Domestic abuse or relationship abuse is a way one partner uses power to control another partner in an intimate relationship.

Most people know what physical abuse is. It can cause physical pain, and leave bruises and scars. But domestic violence also includes behaviors that arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish, or force them to behave in ways they do not want. Just because someone doesn’t need to seek medical attention after being abused, doesn’t mean they aren’t being abused. 

Abuse can include the use of sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse, and economic deprivation. Many of these different forms of domestic violence/abuse can happen in one intimate relationship.

Domestic abuse does not discriminate. Anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender can be a survivor – or perpetrator – of domestic violence. It can happen to people who are married, living together, or who are dating. It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

Some people stay in abusive relationships because they believe that there is no help out there, but this is not the case at all. There is help.


Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can include any type of physical harm to another person, such as:

  • Kicking, punching, slapping, hitting
  • Forcing a partner to use substances
  • Controlling medication or refusing medical care
  • Strangulation
  • Burning
  • Using weapons, such as knives or guns
  • Mental abuse

Emotional Abuse

Mental or emotional abuse is a form of domestic violence when a partner uses words and emotions to control their loved one. Some of the tactics used include:

  • Degradation
  • Causing undue fear
  • Stalking
  • Isolation or refusing to let the person go anywhere
  • Humiliating or shaming the person
  • Intimidating the person
  • Showing extreme jealousy
  • Blaming your partner for everything
  • Insulting or calling names
  • Making the person feel bad about themselves

Financial Abuse

If your partner has control over your finances and how money is spent, or causes you to lose your job, this is financial abuse. When one person has control of all the bank accounts and how money is used, this can be considered abuse. Some examples include:

  • Deliberately making a person's credit score go down
  • Controlling all the household finances and not allowing you to use your own money
  • Harassing your partner at work
  • Hurting your partner so they cannot work

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is not really about sex, but about power and control. When a person forces their partner to perform any kind of sexual act or sexual behavior without their consent, it is domestic violence in the form of sexual abuse. Some of these are:

  • Convincing the person to have sex without birth control
  • Physically hurting the person while having sexual relations
  • Having sexual activity with someone who is not coherent, intoxicated, or afraid to say no
  • Making a person have sex with others against their will

Child Abuse

Child abuse is also a form of domestic violence. It can include psychological, sexual, or physical mistreatment of a child. This can be done by the parent or any caregiver of the child. It may be something that is done to or something withheld from the child that can cause some type of harm. Any child could be the victim of abuse. Children that are hard of hearing have been found to be at higher risk of abuse. People with disabilities may also be at a greater risk. Some examples of child abuse include:

  • Beating, hitting, kicking, slapping
  • Choking, strangling
  • Burning
  • Pulling hair
  • Shaking
  • Throwing, dropping
  • Biting
  • Scratching or pinching
  • Forcing the child to eat or swallow dangerous things (spices or soap)

Child Neglect

Child neglect can be complicated and has different categories. They include:

  • Emotional neglect by not providing support and nurturing
  • Lack of medical care
  • Physical neglect includes not providing basic necessities like a safe home and healthy food
  • Supervisory neglect is when the parent ignores things their child is doing that can cause them harm
  • Abandoning or leaving your child alone for long periods of time

Elder Abuse

Elder or adult abuse is usually done by family members but can also be done by any caregiver. Similar to children, many older adults are helpless and susceptible to physical, mental, financial, and sexual abuse or neglect. The abuse can include things like:

  • Physical abuse – inflicting pain or physical restraint
  • Mental or emotional abuse – causing humiliation, degradation, or other emotional trauma
  • Financial or material abuse – withholding or taking funds from the elderly person
  • Sexual abuse – any type of sexual contact with the elderly person that is not consensual
  • Neglect – withholding care or medication

The Effects of Abuse

Different people have different reactions to experiencing abuse. Some people may come through abuse with very little effects at all, but most have mental scars and possibly physical scars as well. The physical scars of domestic violence are usually visible right away, such as:

  • Bruises, cuts, burns
  • Broken bones
  • Black eyes
  • Tooth loss
  • Head trauma or brain damage
  • Blindness

The psychological scars of abuse may take longer to manifest and may last forever if treatment is not received. Some of the most common psychological scars from domestic violence include:

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Depression
  • Acting out (misbehaving, getting in trouble with police)
  • Risky behavior and/or sexual promiscuity
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Mood or personality disorders
  • Fear of relationships
  • Lack of self-esteem

Treatment for Abuse Victims

There is counseling for every type of abuse from physical, sexual, psychological, and even financial abuse. The best way to help is to talk about it with a caring professional. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.