What is Abuse?

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The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines domestic abuse as “a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.”  

Domestic abuse isn’t just black eyes and broken bones.  There are many ways that men abuse women in order to maintain power and control.

Types of Abuse

1. Physical Abuse

 When we think of domestic violence, we naturally think it is when a man “puts his hands on a woman.”  It is true that he can punch, slap, choke, kick, push, grab, etc. in order to maintain control.  

But physical abuse goes beyond just violence against the woman.  It also includes various types of intimidation, like destroying property, punching walls, making threats of violence, hurting pets, or brandishing weapons. 

He doesn’t have to physically hurt you in for it to be considered physical abuse.  Any kind of violence or threat of violence against you is physical abuse. 

2. Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical violence, and perhaps more so, because the wounds aren’t visible and generally aren’t considered to be against the law (hopefully this will change soon).

Examples of emotional abuse are name calling, gaslighting (or making you feel crazy), humiliating, guilt tripping, blaming.  The abuser works to exert power and control by destroying your confidence and trust in yourself so that you are more compliant and submissive.  

Emotional abuse is so dangerous because it often causes depression, anxiety, and can lead to suicide.  Often times, women say that emotional abuse is worse than physical abuse.  

3. Economic Abuse

Economic abuse can be the primary reason that women can’t leave an abusive situation.  Here, a man will use finances to exert control over a woman by controlling if she can get a job, making her ask for money, giving her an allowance, keeping her from having any access to the family income.  

Without economic resources of her own, a woman will become reliant on the man for basic necessities and it can be difficult to have enough money to leave the situation without external help.

4. Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves forcing the woman into sexual acts without her consent.  Examples could be forcible rape, demanding sex, or using threats or guilt tripping to coerce the woman into having sex.

Even in a marriage, a woman doesn’t have to have sex unless she wants to.  With sexual abuse, the woman may feel obligated to have sex whenever the man requests it to avoid escalation or other abuse.  

There’s More

These are four main types of abuse, but these barely scratch the surface of all the ways men try to maintain control and power over their partners.  Other methods include isolation, minimizing or blaming, using children, etc.   

What if I’m being abused?

If you are being abused, the most important thing to consider is your safety.  It is not uncommon for men to increase abuse to dangerous and violent levels in order to maintain control. 

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at1-800-799-7233 or visit your local domestic violence shelter for more information on how to stay safe and leave your situation.

Learn more about Surviving Abuse.


The National Domestic Violence Hotline. “Abuse Defined.” https://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/

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