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Types of Abuse

Abuse can take many forms and involve much more than just physical violence, making the task of identifying and stopping it that much harder. Some types of abuse are more subtle and less obvious, which can cause them to continue for years unnoticed by others.

As one of the nation’s first dedicated women’s shelters and advocates for victims of domestic violence, we know that the best way to fight back against abuse is through open discussions and clear education on the matter. Familiarize yourself with these common types of domestic abuse so you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

Physical abuse is among the most common forms of abuse, as well as one of the most dangerous. It consists of literal acts of violence taken against the victim and affects an estimated 25% of women in the country.


  • Pushing
  • Pinching or biting
  • Slapping, beating, or kicking
  • Choking
  • Backing you into a corner
  • Pinning you down
  • Throwing objects
  • Pulling your hair
  • Holding you captive
  • Breaking down a door to get to you
  • Preventing you from eating or sleeping
  • Locking you out of the house
  • Forcing your car off the road
  • Abandoning you in dangerous places
  • Keeping you from getting medical care
  • Spitting on you
  • Using or threatening to use a weapon against you
  • Driving at unsafe speeds to intimidate you
  • Refusing to help you when you are sick, injured, or pregnant
  • Withholding medications or medical treatment
  • Animal cruelty towards pets
  • Stalking

Identifying verbal abuse is challenging for some due to the seemingly benign nature of some comments. However, there is a clear line between harmless banter and harmful language meant to demean, degrade or control someone.


  • Degrading you in front of friends and family
  • Telling hurtful “jokes” despite your requests to stop
  • Taking your statements out of context
  • Name calling
  • Yelling
  • Using “backhanded complements” to tear down your self-esteem
  • Insulting your appearance or performance
  • Public or private humiliation
  • Criticizing your actions
  • Blaming you for events or actions out of your control
  • Accusing you of things you haven’t done
  • Questioning your sanity

Identifying signs of psychological abuse is a delicate manner, as this type of abuse deals with harming a victim’s mental state through both verbal and physical actions. The end result causes the victim to look at their world differently, and can make it incredibly difficult to even acknowledge that the abuse is taking place.


  • Breaking promises, not following through on agreements, or not taking the fair share of responsibility
  • Isolating you from family and friends
  • Controlling what you do, who you talk to, and where you go
  • Making threats against you
  • Attacking your vulnerabilities, such as your language abilities, educational level, skills as a parent, religious and cultural beliefs, or physical appearance
  • Playing mind games, such as undercutting your sense of reality
  • Forcing you to do degrading things
  • Ignoring your feelings
  • Using reckless behavior or the threat of harm to control and intimidate you
  • Withholding approval or affection as punishment
  • Regularly threatening to leave or telling you to leave
  • Accusing you of cheating or having an affair
  • Always claiming to be right
  • Being unfaithful after committing to monogamy
  • Blaming you for mistakes or accidents that are not your fault

Sexual abuse can affect both women and men, regardless of age or sexual orientation, and in some cases may also involve children. It may not always involve the act of sexual intercourse, but does involve actions and situations of a sexual nature.


  • Unwanted touching
  • Demanding sex
  • Forcing sex
  • Name-calling with sexual epithets
  • Demanding sex after a violent incident
  • Forcing you to engage in prostitution or pornography
  • Forcing you to have sex with others besides your partner
  • Insisting on anything sexual that frightens or hurts you
  • Refusing to use safe sex practices
  • Preventing you from using birth control
  • Controlling your decisions about pregnancy and/or abortion
  • Withholding sex as a form of control
  • Videotaping or photographing sexual acts and posting it without your permission
  • Alleging that you have a history of prostitution on legal papers
  • Claiming that there is no such thing as rape within a marriage or legal union
  • Telling you that “the law” states you must continue to have sex until you are divorced

Though it may never include any direct actions towards a victim, financial abuse is among the most effective forms of control an abuser may use. This type of abuse focuses on removing the victim’s financial independence or ability to earn a separate income.


  • Preventing you from having or keeping a job
  • Interfering with your efforts to maintain a job by sabotaging childcare, transportation, or other arrangements
  • Harassing you at work
  • Not including you in family financial decisions
  • Refusing to work
  • Not allowing you access to the family finances
  • Making you ask for money
  • Taking your money
  • Demanding an account of everything you buy
  • Controlling your access to financial information
  • Not allowing you to talk to others about money
  • Not allowing your name to be on accounts, which would allow you to build credit
  • Forcing you to put your name on accounts and then destroying your credit
  • Making fun of your financial contribution and belittling your efforts
  • Expecting you to behave in a certain way because you make less money or are not the “breadwinner”
  • Destroying or interfering with homework
  • Preventing you from learning English
  • Forcing you to work “illegally” when you do not have a work permit
  • Threatening to report you to INS or the IRS if you work “under the table”
  • Taking the money you planned to send to family members in another state or country
  • Forcing you to sign papers in English that you do not understand, such as court papers, IRS forms, or immigration papers
  • Harassing you at the only job you can work at legally in the U.S., so that you lose that job and are forced to work “illegally”

As knowledge is one of the greatest assets anyone can possess, and one of the most important keys to independence and freedom, many abusers use academic abuse to prevent any form of educational growth.


  • Preventing you from working on papers or studying for tests
  • Saying you don’t love your partner if you spend time on your education instead of spending time together
  • Calling you at all hours, especially before tests and other important academic assignments
  • Blaming you for poor grades
  • Monitoring your behavior during class or taking all of the same classes as you
  • Belittling your academic focus and choices
  • Making fun of you for studying too much

Technological abuse is a growing threat that is more dangerous now than ever, thanks to the advent of social networking websites, email and smartphones. This type of abuse can involve direct control over your actions and life choices, or be used as a form of cyberstalking to monitor your behavior.


  • Monitoring your email communications
  • Sending you repeated emails or instant messages
  • Taking control of your online accounts to post false information
  • Using your online identity to send your personal information and/or picture to sexually oriented or pornographic sites
  • Using social networking sites, like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, to get information about you or to monitor your friends
  • Accessing your online accounts to track who sends you messages
  • Sending you repeated text messages
  • Using GPS devices to monitor your location
  • Posting false or offensive comments on your public social media profiles to shame or embarrass you
  • Intimidating or bullying you through online interactions, also known as cyberbullying

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the types of abuse listed above, please call our free and confidential Hotline at 412-687-8005 ext. 1, or toll free at 877-338-TALK (8255).

Our expert staff of trained professionals is here to offer help or more information about domestic abuse and intimate partner violence.