Forms of Abuse

Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional (intimidation, denigration, humiliation), economic, or social (isolation of the victim).

Because in intimate relationships the abusing partner usually knows the victim well, it is possible to be hurtful in ways tailored to the particular person. Any vulnerability can be exploited; for instance, threats to expose an undocumented partner to deportation or to "out" a gay or lesbian partner.

The CDC includes in their definition: physical violence, sexual violence, threats of physical or sexual violence, and emotional/psychological violence.

Physical violence is the most obvious. As indicated above, not all physically aggressive behaviors are part of a pattern of coercive control or abuse.

Sexual violence includes a wide range of behaviors. A partner may be forced to have sex or perform certain kinds of sexual acts against their will. Other kinds of sexual abuse include denial of contraception, or being forcibly subjected to pornographic or violent sexual material. It may also include use of the internet for sexual violence, e.g. sending nude photos .

Emotional/psychological violence includes systematic verbal humiliation and/or intimidating threats aimed directly at the partner or at what is precious to the partner. It may include attacks against property or pets. It may include threats of suicide or harm to self or to children or other family members.

In addition, we include:

Economic abuse means control of financial resources in a way that blocks the partner's access to them when needed. It may include denying access to money or credit cards; refusing to pay bills; denying food, clothing, and/or transportation.

Social abuse means isolation of the victim, blocking access to social supports and resources. Possessiveness, jealousy, suspicions of sexual infidelity or emotional disloyalty, and/or extreme demands for the partner's time and attention result in the partner's increasing isolation.

Stalking can be a form of psychological abuse and/or include threats of violence. This includes cyber-stalking, such as constant texting or hacking into social network sites

Power and Control Diagram

Image courtesy Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, 202 East Superior Street, Duluth, MN 55802,