Common Forms & Signs of Abuse

No relationship is perfect, and accidents do happen. However, if you notice a consistent pattern of disrespectful behavior it could be a sign of abuse. When people think of abuse, they often think of physical violence; however, abuse can take many forms. Some of the most common forms of abuse include emotional, sexual, physical, financial, and cultural. No abuse is worse than the other. Each has their implications, and are used to gain power and control over a victim.

Emotional/Verbal Abuse

When words are used to belittle, attack, and manipulate a victim, it’s known as emotional or verbal abuse. This abuse is one of the most common forms. Warning signs of emotional/verbal abuse include:

  • Making false accusations of cheating
  • Threatening you, your property, or loved ones
  • Isolating you from friends and family
  • Undermining your thoughts and emotions
  • Humiliating, shaming, and embarrassing you
  • Starting arguments out of nowhere
  • Personally attacking and swearing at you
  • Consistently ridiculing, criticizing, and teasing you
  • Gaslighting and making you question your sanity

Emotional abuse instills self-doubt and a feeling of worthlessness in victims. It’s often one of the earliest signs of an abusive relationship and can be one of the hardest forms for outsiders to detect. Emotional abuse can have lasting effects on a victim’s mental health. Most survivors have said emotional abuse is worse than physical abuse because the scars run much deeper.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is any unconsented touching or sexual acts. There are various forms of sexual abuse including, but not limited to, sexual assault, sodomy, rape, attempted rape, and incest. Sexual violence is a serious problem in America and is often done by the people closest to the victim. Some indicators of sexual abuse are:

  • Coerced sexual acts
  • Forced degradation and unwanted acts
  • Taking advantage of you while you are under the influence
  • Denying the use of protection
  • Taking, sharing, or keeping unconsented explicit photos/videos of you
  • Punishing or guilting you for not having sex
  • Bruises around the breast or genital area
  • Bloody undergarments
  • Vaginal or anal Bleeding

Physical force doesn’t have to be used for sexual abuse to occur. Oftentimes abusers will use manipulative tactics to coerce a victim into sexual acts. Any form of sexual abuse is a punishable crime and shouldn’t be treated lightly. Sexual abuse can have many serious effects on a victim, including eating disorders, PTSD, suicidal thoughts, and drug abuse. If you or a loved one is experiencing sexual violence, reach out to the RCC to get the help you need.

Physical Abuse

If someone intentionally and habitually hurts or harms you in any way, this is known as physical abuse. Physical abuse is any physical activity that injures or creates a feeling of danger. Some ways abusers can do this is by hitting, strangling, shaking, burning, restraining, or using a weapon. It can also include threatening to harm the victim or the victim’s loved ones. Signs of physical abuse in a relationship are:

  • Bruises, burns, or scars on the body
  • Broken, sprained, or fractured bones
  • Rope burns and marks
  • Broken glasses
  • Physical fights or altercations
  • Feeling like your life is in danger
  • Threatening you with a weapon, such as a gun or a knife
  • Trapping or locking you in a room

Although this form of abuse leaves the most physical evidence, it can still be hard to detect. Many abusers will blame their anger issues or the victim for their actions. In some cases, they’ll claim the abuse to be an accident and will apologize to avoid trouble. Physical abuse is a criminal offense and has harmful effects on a victim’s mental and physical health. This form of abuse is also the most dangerous, as it could lead to life-threatening situations.

Financial/Economic Abuse

Financial abuse, also known as economic abuse, is one of the most common, yet least talked about, forms of abuse. An abuser will control and sabotage a victim’s financial health to make them dependent on the abuser. This form of abuse is the hardest to detect and prevents victims from having the necessary resources to leave the relationship. Indicators of financial/economic abuse include:

  • Preventing you from going to work
  • Sabotaging your career path and goals
  • Coercing you into debt
  • Using your money without your permission
  • Making financial decisions without your knowledge
  • Limiting or withholding your access to your financial resources
  • Destroying your property and other valuable assets

Financial abuse has long-lasting effects on a victim’s financial health. Abusers will rack up bills in the victim’s name, leaving them with a damaged credit score and a great deal of debt. This impairs a victim’s ability to make milestone purchases that require a good credit score. Purchases like buying a home require certain credit score ranges that a victim may not be able to achieve. In any situation, it’s important to monitor your bank account and check your credit score to detect any signs of financial abuse.

Cultural/Spiritual Abuse

Cultural abuse, also referred to as spiritual abuse, is when an abuser uses a victim’s culture and beliefs against them. Abusers do this to maintain control over the victim. Spiritual abuse can be particularly hard on a victim, as it uses something deeply personal against them. Some signs of cultural/spiritual abuse in a relationship are:

  • Disrespecting or not allowing religious dietary customs
  • Not allowing you to wear religious clothing or symbols
  • Threatening to expose you as an LGBTQ+ member without consent
  • Belittling cultural or spiritual worth
  • Preventing you from practicing religion
  • Using racial slurs or homophobic slang against you
  • Forcing beliefs that go against your own
  • Using sacred text to justify abuse

It’s important to note that you don’t have to belong to a deity for this abuse to occur. Cultural abuse takes advantage of a victim’s way of life and uses their beliefs against them. Like emotional abuse, cultural abuse is used as a form of coercive control. This form of abuse can make a victim feel guilty and trapped within the relationship.

Abuse takes many forms and can lead to dangerous situations. If you or a loved one suspects abuse in a relationship, it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure your safety. Remember, you’re not alone. There are people and organizations that love and care about you. By raising awareness on the forms and signs of abuse, we can help put a stop to this violence.