When you hear the term "domestic abuse," what do you picture? A husband hitting his wife, perhaps, or a wife humiliating her husband in public. Most people don't know that there are several distinct kinds of domestic abuse, and they're all incredibly hurtful and damaging. Some aren't as obvious as others, so it's incredibly important to be able to distinguish and recognize each one.

1. Economic abuse

Economic abuse is coercive, controlling behavior of another without their consent in a way that denies them economic or financial autonomy. Though forcing a spouse to give up control of their income is an alarming relationship behavior, many would not associate it with domestic violence. Yet family and relationship experts, in addition to courts of law, include it as one type.

Economic abuse can be carried out in many ways, including coercing a person to sign a loan or contract. It can also include taking or disposing of valuable possessions without consent or preventing someone from seeking or keeping employment. In essence, the abuser forces the victim to become financially dependent by taking away their financial freedom.

2. Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is any act involving confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation or other treatment that belittles a person's sense of identity, dignity and self-worth. It's also known as psychological abuse or chronic verbal aggression.

It's important to know the signs of emotional abuse. These can include (but are not limited to):

  • Yelling or swearing

  • Name calling, insults or mocking

  • Threats and intimidation

  • Ignoring or excluding

  • Isolating

  • Humiliating

  • Being in denial of the abuse and blaming of the victim

It's also important to know what emotional abuse is not. It is not emotionally abusive to speak one's mind bluntly, break up with a partner or argue with a partner. There's a blurry line when it comes to yelling, most psychologists agree.

Many times, emotional abuse is not as obvious as other forms of abuse. This can lead to both the abuser and the victim being unaware that abuse is taking place.

3. Physical abuse

Physical abuse involves a person using physical force against another, causing or potentially causing bodily harm. This can include scratching or biting, pushing or shoving, slapping, kicking, choking, throwing objects, force feeding or denying food, using weapons, physically restraining and reckless driving.

This type of abuse is probably the most commonly acknowledged and easiest to spot. It typically starts with smaller things, such as slapping or pushing, and escalates over time to more harmful forms.

4. Psychological abuse

Psychological abuse is a form of mistreatment with the intent to cause mental or emotional pain or injury. Signs of psychological abuse include:

  • Name calling

  • Yelling

  • Insulting the person

  • Threatening the person or threatening to take away something that is important to them

  • Imitating or mocking the person

  • Swearing at them

  • Ignoring

  • Isolating the person

  • Excluding them from meaningful events or activities

There's a bit of a grey area differentiating between psychological and emotional abuse - they sometimes overlap. This type of abuse is often manifested in snide comments such as "Let me do the talking; people don't listen to you," "Keep your stupid thoughts to yourself" or "You'll never understand."

5. Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity that involves force, making threats or taking advantage of victims that aren't able to give consent.

Sexual abuse is often lumped in with physical abuse, but it's unique harm warrants a separate category. When we hear "sexual abuse," we often picture a woman being abused by a surprise stranger, but it also occurs often within the walls of people's homes with their own partner.

It's important for partners to remember that an agreement to a relationship does not mean a complete handover of sexual rights. Romantic partners should remember to respect each other, especially when it comes to sexual activity, and not do anything involving force or taking advantage of each other.

If any of these forms of abuse sound familiar to you personally, please seek help. Talk to trusted friends and family and contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1−800−799−7233). You deserve to be in a relationship that makes you feel happy and healthy.

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