Forms of Abuse

Domestic violence and abuse comes in many forms. 

Here are some common examples which occur within the family or within close relationships* to be aware of.

Emotional, Verbal and Psychological Abuse 

  • Name calling, belittling, constant criticism 
  • Screaming 
  • Mocking 
  • Putting down family and friends 
  • Threatening about the children (i.e. telling the other they will lose custody, saying you will leave town with the children) 
  • Demanding household chores such as dinner, housework, laundry etc. are done in the way you want
  • Abusing or neglecting children and not allowing the other to intervene 
  • Not speaking for days at a time 
  • Using the others’  lack of legal rights or knowledge to control them  (threatening to get the other deported if they are an immigrant; threatening to kick them out of the house with nothing) 
  • Ending a discussion and then making decisions without the other  
  • Telling the other they are a  bad parent 
  • Stalking (harassing, following around town, showing up where you know they will be, watching them  at home through windows) 
  • Making them feel like they are “going crazy”

Social Abuse/ Isolation 

  • Stopping them from having access to family or friends 
  • Using jealousy to justify questioning and controlling movements and activities 
  • Listening to phone calls, monitoring the mileage on the car, calling/texting/emailing 
  • Trying to keep them from doing things (going out with friends and family, going to work/school)
  • Creating a ‘scene’ or being difficult in public situations to get them to stop wanting to attend public/social activities 

Intimidation, Threats and Control, including towards pets 

  • Destroying property 
  • Giving them angry looks 
  • Making the other do something humiliating or degrading (i.e. begging for forgiveness, having to ask your permission to use the car or go out) 
  • Saying things to scare the other (i.e. telling them something bad will happen, threatening to commit suicide, threatening to hurt children, pets, friends, family or anyone that helps the other) 
  • Bossing them around 
  • Threatening to give away, harm or kill the pets if they  leave 
  • Making rules about what the other can say, do, wear, whom to talk to 
  • Changing the rules without telling them, unpredictably 
  • Reminding them of past abuse (i.e. “You remember what happened the last time you didn’t listen to me”) 
  • Turning others against them  
  • Threatening to spread rumours about them to friends and family if they don’t comply 

Using Technology to Abuse 

  • Vilifying the other person  on social media by spreading lies and/or gossip and rumours 
  • Monitoring all of the other’s phones calls and emails/texts to try to control their behaviour and isolate them  socially, sometimes by secretly installing keystroke logging software 
  • Posting exploitive photos or videos without the other’s  consent, to humiliate and hurt them 
  • Harassing texts, emails, and messages that threaten, intimidate and terrify.  Often these occur throughout the night to disrupt the other’s  sleep and maximize negative impact 
  • Recruiting friends, family members and others to harass and intimidate the other via text, email, social media etc. 
  • Using GPS and other online apps to track the other’s  whereabouts, so you  can show up there and stalk or scare the other  by letting them  know you are  tracking her 
  • Using apps to track the other’s spending and control money 
  • Setting up false accounts on social media sites to gain access to the other, and information on their whereabouts, friends, family, etc. 
  • Hacking into victim’s accounts, email, banking, social media profiles etc. to access info, post inappropriate things as the victim to get them in trouble etc. 
  • Posting victim’s contact info and sharing it widely so they are  inundated with spam, threatening messages, frightening/ inappropriate images/videos/messages

Financial/Economic Abuse 

  • Keeping money from the family 
  • Trying to stop the other from making money 
  • Trying to make the other hand over money 
  • Trying to make the other account for  how they spend money 
  • Forcing the family to live in poverty when money is available 
  • Racking up debt, often in the other’s  name 

Physical Abuse 

  • Slapping, hitting, kicking, biting or punching  
  • Pushing, grabbing, throwing or shoving 
  • Driving recklessly with the other  in the car 
  • Causing bruises, cuts, broken bones, etc. 
  • Preventing the other  from leaving a room 
  • Locking the other  in or out of the home 
  • Abandoning the other in an unsafe place 
  • Hurting others she loves (i.e. children, pets, family, friends) 
  • Throwing, hitting, kicking, burning or smashing objects i.e. furniture, walls, dishes, possessions 
  • Threatening to become physically abusive towards the other or those they  love 
  • Choking, strangling, cutting off air supply 
  • Using a knife, gun or other weapon 
  • Attempted murder  
  • Victims may experience any other number of examples of physical abuse

Sexualized Abuse 

  • Emotionally pressuring the other to have sex when they  don’t want to 
  • Physically forcing the other to have sex 
  • Emotionally pressuring  or forcing the other to have sex with other people, animals, or objects 
  • Threatening to “out”  the other’s  gender identity or sexuality
  • Demanding they wear more (or less) provocative clothing 
  • Denying the other’s sexuality 
  • Making degrading sexual comments 
  • Making threats if they don’t comply with sex 
  • Forcing the other to have sex for money or to participate in pornography 
  • Threatening to expose intimate details or photos 
  • Having sex with the other while they are asleep or unconscious

Cultural/Spiritual Abuse 

  • Attacking or ridiculing the other’s belief system and/or culture 
  • Attempting to stop the other  from practicing or participating in spiritual practices 
  • Attempting to use spirituality or religion as a means of controlling the other person 
  • Destroying spiritual objects or scriptures 
  • Attempting to force the other  to accept spiritual beliefs or engage in spiritual practice

Using the Judicial System to Abuse 

  • Filing numerous/ frivolous motions, often at the last possible minute, to force court proceedings to go on for a long time, to cause the other harm/ stress, and to deplete the others’ finances
  • Threatening and intimidating looks and demeanor in the court room, hallways and parking lots to instill fear in the victim 
  • Applying for sole custody despite never having been the primary caregiver 
  • Agreeing to a motion, then applying to change it or revoking agreement, often at the last possible moment 

Medical Abuse 

  • Refusing to allow victim to seek attention for medical attention for illnesses and/or injuries 
  • Refusing victim access to medication or medical assistance devices like walker, cane, etc. 
  • Forcing victim to take certain medications 
  • Coercing victim to lie to medical professionals in order to get prescription for you  
  • Threatening to reveal private medical conditions, shaming them for medical condition 

Stalking and Harassing 

    • Showing up at the other’s  place of work, either to watch or to confront and cause a scene 
    • Following the other 
    • Acts of vandalism designed to incur expenses and instill fear such as slashing tires, breaking windows in home or car, writing insults on home, workplace or vehicle etc. 
    • Recruiting friends, family members and others to track the other’s  activities as well 
    • Harassing  friends, family, neighbours, coworkers etc. 
    • Leaving unwanted gifts, flowers or other items at the victim’s home, work, vehicle etc.

Honour-Based Violence 

      • Coercing, convincing and/or encouraging extended family members and friends to shame and abuse the victim 
      • Using cultural and/or religious grounds to justify violence against girls and women 
      • Maiming and/or killing the victim to “restore honour to the family” 
      • Rejecting and shunning victim in an attempt to control her behaviour 
      • Forcing the victim to stay inside the home against their will 

* Please note this not a comprehensive list, many other examples exist

Learn More

Myths About Abuse

Forms of Abuse

How People Resist Abuse

Am I Abusive?

Children and Abuse

Escape and Safety planning

Help Stop Abuse

How to Support Someone