Becoming aware of the forms that abuse can take helps you to be better prepared to recognize such behavior as abusive. Once you are able to label abuse, you can begin to take steps necessary to stop it from happening or repeating.
Child abuse is any behaviour that harms a child (in this case anyone under 18). It can take many forms, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse, as well as neglect and exploitation. Types of child abuse include physical, sexual, psychological/emotional, and neglect (failing to provide a child with the things they need to grow, such as shelter, food, hygiene, supervision, medical attention, education or safety).
Financial abuse can be subtle, with a perpetrator gradually taking control over bank accounts and financial transactions. Financial abuse can also be obvious, violent and threatening. For example, someone may forbid their partner from working or spending their wages.
Financial abuse includes:
- someone taking complete control of finances and money
- restricting access to bank accounts
- providing an inadequate allowance and monitoring what their partner spends money on
- forbidding a partner to work
- taking a partner’s pay and not allowing them to access it
- preventing them from getting to work by taking her keys or car
- identity theft to secure credit
- using their credit card without their permission
- refusing to work or contribute to household expenses
Verbal Abuse occurs when one person uses words and body language to inappropriately criticize another person. Verbal abuse often involves ‘putdowns’ and name-calling intended to make the victim feel they are not worthy of love or respect, and that they do not have ability or talent. The perpetrator consistently makes statements that negatively label a person. Verbal abuse is dangerous because it is often not easily recognized as abuse, and therefore it can go on for extended periods, causing severe damage to victim’s self-esteem and self-worth.
Verbal abuse can include:
- continuous criticism, swearing and humiliation in public or in private
- attacks on someone’s intelligence, body or parenting
Image and social-media abuse
Image-based abuse is when someone shares, or threatens to share, intimate photos without the consent of the person in the photo.
Image-based abuse includes photos or videos of:
- A nude person
- A person whose breasts or genitals are visible
- A person engaged in a sex act
- A person showering or bathing
- Taking photos up someone’s skirt or down their top
- A person’s face digitally added to a pornographic or sexualized image.
Physical abuse happens when a person uses physical force against another person. Physical abuse can start slowly and inconspicuously, for example with throwing an object or a slap, and get more intense or worse over time. Actual physical abuse may involve simple slaps or pushes, or it may involve a physical beating and real physical damage sufficient in some cases to require hospitalization. In particularly violent instances, people can die from the injuries they sustain while being physically abused.
Physical abuse includes:
- shaking, slapping, pushing, punching or scratching
- spitting or biting
- trying to strangle or choke
- using weapons
- driving dangerously
- destroying property and throwing things
- abuse of children or pets
- locking someone out of their house or in the house
- sleep and food deprivation
- forced feeding
- physical restraint e.g. pinning against the wall or bed.
Psychological, emotional, and/or mental abuse
Psychological abuse occurs when the abuser controls information available to the victim so as to manipulate that person’s sense of reality. Psychological abuse does not leave physical scars but it takes away a person’s independence, confidence and self-esteem. Someone experiencing emotional abuse can feel anxious, depressed and even suicidal.
Psychological/emotional abuse includes:
- blaming a partner for all the problems in a relationship
- constantly comparing them with others to undermine their self-esteem and self-worth
- usually being in a bad mood
- intentionally embarrassing them in public
- name calling
- yelling, insulting or swearing at them
- controlling a woman’s finances
- telling them what to wear
- preventing them from seeing her friends and family
- threatening suicide
- making them feel guilty when she refuses sex
- threatening to report her immigration status
- online humiliation and intimidation.
Sexual abuse is any form of forced or unwanted sexual activity. The perpetrator of sexual abuse may use physical force, make threats or take advantage of a person unable to give consent. It includes any sort of unwanted sexual contact perpetrated on a victim by an abuser. Molestation, incest, inappropriate and date rape are all instances of sexual abuseSexual abuse has impacts on a person’s physical and emotional health and can lead to long-term mental health issues, including anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sexual abuse includes:
- deliberately causing pain during sex
- assaulting the genitals
- forced sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- forcing someone to perform sexual acts
- using sexually degrading insults
- unwanted touching
- unwanted exposure to pornography
- sexual jokes
- withholding sex as punishment
- using sex to coerce compliance
Perpetrators of social abuse prevent a person from spending time with family and friends, and participating in social activities. By isolating them from their support networks, the perpetrator is attempting to assert power and control.
Without a network of friends and family for support, a person can find it very difficult to leave an abusive relationship.
Social abuse can include:
- monitoring someone’s phone calls and emails
- deciding which friends and family members your partner can talk to and spend time with
- continuously criticising your partner’s friends and family
- not allowing your partner to meet or spend time with neighbours
- moving the person far away so they cannot reach family or friends
- verbally and/or physically abusing them in public or in front of other people.
Stalking happens when a person intentionally and persistently pursues someone against their will. The stalker does this to control, intimidate and create fear in the person they are stalking. The person being stalked may feel like they are in danger. Anyone can be a victim of stalking. Perpetrators include current or former partners, relatives and strangers. In Australia, stalking is a crime.
A stalker may:
- make repeated phone calls
- send numerous text messages
- loiter outside or near a person’s home or work
- leave messages on social networking sites, such as Facebook
- leave notes on a person’s car
- leave flowers at a person’s home
- follow or continually stare at the person they are stalking
- monitor a person’s use of technology, including phone, email and other communications.
Abuse is never right, never justified, and never legal.
If you require assistance or would like to talk to a trained professional about abuse, the following resources are available to you.
- Ending Violence Association of Canada. http://endingviolencecanada.org/getting-help/
- Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention. Canadian Red Cross. https://www.redcross.ca/how-we-help/violence-bullying-and-abuse-prevention/educators/child-abuse-and-neglect-prevention
- Assaulted Women’s Helpline. http://www.awhl.org/