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The Four Types of Domestic Abuse

Abuse Can Take Many Forms


Young couple fighting
Jamie Grill/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Domestic abuse is a growing problem that affects millions of people in all kinds of relationships including traditional marriages, same-sex partnerships or even relationships where there is no sexual intimacy involved.

Physical violence, of course, is the most blatant form of domestic abuse, sometimes called intimate partner violence. But physical abuse is not the only form of domestic abuse.

Four Main Types of Abuse

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, intimate partner violence means physical, sexual or psychological harm inflicted by a current or former spouse or partner.

According to the CDC, these are the four main types of intimate partner violence:

Physical Violence - This mean intentionally using physical force to harm, injury, disable or kill. It can involve using a weapon or restrains or merely using body, size or strength to harm another person. Physical violence can include:

  • Burning
  • Biting
  • Choking
  • Grabbing
  • Punching
  • Pushing
  • Throwing
  • Scratching
  • Shoving
  • Shaking
  • Slapping

Sexual Violence - Sexual abuse not only includes forcing someone to have sex, but it can also include having sex with someone who is unable to refuse due to disability, illness, intimidation or the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

There are three main categories of sexual abuse:

  • Using physical force to compel someone to have sex against their will, whether the act is completed or not.

  • Attempting or having sex with someone who is unable to understand the nature of the act or unable to decline participation or is unable to communicate their unwillingness.

  • Abusive sexual contact of any kind.

Threats of Violence - The use of words, gestures, motions, looks or weapons to communicate a threat to harm, injure, disable, rape or kill them. The act does not have to be carried out for it to be abusive behavior.

Psychological and Emotional Abuse - Using acts, threats of acts or coercive tactics to cause someone emotional trauma. If there has been previous physical or sexual abuse in the relationship, any further threat of abuse is considered psychological or emotion violence.

Psychological abuse can include:

  • Humiliation
  • Controlling what the victim can and cannot do.
  • Withholding information.
  • Diminishing or embarrassing the victim.
  • Isolating the victim from friends and family.
  • Denying the victim access to money or other resources.

Get Help Immediately

Research shows that domestic violence usually gets progressively worse. Rarely does it stop because the abuser promises that it will never happen again. If you are in an abusive relationship, there are many resources available to help you. Please seek help today.

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