Different Types Of Abuse And Their Impact On You
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated July 15, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Tiffany Howard, LPC, LCADC
Abuse is a traumatic situation. It doesn't matter if you're abused by an intimate partner, parent, or anyone else. Most people are familiar with physical abuse and the pain that it causes, but not as many people are familiar with the emotional pain and mental health challenges that result from other types of abuse. But, just because you can't see the mental and emotional scars of abuse doesn't mean they don't exist.
When it comes to domestic violence, the statistics onabuse are alarming. One in nine men and one in four women have been victims of abuse from an intimate partner. So, when you add in the number of children that are abused by parents or people abused by family members or others, the number increases dramatically. If you are a victim of abuse, you are not alone.
The first thing to do if you are in an abusive situation is to get away. If you are a child or elderly person who is being abused by a caregiver, you need to tell someone right away. There are alternatives and you have options even if your abuser tells you that you do not. That is what they do; they use their power and control to brainwash you into believing that you have no place to go and that nobody will believe you or help you. This is absolutely false in all cases.
No matter what, if you are being abused, someone will help you. If you cannot get away from the person long enough to get help, you can contact someone online that can help. There are professionals that can get you the help you need no matter what is going on. You can work with individuals from the National Domestic Violence Hotline to create a safety plan for yourself. Safety planning allows you to identify ways to protect yourself in your relationship or as you leave it.
And, it doesn't matter if you were recently abused or if the abuse happened decades ago. There are treatments that can help you overcome the trauma that you experienced. Below we'll go over common forms of abuse.
Physical abuse is the form of domestic violence that most people are familiar with. It can include any type of physical harm to another person such as:
- Kicking, punching, slapping, hitting
- Forcing a partner to use substances
- Controlling medication or refusing medical care
- Using weapons on such as knives, guns, or other weapons
Mental or emotional abuse is a form of domestic violence when a partner uses mind games to control their loved one. Some of the tactics used include:
- Causing undue fear
- Isolation or refusing to let the person go anywhere
- Humiliating or shaming the person
- Intimidating the person
- Showing extreme jealousy
- Blaming your partner for everything
- Insulting or calling names
- Making the person feel bad about themselves
Sexual abuse is not really about sex but about power and control. When a person forces their partner to perform any kind of sexual behavior without their consent, it is domestic violence in the form of sexual abuse. Some of these are:
- Convincing the person to have sex without birth control
- Physically hurting the person while having sexual relations
- Having sexual activity with someone who is not coherent, intoxicated, or afraid to say no
- Making a person have sex with others against their will
Child abuse is also a form of domestic violence. It can include psychological, sexual, or physical mistreatment of a child. This can be done by the parent or any caregiver of the child. It may be something that is done to or something withheld from the child that can cause some type of harm. Any child could be the victim of abuse. Children that are hard of hearing have been found to be at higher risk of abuse.
Some of the examples include:
- Beating, hitting, kicking, slapping
- Choking, strangling
- Pulling hair
- Throwing, dropping
- Scratching or pinching
- Forcing the child to eat or swallow dangerous things (spices or soap)
Child neglect can be complicated and has different categories. They include:
- Lack of education; keeping a child home from school
- Emotional neglect by not providing support and nurturing
- Lack of medical care
- Physical neglect includes not providing basic necessities like a safe home and healthy food
- Supervisory neglect is when the parent ignores things their child is doing that can cause them harm
- Abandoning or leaving your child alone for long periods of time
Elder or adult abuse is usually done by family members but can also be done by any caregiver. Similar to children, many elderlies are helpless and susceptible to physical, mental, financial, and sexual abuse or neglect. The abuse can include things like:
- Physical abuse - inflicting pain or physical restraint
- Mental or emotional abuse - causing humiliation, degradation, or other emotional trauma
- Financial or material abuse - withholding or taking funds from the elderly person
- Sexual abuse - any type of sexual contact with the elderly person that is not consensual
- Neglect - withholding care or medication
If your partner has control over your finances and withholds money needed or causes you to lose your job, this is financial abuse which can be a form of domestic violence. Some of the examples include:
- Deliberately making a person's credit score go down
- Controlling all the household finances and not allowing you to use your own money
- Harassing your partner at work
- Hurting your partner so they cannot work
Bullying is mean or aggressive behavior that involves being overpowered. This can be when a single person picks on another or when a group picks on one or more individuals. It usually happens on a regular basis and causes the bullied child or adult to be afraid. There are many groups for youth services that actively work against bullying. Some examples of bullying are:
- Pushing or hitting
- Inciting others to pick on the individual
- Constant ridicule
Who Are the Abusers?
The abuser may be a loved one such as a husband, wife, or intimate partner. Or they could be a parent or grandparent, a sibling, or another relative. It may also be a teacher, coach, or family friend. It is impossible to tell who an abuser may be because many times they are just like anyone else.
However, there are some risk factorsthat you can watch for. Many times, abusers are people that have suffered from abuse in their own past. They may have been cruel to animals or other children when they were young. And, they can have unpredictable behavior. Abusers might believe that they are better than others and suffer from extreme jealousy. They can be known for having a bad temper and being very controlling.
It's important to remember that it can happen in any relationship and that healthy relationships do not include abuse. Do not allow your abuser to convince you that it's OK or normal, or your fault.
The Effects of Abuse
The effects of abuse vary depending on the type, length, and severity of the abuse. It can also vary based on the person that was abused. Different people have different reactions. Some people may come through abuse with very little effects at all, but most have mental scars and possibly physical scars as well. The physical scars of domestic violence are usually visible right away such as:
- Bruises, cuts, burns
- Broken bones
- Black eyes
- Tooth loss
- Head trauma or brain damage
The psychological scars ofabuse may take longer to manifest and may last forever if treatment is not received. Some of the most common psychological scars from domestic violence include:
- Anxiety disorder
- Acting out (misbehaving, getting in trouble with police)
- Risky behavior and/or sexual promiscuity
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Mood or personality disorders
- Fear of relationships
- Lack of self-esteem
Many victims of domestic violence and abuse have post-traumatic stress disorder and do not even know it. The signs of this disorder include:
- Flashbacks and nightmares
- Guilt and shame
- Headaches and memory loss
- Insomnia and extreme fatigue
- Feelings of extreme anger or irritation
- Avoiding people and public places along with an inability to trust anyone
- Depression, anxiety, and stress
- Fear of the unknown
- Unexplained bouts of crying
- Nervousness, shaking, trembling, heart palpitations, and chest pain
- Dizziness or fainting
- Chronic pain
Most victims of abuse will tell you that the psychological scars of abuse are worse than the physical scars because they never go away and even though they are unseen to the naked eye, they are just as painful.
Treatment for Abuse Victims
There is counseling for every type of abuse from physical, sexual, psychological, and even financial abuse. The best way to help is to talk about it to a caring professional, but that is not easy for many victims of abuse. It may take years before a victim is able to talk about what happened to them. In fact, even if the abuse happened 10 or 20 years ago, it may seem like it is still going on for them if they have not gotten treatment.
If you're still in the abusive relationship, an important first step can be creating a safety plan. This can help you to know what steps you can take to remain safe while addressing your situation. Safety planning can help you to feel empowered to protect yourself and take the necessary steps to end the abusive relationships. Whether you're experiencing domestic violence in your marriage, dating violence, or abuse in a different relationship, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you to create a safety plan that you can follow.
One of the most effective treatments for abuse is cognitive behavioral therapy. This is a form of talk therapy that helps you deal with depression and anxiety by interrupting the link between the mind and the body when you are under stress. In other words, it is psychotherapy that teaches you how to focus on your thoughts and behaviors so you can take control of them. It is a way of breaking the connection between your bad memories of the past and the feelings and behaviors of the present and future.
One important fact about abuse victims is that many do not want to leave the safety of their homes. After being in an abusive situation and finally finding a place where they feel safe, many victims have a hard time going outside that space. Therefore, online therapy can be a major blessing for them. Being able to talk to a therapist from the safety of their own home gives people more security, and the chances of their treatment being successful is much higher.
In fact, many victims of abuse cancel their appointments over and over again if they are seeing a therapist outside their home. This is true for many patients with mental health disorders. Online therapy has become a lifesaver to these people and many others like them because they would not have gotten therapy otherwise. BetterHelp is the largest mental health provider in the world and has more than 10,000 licensed professional therapists who can help you. Read below for some reviews on our counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"Dr. Walsh has been very supportive in helping me with abuse issues and depression. She has taken lots of time with me, and I appreciate how far I've come with her guidance."
"Sharon Valentino has helped me through so much! Since we started working together, just a few months ago, I already feel like I have more power and control over my life. I have let go of some very painful things, I have moved away from abusive relationships and really gaining skills and tools I need to keep myself safe and happy. She has taught me that I have the power to control my thoughts, my anxiety, and most of all my company. I really like how direct she is, it helps me get grounded and connect to myself. I can't wait to see where I am after working with her a year!!!"
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 4 types of abuse?
The four main types of domestic abuse are often listed as physical, sexual, emotional, and neglect. However, the power and control wheel shows that there is more to domestic violence than many people realize. And, many are unfamiliar with the signs of abuse outside of physical abuse.
Physical abuse involves physically harming the victim. This is the form of domestic violence that most people are familiar with which can make it easier to recognize. Sexual abuse includes everything from rape to forcing the victim to watch sexually explicit material. Emotional abuse can include things like lying, threatening, and playing mind games with the victim. Neglect includes not caring for the victim in the appropriate way.
What role does the US government play in helping fight abuse?
The US Government's Department of Justice works to enforce the law, including to protect victims of abuse. There are agencies under the Department of Justice that work in this area including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office on Violence Against Women.
What is the Power and Control Wheel?
The Power and Control Wheel is a tool that can be used to help people to recognize patterns of abuse. Many people think of domestic violence as only physical violence. This is one of the reasons why the phrase "domestic abuse" instead of domestic violence is starting to be used. It incorporates more than just physical violence that may be a part of abuse. It includes all of the tactics that an abuser uses to maintain power and control within the relationship.
What are the signs of abuse?
The signs of abuse will vary based on the type of domestic violence that is being used. Physical abuse usually results in physical signs of abuse. However, the Power and Control Wheel shows that there are many different types of unhealthy and dangerous behaviors that are a part of abuse.
Some signs of abuse may include:
- Second guessing yourself and not being able to make a decision
- Losing your connection with family and friends
- Loss of self-confidence
- Self-harm or sudden change in behavior
- Increased anxiety or depression
You can also find more of the signs of abuse listed above. If you think that you may be in an abusive relationship, it's important to get help so you can remain physically and mentally healthy. You could talk to a therapist, a trusted family member or friend or explore your options for treatment and guidance from public health options your local Department of Health and Human Services. This department also has options for youth services in the case of child abuse and neglect. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
If you see signs of abuse in your relationship, it can be important to create a safety plan on how you can stay safe. The National Domestic Violence Hotline works with victims on safety planning. While staying home may feel like the easiest thing to do, it's often not the best way to stay safe.
What is psychological abuse?
Psychological abuse is often known as emotional abuse. This is when people abuse their victims by manipulating them. Instead of using physical force, they do things like isolating them from friends and family, gaslighting them, or threatening them. They may also use verbal abuse as part of their tactics.
While psychological abuse is a form of domestic abuse that doesn't leave physical scars and proof, it's still incredibly damaging to the victim. They can end up feeling like their going crazy and they can have their entire life controlled through fear from the other person.
It can be difficult to realize if you're the victim of psychological abuse because your abuser is likely to make you feel like the problems in your relationship are your fault. They may be able to make you feel that you're the one causing the issues. This makes it difficult to get to the point of acknowledging that there is a problem in your relationship. This is how the abuse can maintain power and control.
If you believe that you're the victim of psychological abuse and you want to leave the relationship, it can take some pre-planning in order to be successful. You won't want to tell your partner that you're leaving until you done safety planning. This is when you create a plan on how to stay safe. It's not easy to leave psychological abuse and you may find that your abuser lashes out in anger. A safety plan helps you know where to go and how to avoid falling victim to the abuser.
Who can be an abuser?
When it comes down to it, anyone can end up being an abuser. It's not just in marriage. There is also dating violence. And, it's not just partners. The abuser could be a friend or family member. Sometimes the abuser is trying to gain and maintain power within the relationship. Other times, the abuser is simply following the example that they saw growing up. Or, the abuser may have experienced challenging situations in life that they didn't know how to deal with and it leads them to aggressive and abusive behavior.
An abuser can also be someone that struggles with a mental health disorder.
What type of abuse is the hardest to detect?
From the outside looking in, any type of abuse can be difficult to detect. While physical violence often leaves physical scars, it can still be easy for victims to cover them up or try staying home so others don't see them. However, a victim is most likely to know that they're being abused and see the signs of physical abuse.
When it comes to domestic violence in the form of psychological abuse, it's not as easy to see. Many times the person that is being abused isn't sure that abuse is happening either. While some friends and family may be able to see the behavior from the outside, it's often hard for the victim to realize what's happening.
Whether it's easy or hard to detect, all abusive relationships are unacceptable and need to be stopped. If you believe that you may be the victim of abuse, don't hesitate to reach out for help. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Or, you can talk to a trusted friends and family or speak with a mental health professional.
There is never an excuse for abuse. There's a big difference between healthy relationships and those that involve abuse. If you are a victim of abuse, seek the help that you need to have a full recovery. You are worth it. Take the first step.