Types of Abuse

Although abuse can manifest in many different ways within sexual and romantic relationships, abusive behaviors are about taking away power and control from another person by choosing to act without respect or care for their health and safety. Abusive behavior often occurs in patterns, and it can be difficult to determine when patterns within relationships move from healthy to unhealthy or abusive. Abuse has many forms; all are serious, and any kind of abuse is never the victim’s fault. Abuse and dating violence disproportionately affects young women (ages 16-24), but abuse can happen to anyone, in any kind of relationship and to individuals of all genders.

Below is some basic information about types of abuse and dating violence. More information, including resources to use if you or a friend are experiencing abuse, can be found at www.loveisrespect.org.

If you are being abused and need help, contact the Sexual Assault Dean on Call at 773-834-4357.

Types of abuse: Abusive behaviors can take a variety of forms. Here are some general categories and examples of what abuse and dating violence can look like. Definitions and examples adapted from loveisrespect.org.

  • Physical abuse: Intentionally using physical force and unwanted contact to intimidate and harm you. This is what we most commonly think of when we picture instances of domestic or dating violence, but it is not the only kind of abuse. Examples include hitting, choking, throwing things, shoving or pulling, grabbing your clothes or hair, and using weapons.

  • Emotional and verbal abuse: Non-physical behaviors meant to belittle, intimidate, and demean you. This kind of abuse may not have physical effects, but it can still cause emotional and psychological harm. Examples include name-calling, insults, preventing you from seeing your friends and family, public humiliation, yelling, gaslighting or making you feel “crazy,” threatening to harm you or people you care about, and stalking.

  • Sexual abuse: Pressuring or coercing you into sexual acts that are unwanted and that you are not comfortable with. Sexual abuse can occur between people who have been sexual together in the past, and it is important to remember that only an affirmative “yes” is consent to sexual activity, so someone who did not physically resist or say “no” can still be sexually abused and assaulted. Examples of sexual abuse include unwanted touching, sex that is rougher or more violent than you are comfortable with or consented to, restricting access to birth control, threatening you with harm if you do not perform sexual acts, and rape.

  • Financial abuse: Abuse through control or manipulation of money, spending, and finances. Financial abuse is very often coupled with other kinds of abuse as a way to keep you in the relationship. Examples include monitoring what you buy, restricting access to your paycheck or to shared accounts, keeping you from working, and using money or financial support to exert control over you if you are not in the same financial situation (i.e. preventing you from leaving the relationship because you cannot afford rent on your own).

  • Digital abuse: Using technology and social media to monitor, harass, or control you. Examples include going through your phone or emails without your permission, keeping constant tabs on your social media to “check up on you,” sending you unwanted sexual photos or videos or pressuring you to do the same, and writing unkind messages or insulting you online.

Power and control wheel: In addition to the definitions above, the power and control wheel is a tool used to describe how manipulation and abuse works in unhealthy relationships. This interactive version may be helpful in understanding the different forms abuse can take: http://www.loveisrespect.org/is-this-abuse/power-and-control-wheel/