Forms of Abuse

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Last week we looked briefly at the types of abusers most often encountered. This week we will look at numerous, common types of abuse. People are complex, multifaceted, and creative… unfortunately so are the many forms abuse can take. This list tried to be thorough, but it is by the nature of human flexibility, incomplete. 

  • Emotional abuse is exercising control on another person by using that person’s emotions of shame, criticism, self image, guilt, and blame. A relationship is considered to have emotional abuse if  a partner continuously faces abusive language and behaviors that simply deteriorate one’s self-esteem and mental health. It is often difficult to recognize compared to other abuses because of hidden meanings and manipulation tailored to the victim’s context of reality and perception. Look for patterns of:
    • Gaslighting
    • Name calling
    • Contempt
    • Silent treatment (Stonewalling)
    • Withholding affection
    • Always being watched / tracked
    • Being made to feel guilty for engaging in behaviors that had been agreed upon

 

  • Verbal abuse occurs when a person perpetuates negative or abusive language to degrade someone’s identity or make another person doubt themself. Communication is important in any relationship, silencing the voice of someone in a relationship is insidious. Look for:
    • Screaming or swearing
    • Constant corrections when speaking
    • Interrupting
    • Sarcasm
    • Judgement
    • Intimidation or threats
    • Humiliation, especially in public or through “jokes”
    • Using partners to also attack a partner

 

  • Physical abuse is the most recognized form of abuse and occurs when one person uses physical force to harm another person through pushing, scratching, kicking, slapping and physically restraining. Often abusers test limits by beginning with pushing. Once a person has choked someone, the likelihood the victim will be killed skyrockets. Look for:
    • Bruises, black eyes, cuts, and uncharacteristic rope marks
    • Broken personal belongings such as eye glasses or torn clothes
    • Sudden behavior changes such as “flinching” or anxiety.
    • Out of place usage of heavy makeup, longer sleeved clothes, hats, or glasses.
    • Frequent sudden cancellations of plans to attend BDSM munches, polyamorous get togethers, or swinger dates.

 

  • Financial abuse. It occurs when one person interferes or self sabotages to control someone’s financial stability. Victims are usually kept from working, gaining education, or having any separation of finances. According to a recent survey conducted by Financial Security (2020) stated that 99% of abuses involve financial abuse along with physical, emotional and verbal abuse (Tracy, 2012). The abuser may also hide financial details, provide money for only basic necessities then require receipts, or quit their own job to keep a household oppressed. In polyamorous relationships this is sometimes done so dates become too expensive and be used as a form of social embarrassment and control. Look for:
    • Adults on allowances or budgets
    • Pressure to quit jobs or obtain education
    • Limiting who’s name are on important documents
    • Spending someone’s money or shared resources without notice
    • Only one person can afford to date

 

  • Reproductive abuse also known as reproductive coercion shows in several ways including force, threats, or sabotaging which affects an individual’s choice of whether or not to have children. These behaviors can be used to manipulate a partner to maintain a relationship the want out of or extort them. Look for:
    • Pressure to have (risky) sex, have a child
    • Pressure to have an unwanted abortion
    • Using sex as a form of manipulation to end conflict rather than engaging in processing the conflict
    • Purposefully exposing partner to STIs
    • Sabotaging or secretly introducing forms of birth control
    • Sexual assault or rape
    • Reports they are infertile, but are

 

  • Relational aggression is social abuse perpetrated by an individual or group which includes bullying or manipulation to produce social exclusion of an individual. Damaging one’s reputation in small, tight knit communities can leave individuals vulnerable and isolated. Look for:
    • Communities with strong cliques
    • Frequently forming “secret” groups displaying negativity, often reformed excluding former members
    • Groups whose practices only focus on punishment or exclusion without any restoration
    • Amateur “courts” with conflicts of interest
    • Rumors and gossiping about a single person where one is encouraged not to discuss what has been heard with the person being talked about
    • Public humiliation
    • Requests or demands for individuals to be excluded from open events
    • Cyberbullying
    • Attempts by individuals or groups to influence social leaders to disavow or exclude others
    • Dog piling

 

Again, as long and exhausting as this list is, it is not exhaustive, with many other forms of abuse in use which can include abuse of authority, dominance, information, power, rank, trust, academia, religious, hazing, legal, material, and societal… to still list only some.  In general abuse can be identified by:

  • Projection or blaming
  • Isolation
  • Irrational jealousy
  • physical violence
  • Minimising others
  • Contempt and criticism
  • Withdrawal or withholding

If you or someone you know may be a victim of abuse, I encourage you to discreetly search for or offer local resources and, as safely as possible maintain open, non judgemental lines of communication. Next week we will look more deeply into how one can guard against or help those surviving abuse.