Home > Learn more about domestic violence > Types of abuse

Types of abuse

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in a dating or domestic relationship. This abuse can be physical, sexual, verbal or emotional, or a combination of some or all of these.

Physical abuse is any intentional unwanted contact with the victim's body by either the abuser or an object within the abuser's control. Physical abuse does not have to leave a mark or bruise. Any intentional, unwanted, offensive contact is abuse.

Examples:
  • Scratching
  • Biting
  • Pinching
  • Pulling hair
  • Pushing
  • Slapping
  • Punching
  • Kicking
  • Burning
  • Choking
  • Shoving
  • Using a weapon

Sexual abuse is any sexual behavior which is unwanted and which interferes with the victim's right to say "no" to sexual advances.

Examples:
  • Date rape
  • Unwanted kissing or touching
  • Forcing the victim to do anything sexually (even if the abuser and the victim have done that same sexual act before)
  • Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity
  • Refusing to let the victim use birth control or protection against sexually transmitted diseases

Verbal/emotional abuse is anything that the abuser says or does to the victim which causes the victim to be afraid, lowers the victim's self esteem, or manipulates the victim's emotions in order to control the victim's behavior.

Examples:
  • Name-calling
  • Put-downs
  • Insulting remarks about the victim, the victim's family or friends
  • Yelling and screaming
  • Threats of violence and harm
  • Racial slurs
  • Intentionally embarrassing the victim in front of other people
  • Isolating the victim from friends and family
  • Telling the victim what to do
  • Making the victim feel responsible for causing the violence
  • Stalking
  • Harming or threatening to harm the victim's pets
  • Threatening to commit suicide
  • Threatening to expose the victim's secrets (such as personal/private sexual information, sexual orientation, or immigration status)
  • Threatening to take away the victim's children

©1998-2003 Break the Cycle. All Rights Reserved.