Types of abuse can be divided into various categories. However, each abusive interaction typically includes more than one type of abuse. The lines between these categories are to some extent arbitrary. The definitions of the various types of relationship abuse used in this guide have evolved out of the author's clinical experience working with hundreds of individuals living in abusive marriages and committed relationships.
For example, a wife telling her husband he is sick in the head and then hiding his keys and his wallet with an explanation that it is to protect him from his foolishness includes emotional abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, and mild forms of physical abuse and perhaps domestic violence.
Thus, even though there are different ways to describe abuse, all of it has an emotional component and all of it — regardless of how it manifests itself — is wrong and unacceptable.
Emotionally abusive relationships are common. However, they are not the same as being in a difficult marriage or committed relationship.
Arguments are a normal part of marriage or any committed relationship. Abuse is not.
It is easy to tell the difference if you know the telltale signs of abuse.
The ideal relationship is one where peace and harmony always reign or almost always. That certainly should be the goal of every couple.
Typically, when couples disagree their arguments are about the outcome of a particular issue, such as household chores, spending, annoying family members or friends, and grooming. When these types of issues arise frequently, they characterize a 'difficult' marriage or partnership, but not necessarily an abusive one.
Emotional abusers, by comparison, systematically seek to control their partners and every aspect of their partners’ lives. Abusers demonstrate a total disregard for the wellbeing of their partners. In fact, abusers aim to diminish the self-worth of their partners in order to establish dominance.
Emotionally abusive relationships are primarily characterized by emotional assault. The victim of an emotionally abusive relationships feels worthless and inadequate.
The abuser achieves this with harsh criticisms, pointing out past mistakes, criticizing your birth family and generally making you feel like a horrible and worthless person.
Typically, the emotional abuser intends to break the spirit of his or her partner, although sometimes it is done unconsciously and unintentionally. The abuser may have grown-up in a family where these types of manipulation were commonplace, and he or she may not even realize how wrong and harmful it is using his or her power and authority to make you feel bad.
In cases where the emotional abuse is often unintended, it is far easier to correct in contrast to when a person feels entitled to attack his or her partner and then proceeds to systemically do so fully aware of what he or she is doing.
Emotional abuse, if allowed to go unchecked will totally destroy your self-esteem and eliminate your happiness and feelings of security.
Psychological abuse is characterized by challenging your very thought process and core values. Psychological abuse is a form of mind control that is used to lure individuals into the clutches of a cult. The aim of psychological abuse is to eliminate all free will and self-determination.
Pretending he or she doesn't hear you when you speak directly to him is psychological abuse.
Psychological abuse is characterized by him or her telling you that what you want is wrong and that you should see a psychiatrist to get your brain fixed.
Threats of dire consequences if you don't do what you are told is psychological abuse. All threats that make you feel insecure and worthless are variations of psychological abuse.
In the extreme, persistent psychological abuse can cause the victim to lose all objectivity about the realities of life and lead to feelings of 'being crazy and out of control.'
Verbal abuse is expressed with harsh and cruel words.
You may be told that you are stupid, ugly or hopeless. These are all ways – and many other variances on these words – to hurt your feelings and make you feel bad.
Verbal abuse will eventually erode your self-esteem and lead to anxiety and depression. If you are a victim of verbal abuse, your relationship will crash and you will feel uncomfortable in the presence of your partner.
Physical abuse is assault and a crime.
He may hit you, push you, kick you or throw things at you — this is physical abuse. Physical abuse is not defined by an injury. Rather, physical abuse is the use of brute force to impose his or her will upon a victim regardless of whether or not there is an injury.
As well, although not as serious as a physical assault, physical abuse includes locking you out of the house, confiscating your belongings or confining you and restricting your movement.
Domestic violence is the same as physical abuse.
Domestic violence is similar to physical abuse. However, the difference is that with the domestic violence it is a systematic attempt to establish control in all areas of a couple's life through the repeated use of brute physical force.
Physical abuse is serious, dangerous, and completely unacceptable and it may occur only during a particularly destructive fight. Physical abuse for most couples is infrequent and typically the violent individual or individuals are remorseful and regretful after the fight is over.
Domestic abuse defines the character of the relationship — which is that the abuser feel he or she has the right to indiscriminately use physical violence, confiscate valued and necessary items, or impose his or her will through fear, torture, and pain.
Domestic abuse is ongoing, and it is repugnant. It undermines the very reason why two individuals choose to join together and form a family.
Sexual activity between committed individuals must be consensual and pleasurable for each person. When sex is forced upon an unwilling partner, it is sexual abuse.
If you feel compelled to engage in sexual activity with your partner out of fear for your emotional or physical safety, this is sexual abuse. The right to determine what happens with your body is a fundamental basic human right. Sexual abuse violates this human right and violates your dignity and human entitlement to self-determination.
It is not possible to compare the various types of abuse and determine which is worse. Anyone of them can lead to very harmful consequences. As well, each person has a different way of experiencing abuse.
Having said that, clearly physical abuse and domestic violence can lead to death. Over the years, thousands upon thousands of people have died at the hands of their hostile and aggressive partners. Death is something that cannot be reversed; there is no recovery. Every type of abuse can slip into a final act that can in a brief moment end a person's life. Without saying which abuse is worse, we can unequivocally say all abuse is wrong, unacceptable, and must stop.
Abuse is wrong; no one has a right to force or control or cause pain to someone else. If you are being abused, you need to find a way to make it stop. You can either get your partner to stop abusing you, or if this is not possible, then you need to end the relationship. I know this is easier said than done. However this is the only correct way to think about an abusive situation and hopefully when you approach it like this, your abusive situation will conclude with a positive outcome.
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