What Is Abuse?
Abuse is the crime or crimes that involve harm or maltreatment inflicted on a family member, past or present romantic partner and others. In both dating and marriage relationships there can often be a pattern of abusive behavior that ranges from verbal abuse to murder and includes emotional abuse such as intimidation and threats, assault and battery (with or without a deadly weapon), sexual abuse (i.e. spousal rape or date rape), isolation or financial abuse.
Types of Abuse
Physical Abuse: any intentional unwanted contact with a victim by an abuser or an object within the abuser’s control. Physical abuse does not have to leave a bruise or mark nor does it always have to hurt.
- Pulling hair
- Throwing objects at victim
- Using weapons
Legal Abuse: abusers often use control victims by using the legal system, making the victim feel trapped and causing them to live in fear.
- Falsely reporting the victim to law enforcement
- Threatening deportation
- Threatening to report drug abuse
- Threatening to make reports to social service agencies causing benefits to be cut off.
- Filing orders of protection against the victim making the victim look like the violent one
- Instituting legal procedures the victim cannot afford to fight
- The abuser accuses the victim of abuse.
Financial Abuse: the intentional withholding money or the sabotaging of financial stability of the victim by the abuser
- Being given an allowance (lunch money, groceries)
- Not given access to accounts (checking, savings, credit card)
- Not allowed to have a job or restricts the number of hours a victim is allowed to work.
- Refusing to work and assist with expenses or causing additional expenses for the victim.
- Preventing victim from getting job training or education.
- Not listing the victim as an owner on the home, car, and insurance policies.
- Threatening to take the victim off of the medical insurance.
- Threatening to stop paying bills.
Sexual Abuse: any type of unwanted sexual contact. Not all sexual assaults are violent “attacks”. Forcing or pressuring someone to do sexual acts they do not want to do or do not consent to is sexual assault.
- Unwanted kissing or touching
- Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity
- Rape or attempted rape
- Keeping someone from protecting themselves from unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections and/or diseases.
- Sexual contact with someone who is very drunk, drugged, and unconscious or is unable to give a clear informed yes or no.
- Threatening or pressuring someone into unwanted sexual activity.
Emotional/ Verbal Abuse: anything an abuser says or does to a victim to control or manipulate the victim’s behavior or feelings, cause them to be afraid, lower the victim’s self-esteem.
- Yelling and screaming
- Name calling and insults or put downs
- Intentionally embarrassing the victim
- Using online blogging, chatting or other internet activities to control, humiliate or intimidate the victim.
- Using cell phones to control, humiliate, or intimidate the victim.
- Bossing the victim around.
- Making the victim feel responsible for the violence / abuse.
- Stalking a victim.
- Manipulating the victim by threatening to commit suicide( If you….I’ll kill myself or If you don’t….I’ll kill myself)
- Threats of violence and/ or harm
- Threaten to expose the victim’s secrets (sexual orientation
- or immigration status or personal information)
- Threaten to take victim’s children away
- Threaten to harm family members
- Keeping victim from seeing or talking to friends and family
Emotional and verbal abuse silently attacks the self-worth of a human being. Emotional and verbal abuse does not leave physical bruises for anyone to see or notice. There are no black or blue scars or marks. Words that demean, blame, threaten, embarrass or unfairly criticize, inflict emotional abuse. Emotional abuse also includes neglect and withholding affection or love as means of punishment. Statistics show that most often it is women and children that suffer emotional abuse.
Victims of emotional abuse frequently display behaviors such as depression, feeling ashamed, assuming responsibility for abuser’s behavior, “walking on egg-shells to try to not upset abuser and are usually very nervous in the presence of the abuser.
Children will often exhibit low self-esteem, destructive behavior, take out anger on younger siblings or animals, withdrawal, and poor social skills.
Belittling "puts down" the victim and invalidates her opinions or feelings. Or it may be designed to tell the victim that her concerns or accomplishments are insignificant. Belittling statements may be patronizing put-downs such as, "Well, that's nice that it gives you something to do."
Some belittling statements include:
- You can't take a joke.
- You're too sensitive.
- You don't know what you're talking about.
- You're making a big deal out of nothing.
- You always have to have something to complain about.
Countering and Correcting
Countering shuts down the discussion and opposes denies the victim's reality. The abuser argues against her thoughts, her opinions, and her reality. By negating her views, the abuser feels he is maintaining his control and dominance over her.
Put-downs disguised as jokes often refer to woman’s gender, to her mental abilities, or to her competency. This can include statements such as:
- You need a keeper!
- What else can you expect from a woman?
- You couldn't find your head if it wasn't attached.
The abuser who refuses to share himself with his partner, who ignores or refuses to listen to her, or who refuses to share information is violating the premise of a relationship. Holding back emotional support erodes confidence and determination. Holding out includes refusal to communicate, and statements such as:
- There's nothing to talk about.
- You wouldn't be interested.
- It's none of your business.
Side-Tracking and Shutting Down
Forcing the discussion off track, shutting it down, or changing the subject are ways to control and frustrate the conversation. Sometimes accusing and blaming are used to hijack the discussion and throw the victim off balance. Some shutting-down statements are:
- You're just trying to have the last word.
- I don't want to talk about it anymore.
- Just drop it!
Many abusers blame their partner for their anger, irritation, or insecurity. Telling the victim that the abuse is her fault confuses her and puts her on the defensive. An abuser may accuse the victim of the very actions done by the abuser himself. (This can be very "crazy-making.") Some blaming phrases include:
- It's all your fault.
- You're just trying to pick a fight.
- If you weren't so...
Most statements that begin with the word "you" or "always/never" signal abusive faultfinding and criticism. Faultfinding veiled in help or advice is abusive.
- You’re always so…..
- Why can’t you just?
- You should just let me do that.
Intimidation usually comes through words or actions that threaten or imply harm or loss. It is designed to control and gain power through fear.
Insulting and Labeling
Insulting names and personal "labels" are abusive, as are demeaning sexual references.
- Dingbat, air-head
- Slut, bi*&%, broad
- Stupid, ugly, fat
Abusers may "conveniently forget" or change the facts. This selective memory can be used to deny, twist, and rewrite reality (this is often makes a victim think they’re crazy). Selective memory is signaled by statements such as:
- I don't know what you're talking about.
- I never said that.
- You're making that up.
When a partner commands or demands instead of respectfully asking, they deny the worth and independence of the victim.
Lashing out at someone is never justified. Angry verbal attacks, yelling, raging, and temper tantrums can be effective ways to intimidate and control others.