What Different Types Of Domestic Violence Are There?

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated October 3, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Domestic violence is often associated with physical abuse. However, many other forms of domestic abuse may be used against survivors, including but not limited to financial, spiritual, and mental abuse. Any type of domestic violence can be dangerous and may have various long-term impacts. 

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What Is Domestic Violence? 

Domestic violence is any behavior an intimate partner or family member uses to control or intimidate another person. Survivors of domestic violence can be of any gender or sexuality. No matter the type of relationship, if one partner is being treated abusively by the other, domestic violence may be occurring. 

If you are experiencing domestic violence, receiving support as soon as possible can be essential. Many types of domestic violence exist, each with unique mental and physical health risks.

Types Of Domestic Violence 

You're not alone if you are a survivor of one or several types of domestic violence. Below are the most common types of domestic violence and how they can appear. However, note that abuse can take multiple forms and involve multiple tactics. 

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is often discussed in conversations about domestic violence because it involves visible behaviors and often leaves marks. It may also have the highest risk of death. Physical abuse may involve kicking, choking, slapping, stabbing, shooting, biting, or physically restraining someone. It can cause a minor or major injury or no injury at all. Forcing someone to use substances can also be a form of physical abuse. 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can involve abuse that aims to control how another person feels about themselves. It may take the form of constant insults, humiliation, and criticism. This type of abuse can be as dangerous as physical abuse. By changing how the survivor feels about themselves, the abuser may maintain a strong hold over them and exact other forms of domestic violence. Emotional abuse is common among other types of abuse but can also happen on its own. 

Sexual Abuse

In a relationship, you are not required to have sex. Not all sexual activities that occur within a relationship or marriage are automatically considered consensual. For consent to occur, one must have complete control and authority over their body and enthusiastically and verbally agree to sexual activities. Consent can also be withdrawn at any time during a sexual interaction. 

Sexual assault, rape, harassment, or demeaning behaviors can all be considered sexual abuse. Forcing you not to use contraception or to get or not get an abortion can also be a form of sexual violence. 

If you are experiencing sexual abuse or have experienced assault, note that the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) has a hotline dedicated to supporting individuals experiencing sexual assault, harassment, or intimate partner violence. You can contact them anytime by calling 800-656-HOPE (4673) or using the online chat.

Financial Abuse

An individual who keeps their partner or dependent from getting a job, getting an education, or having finances is committing financial abuse. Financial abuse can also involve controlling someone else's money, giving an adult an "allowance" instead of letting them have their money or attempting to keep someone from leaving by taking away their financial resources. Financial abuse may be used alongside other types to control the survivor further. 

Psychological Abuse

Any behavior that intimidates or threatens a partner is considered psychological abuse. Psychological abuse could include preventing someone from talking to friends or relatives, threatening violence or harm, or keeping the survivors in the home. The individual acting abusively may threaten specific harm or behavior if the survivor does not meet their desires. 

The Effects Of Domestic Violence 

Domestic violence can have many effects on the survivor. Physical injuries can occur if physical abuse is present, including but not limited to bruises, scratches, cuts, broken bones, or damage to internal organs. Domestic abuse also poses a serious threat to one's life. Although anyone of any gender can die from domestic violence, over 4,000 women die from this cause each year, often due to a lack of protection or being invalidated after leaving an abusive individual. 

Emotional and psychological damage may occur, whether abuse is primarily emotional or physical. Being physically or sexually abused can cause damage to the mental state of survivors. The survivor may believe they deserve the abuse because of what their abuser tells them, which may lead to a lowered self-image, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. 

The results of domestic violence can last past the relationship, as well. What an abusive person says may stay with you for years or a lifetime. The memory of the situation you were in and the words that were said may continue to replay in your mind. For those who enter a healthy relationship after living through abuse, it may be challenging to trust that the relationship is safe. For this reason, receiving mental health support can be essential for survivors. 

How To Find Legal Assistance For Domestic Violence 

If you are a survivor of domestic violence, you may have legal rights in your case. A lawyer can explain how the law works and how to ensure your safety. 

Calling the Domestic Violence Hotline can also be vital if you are in a dangerous situation with a partner or another individual in a domestic setting. The advocates on the phone or chat can give you the details of resources in your area. Some cities have shelters for women and children living in abusive situations who want to leave without their abusers knowing where they are. 

Choosing The Right Type Of Therapy Can Feel Intimidating

Mental Health Support For Survivors 

Finding a trauma-informed therapist may be crucial to your treatment and recovery as a survivor. It may take some research to find someone that you feel comfortable with. However, if you're interested in finding quick support without a wait list, you can also try online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp.

Online sessions can be conducted wherever you are most comfortable with an internet connection and a smart device. It can be difficult to open up to a professional when you've been through abuse. However, it may seem safer if you can attend therapy from home, curled up on the couch or with your pet. Online therapy offers flexibility if you move, go on vacation, or aren't at home for a while. 

In addition, online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be as effective as in-person CBT in supporting survivors of abuse or those living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One study found that people living with PTSD had a 55% reduction in trauma symptoms after using online CBT and EMDR programs. 


There are multiple types of domestic violence, but each can be as dangerous as the others and is often used alongside other types. If you're experiencing abuse or are a survivor of domestic violence, reaching out for support with these challenges can be essential. Consider contacting an online or in-person trauma-informed therapist to get started.

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