To be harmful, abuse doesn’t have to be just physical or sexual. Psychological abuse in an intimate relationship — abuse of power or control — can be just as detrimental to physical and mental health.
Domestic abuse, also called intimate partner violence, is a pattern of abuse used by one person to control another. This may lead to hitting, hurting, or threatening a partner or spouse. Though often it is physical, abuse may also take the form of controlling, spying on, insulting, or taking sexual advantage of the spouse or partner. If there is a pattern of abuse, the abused partner should seek help.
Types of Abuse
Sexual Abuse: Any form of nonconsensual sexual contact (any unwanted sexual contact). Examples include unwanted touching, rape, coerced nudity, and sexually explicit photographing.
Physical Abuse: When someone causes intentional bodily injury. Some examples include slapping, pinching, choking, kicking, shoving, or inappropriately using drugs or physical restraints.
Emotional/Psychological Abuse: A chronic pattern of manipulation that can be verbal or nonverbal. The aim is to lower your sense of self-worth and chip away your independence. A partner or someone close to you may:
- Call you names or yell at you
- Shame you
- Blame you
- Constantly criticize
- Damage your relationship with others and isolate you
- Threaten to hurt you, themselves, or others
- Hurt your pets, children, or destroy property
Financial Abuse: When someone uses money to gain control over a person. They may take over one’s bank account or steal one’s identity to rack up debt. Selling or taking one’s property without permission also counts as abuse.
Abuse can occur within any kind of relationship, whether familial, professional, or social. It can also occur between strangers, although this pattern tends to be rarer.
Effects of Abuse
Abuse in any form or context can harm an individual. Even after the abuse has stopped, survivors can still experience distress. Abuse survivors have a higher risk of mental health concerns. They may experience one or more of the following issues:
- Dissociation (numbness, confusion, and out-of-body experiences)
- Mood Issues
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Self-Destructive Behaviors
- Trust Issues
If You’re Experiencing Abuse
Therapy can help abuse survivors leave unhealthy relationships or recover from their experiences. However, sometimes an abusive situation evolves into a life-threatening emergency. If you or someone you know is in danger, please call 911 or your local law enforcement.
The following resources can also help people experiencing abuse:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
- Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453
The abused person is never at fault. Fights and arguments happen in every relationship. But a pattern of abusive words and behavior is not normal and it’s not acceptable. You don’t have to go through this alone. Talk to a qualified therapist who will listen without judgment.