Types of Domestic abuse
Coercive or controlling behaviour is designed to make a person dependent on the perpetrator by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive control works to limit the human rights of the victim by depriving them of their freedom and reducing their ability for action.
Some common examples of coercive behaviour are:
- Isolating someone from friends and family
- Depriving someone of their basic needs, such as food
- Monitoring someone’s time
- Monitoring a person via online communication tools or spyware
- Taking control over aspects of a person’s everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see, what you can wear and when you can sleep
- Depriving access to support services, such as medical services
- Repeatedly putting someone down
- Humiliating, degrading or dehumanising someone
- Controlling finances
- Making threats or using intimidating behaviour
Psychological and/or emotional abuse:
Psychological abuse occurs when one’s feelings, thoughts, preferences, desires, needs, appearance or friendships are trivialized or made to appear inconsequential relative to the abusers. In other words, the abuser constructs the relationship and the world of the victim according to their terms and conditions over that of the abused and for their own gratification, which is often simply control over the abused.
To hold power over the abused, the abuser will resort to a number of tactics designed to hold them emotionally captive. To this end the abuser may lavish the abused with flattery and praise, complimenting her and making her feel remarkably indebted for the special, often overly generous attention. At the same time, the abuser may make the abused feel like she is the only person who understands him or is special to him. Unfortunately, her significance to his well-being becomes a weapon to use against her later.
If she tries to escape the relationship, he may then try to hold her emotionally hostage by positioning her as ungrateful for his special attention and hurtful to him when she is the only person in whom he can confide and gain support and understanding. Thus, the grip of the abuser tightens and the abused feels guilty and/or ashamed for hurting or abandoning this fellow who has lavished her with such special attention.
Physical or sexual abuse:
Physical abuse is physical trauma or injury inflicted on purpose. Injuries are often the result of, but not limited to, choking, punching, kicking, biting, burning, beating, or use of an object to inflict harm. Physical abuse can result in bruises, abrasions, burns, broken bones, or internal haemorrhages.
While physical injury may be the most obvious danger, emotional and psychological consequences of abuse are also severe. In its most severe form, physical abuse is likely to cause great bodily harm or even death. Possible signs that a person may have been physically abused include:
- Dressing in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)
- Having frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”
- Being depressed, anxious, or suicidal
- Frequently missing work, school, or social occasions, without explanation
- Seeming afraid or anxious to please their partner
- Going along with everything their partner says and does
- Checking in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing
- Receiving frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner
- Talking about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness
- Having very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident
- Showing major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn)
Sexual abuse is any undesired or non-consensual sexual activity. Sexual abuse can occur in or outside of romantic relationships and is never acceptable.
Possible signs that a person has been sexually abused include:
- Any sexualised activity that includes coercion (force, threats, bribes, manipulation, drugs, etc.)
- Sexual activity when one party is impaired (drugs/alcohol, intellectually disabled, physically disabled, etc.)
- Exposure to sexual activity (live or in media)
Financial or economic abuse:
It’s important to understand that financial abuse doesn’t tend to happen in isolation. In most cases perpetrators use other abusive behaviours to threaten and reinforce the financial abuse.
Financial abuse involves a perpetrator using or misusing money which limits and controls their partner’s current and future actions and their freedom of choice. It can include using credit cards without permission, putting contractual obligations in their partner’s name, and gambling with family assets.
Financial abuse can leave the victim with no money for basic essentials such as food and clothing. It can leave them without access to their own bank accounts, with no access to any independent income and with debts that have been built up by abusive partners set against their names. Even when a survivor has left the home, financial control can still be exerted by the abuser with regard to child maintenance.
Harassment and stalking:
Stalking is a pattern of persistent and unwanted attention that makes you feel pestered, scared, anxious or harassed. Some examples of stalking are:
- Regularly giving unwanted gifts
- Making unwanted communication
- Damaging property
- Repeatedly following you or spying on you
Taken in isolation, some of the behaviours may seem like small acts, but together they make up a consistent pattern of behaviour that is frightening and upsetting. It’s important to know that stalking is a criminal offence. If you go to the police as a victim of stalking, they will take it seriously.