Non-Physical Domestic Abuse Definitions

Types of Domestic Abuse

When the general public thinks about domestic violence, they usually think in terms of physical assault that results in visible injuries to the victim. This is only one type of abuse. There are several categories of abusive behavior, each of which has its own devastating consequences. Lethality involved with physical abuse may place the victim at higher risk, but the long term destruction of personhood that accompanies the other forms of abuse is significant and cannot be minimized.

Types of Abuse:

  • Control
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse & Intimidation
  • Isolation
  • Verbal Abuse: Coercion, Threats, & Blame
  • Using Male Privilege
  • Economic Abuse

Controlling behavior is a way for the abuser to maintain dominance over the victim. Controlling behavior, the belief that they are justified in the controlling behavior, and the resultant abuse is the core issue in domestic violence. It is often subtle, almost always insidious, and pervasive. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Checking the mileage on the odometer following their use of the car.
  • Monitoring phone calls, using caller ID or other number monitoring devises, not allowing the victim to make or receive phone calls.
  • Not allowing their freedom of choice in terms of clothing styles or hairstyle. This may include forcing the victim to dress in a specific way such as more seductively or more conservatively than they are comfortable.
  • Calling or coming home unexpectedly to check up on them. This may initially start as what appears to be a loving gesture, but becomes a sign of jealousy or possessiveness.
  • Invading their privacy by not allowing them time and space of their own.
  • Forcing or encouraging dependency by making the victim believe they’re incapable of surviving or performing simple tasks without the abuser or on their own.
  • Using the children to control the victim parent by using the children as spies, threatening to kill, hurt or kidnap the children, physical and/or sexual abuse of the children, and threats to call Department of Child Safety (DCS, formerly CPS) if the mother leaves the relationship.

According to the AMEND Workbook for Ending Violent Behavior, emotional abuse is any behavior that exploits another’s vulnerability, insecurity, or character. Such behaviors include continuous degradation, intimidation, manipulation, brainwashing, or control of another to the detriment of the individual(AMEND 3). This may include but is not limited to:

  • Insulting or criticizing to undermine the victim’s self-confidence. This includes public humiliation, as well as actual or threatened rejection.
  • Threatening or accusing, either directly or indirectly, with intention to cause emotional or physical harm or loss. For instance, threatening to kill the victim or themself, or both.
  • Using reality distorting statements or behaviors that create confusion and insecurity in the victim like saying one thing and doing another, stating untrue facts as truth, and neglecting to follow through on stated intentions. This can include denying the abuse occurred and/or telling the victim they’re is making up the abuse. It might also include crazy making behaviors like hiding the victim’s keys and berating them for losing them.
  • Consistently disregarding, ignoring, or neglecting the victim’s requests and needs.
  • Using actions, statements or gestures that attack the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth with the intention to humiliate.
  • Telling the victim they’re mentally unstable or incompetent.
  • Forcing the victim to take drugs or alcohol.
  • Not allowing the victim to practice their religious beliefs, isolating them from the religious community, or using religion as an excuse for abuse.
  • Using any form of coercion or manipulation which is disempowering to the victim.

Isolation is a form of abuse often closely connected to controlling behaviors. It is not an isolated behavior, but the outcome of many kinds of abusive behaviors. By keeping the victim from seeing who they want to see, doing what they want to do, setting and meeting goals, and controlling how the victim thinks and feels, the perpetrator is isolating the victim from the resources (personal and public) which may help them leave the relationship. By keeping the victim socially isolated the batterer is keeping the victim from contact with the world which might not reinforce the perpetrator’s perceptions and beliefs. Isolation often begins as an expression of their love for the victim with statements like, “if you really loved me you would want to spend time with me, not your family”. As it progresses, the isolation expands, limiting or excluding their contact with anyone but the batterer. Eventually, the victim is left totally alone and without the internal and external resources to change their life.
Some victims isolate themselves from existing resources and support systems because of the shame of bruises or other injuries, the perpetrator’s behavior in public, or the perpetrator’s treatment of friends or family. Self-isolation may also develop from fear of public humiliation or from fear of harm to themselves or others. The victim may also feel guilty for the abuser’s behavior, the condition of the relationship, or a myriad of other reasons, depending on the messages received from the abuser. Coercion, Threats, & Blame: Verbal abuse is any abusive language used to denigrate, embarrass or threaten the victim. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill the victim or her children, family, pets, property or reputation.
  • Name calling (‘ugly’, ‘bitch’, ‘whore’, or ‘stupid’)
  • Telling victim they’re is unattractive or undesirable.
  • Yelling, screaming, rampaging, terrorizing or refusing to talk

Financial abuse is a way to control the victim through the manipulation of economic resources.
This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Controlling the family income and either not allowing the victim access to money or rigidly limiting their access to family funds. This may also include keeping financial secrets or hidden accounts, putting the victim on an allowance or allowing the victim no say in how money is spent, or making them turn their paycheck over to the perpetrator. Causing the victim to lose a job or preventing them from taking a job. The abuser can make the victim lose their job by making them late for work, refusing to provide transportation to work, or by calling/harassing/calling them at work.
  • Spending money for necessities (food, rent, utilities) on nonessential items (drugs, alcohol, hobbies.)

Material from the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh Volunteer Training Manual, AMEND, and the ACESDV safety plain manual were used to develop this section.