What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is a general title that covers many different types of abuse. The name ‘domestic’ precedes the word ‘abuse’ when it takes place between couples. These can be married couples (hence the alternative name of ‘spousal abuse’), unmarried cohabiting couples, dating couples or homosexual couples. It is most frequently thought to mean abuse of a woman by a male partner, but this is far from always the case.

Domestic abuse is not confined to any social class, financial situation, ethnic type, professional standing or intellectual/educational level. It can occur anywhere, to anyone, at any time.

Let’s take a more detailed look at the different kinds of domestic abuse that people (women and children, usually) suffer from.

Forms of Abuse

There are many types of abuse and can be categorized as many different things.

Some of the more common types of abuse are:

  • Verbal Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Financial Abuse
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • System Abuse 

Let’s break these down specifically.

Verbal Abuse

  • Name Calling: Sarcasm, ridiculing, put downs;
  • Threats: To kill or damage property, to kill self, pets or harm friendships.
  • Intimidation: Creating fear with facial expressions, tone of voice, gesture or stopping another’s movement; breaking into vehicles, houses, destroying property, pets.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can be even harder to qualify and recognise. It includes being made to feel inadequate, name calling and verbal abuse, but it can also involve neglect. Emotional abuse can be tied up with physical abuse, or the removal of comforts or even comfort objects. A woman whose partner stays out at night without informing her could be a subject of emotional abuse too. Different situations constitute emotional abuse for different individuals, complicating the issues further. However, as a guide, if you feel at all threatened within a relationship, or afraid to make your point in a discussion or be able to say when something is upsetting you, you are probably a victim of emotional abuse. An unreasonably jealous partner who tries to control your life and affects your everyday interactions with others is guilty of emotional abuse. Emotional abuse takes a lot of different forms, and the abuser is very often unaware of the harm of his actions.

Some of the major types of emotional abuse are:

  • Continuous criticism: Extreme jealousy, denying privacy.
  • Isolation: From contact with friends and family; restricting who partner can see and talk to, where partner can go, not letting partner work or go to school.
  • Domination: Always being the boss, having all the power.
  • Using Children: Using visitation to harass partner, sending messages through the children, turning children against partner by criticizing partner.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is any abuse involving money. In a domestic case, it may involve the controlling, abusive partner denying access to money to his partner, or controlling their spending to restrict their independence. It can also involve an abusive partner gaining access to the other person’s bank account, taking their credit cards or otherwise misapropriating their money. It occurs quite frequently in domestic abuse as it is an effective means of preventing the victim from escaping.

Controlling all the money, concealing joint assets or shared money, keeping partner impoverished, blowing all the family money.

Physical Abuse

Pushing, slapping, hitting, kicking, choking, hair pulling, biting, using weapons, tying up a person, locking them in a room, preventing sleep.

Physical abuse may or may not result in injury. It may be as little as being pushed or having a finger stabbed into your arm. However, if it involves physical intimidation in any way it is abuse. Even being pushed can result in serious injury or even death…imagine standing at the top of a flight of stairs when you are pushed from behind? Or standing on the kerb of a busy road? Violent shaking can also cause serious injury to the brain.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is physical domestic abuse taken to a violent level. It can be recognised at many levels, with the most serious resulting in severe injuries or death. However, even the lower level forms of domestic violence are damaging and dangerous and can result in injury, emotional and mental illness, ruined lives and can also be psychologically damaging for other family members, especially children who may witness it. Violent acts between partners may include hitting, shaking, punching, kicking, the throwing of objects, the use of weapons such as guns or knives, burning, scalding or pushing violently.

Sexual Abuse

Forcing another to perform sex acts they do not want to do, rape or physically attacking the sexual parts of another’s body.

Sexual abuse is any form of sexual activity that is unwanted by one party. It may be physically forced, as in rape, or achived by means of emotional or psychological intimidation.  Rape or sexual abuse can occur between married couples or between couples who normally have consensual sex.

System Abuse

Violating restraining orders, child custody agreements, using the legal system to harass, telling lies about a partner to police, counselors or the courts.

Why Does Domestic Violence Occur?

Domestic abuse is all about control. One partner, for whatever reason, attempts to control the other through abusive means. This may involve emotional abuse, pyschological intimidation, physical intimidation and threats or violence, actual physical violence, sexual abuse and financial abuse. Domestic abuse is more likely to occur when one partner has grown up in an abusive household. It can also occur as a result of extreme jealousy, mental illness or as a result of inequality between a couple.

How to Get Help 

If you are suffering domestic abuse, whatever type it is, there are plenty of things that you can do. You can confide in a  friend or family member, if you have someone you can trust. Or, you can go to a priest, doctor or health professional or social worker that you feel able to talk to.
If there is no one that you feel you can turn to, there are some excellent organisations that are there to help victims of domestic abuse. These include shelters that can give a place of safety to you and your children.

Resources / Contact for Abuse Help

There is a lot of help available for victims of domestic abuse. Whether or not a person is ready or able to leave their abusive partner, there are a lot of steps that can be taken to lessen the danger and to control the abuse. For advice, whether you are being abused or know someone who is in that position, you can contact:

Help for Abused Women

In the US:

  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)

In the UK:

  • Call Women’s Aid on 0808 2000 247

In Canada:

  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1-800-363-9010

In Australia:

  •  Call 1800RESPECT on 1800-737-732


  • Go to the webpage of the International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies @

http://www.hotpeachpages.net/  to find your nearest source of help.

Help for Abused Men

In the US and Canada:

In the UK:

In Australia: