While the term “domestic abuse” is most often used to describe physical violence between spouses, the truth is that it encompasses several different types of abuse, each with their own warning signs and effects.
In fact, domestic abuse can be broken down into four basic categories:
Physical Abuse – This type of spousal abuse is one of the most devastating and can lead to serious injury, permanent disabilities and even death. Physical abuse is the use of violence or force against another person, typically a spouse or life partner when speaking of domestic violence although it can also refer to other members of the household, including children. Physical abuse can be anything from grabbing and biting to slapping, hitting as well as choking and threatening with a weapon.
Physical abuse is considered to be assault and battery and is punishable by law.
Emotional Abuse – Emotional abuse is actually one of the most common types of abuse and one of the most overlooked. Emotional abuse can be verbal or non-verbal and it can have long-lasting and crippling results. This type of abuse devalues the victim through actions, statements and behaviors that question her self-worth. Someone who has been emotional abused for a long period of time will likely have no self-confidence and see no way out of the situation. Emotional abuse can range from name-calling and verbal insults to intimidation, isolation and humiliation.
Sexual Abuse – Sexual abuse often accompanies physical abuse and increases the risk of suffering serious injury or death. Sexual abuse includes both degrading and sadistic sexual acts as well as forced sexual relations, even if the victim has previously had consensual sex with the abuser. Like physical violence, sexual abuse is punishable by law.
Economic Abuse – While not as popularly known, economic abuse is real and often accompanies one or more other types of abuse. In this instance, the abuser exercises his “right” to control by limiting economic independence.
This can include an insistence to control the finances as well as sabotaging efforts to secure or maintain employment outside the home. The abuser may also insist that his victim be given an “allowance” and typically requires the abused to account for her spending. Abusers may also steal from their victims, sell their belongings and even withhold necessitites such as food and clothing as punishment.
While the above-listed categories represent the different types of abuse, many victims find themselves suffering from a mix of the above. Most abusers will employ more than one abusive tactic. For example, someone who emotionally abuses will often abuse economically as well. In addition, one type of abuse can easily lead to another so someone suffering emotional abuse can suddenly find that the abuser has escalated to physical abuse as well.
If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, you should read How to Stop Domestic Violence and seek help from local law enforcement or social services. You may also find this book on domestic abuse to be helpful.