’s state of mind with drugs or alcohol to make them easier to manipulate. Attempts also fall into this category, as does sexually exploiting someone else. Having (or threatening) to have an affair and use the details against a person or denying sex are also sexually abusive.
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