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Abuse takes many shapes in today’s culture. From physical abuse to digital and even cultural abuse, the ways that abusers find to control and manipulate people in their lives are endless and sometimes even shocking. Here are 10 types of abuse to be aware of so you can protect yourself and those you love.
Merriam-Webster defines abuse as, “a corrupt practice or custom; improper or excessive use or treatment; language that condemns or vilifies unjustly, intemperately, and angrily; physical maltreatment.”
Generally, many forms of abuse are intended as a means to control the victim and stem from the abusers own mental, emotional, or physical struggles. A majority of abusers have experienced abuse in their own lives. However, this does not justify or pardon their behavior. We each have a choice to make in our lives. While the abuser cannot be held responsible for things that happened to him or her, they must be held responsible for the actions they take against others.
Types of Abuse
There are many types of abuse and some of them are easier to spot than others. You likely know that physical and emotional abuse are very prevalent, but there are actually several other forms of abuse, some of which are perhaps harder to pinpoint. These include but are not limited to physical, verbal or emotional, sexual, digital, stalking, financial or economic, mental or psychological, cultural identity, and academic abuse as well as neglect.
Physical abuse is probably the most widely recognized types and is often much easier to spot – although not always. This is when the abuser uses physical force against their victims. They may hit, kick, shove, bite, choke, use a weapon, scratch, throw things at you, or any other means of physical contact meant to cause fear or injury.
Verbal and Emotional Abuse
Name-calling, shouting, threats, insults, humiliation, intimidation, isolation, criticizing, and all other forms of verbally assaulting a person are examples of verbal and emotional abuse. This type of abuse is often much more difficult to recognize and to prove but leaves a much more lasting impact in many cases. The emotional scars left by this type of abuse can be much more damaging.
Sexual abuse includes many things. Rape, coercion, or any other sexual activity that is unwanted. It can also include withholding sexual activities as a means of control or denying or restricting access to birth control or condoms. Unwanted touching or sexually explicit comments or advances, forced prostitution or pornography, taking or using video or photos of sexual acts without your permission, and unwanted sex within marriage are all considered sexual abuse.
In this age of digital living, online platforms have become another way for abusers to misuse information and mistreat their victims. Any use of technology including (but not limited to) calling, emailing, texting, and social media use in order to intimidate, harass, threaten, bully, or stalk a person is digital abuse. This includes monitoring and controlling your online activity, controlling who you communicate with online, sending unwanted explicit messages or pictures, sending excessive messages via texts, email, or chat, calling excessively, demanding access to your personal accounts and devices, using technology (such as GPS) to monitor your whereabouts, using personal information or digital property (pictures, videos) in inappropriate ways (selling or giving them to third parties, using them for explicit purposes, using your information for their own gain – ie claiming your children as theirs, using your financial information to take out loans or make purchases, etc).
Stalking occurs when you are being repeatedly watched, followed, or harassed by someone. This may include showing up at your place of work, giving unwanted gifts, sending unwanted messages, letters, emails, etc, repeatedly calling (and often hanging up), tracking you online, showing up at places you hang out at, contacting or using a third party to gain access to information about you, and damaging your property.
Financial and Economic Abuse
This type of abuse occurs when the abuser restricts access to money, prohibits you from taking a job to earn your own money, spends your money without your permission, refuses to share financial information with you that affects both of you, or takes out credit or runs up debt in your name. It can also include misusing financial aid, tuition, or other types of support meant for you or your children. This type of abuse is often what keeps victims from leaving a bad situation. The abuser effectively makes it impossible for the victim to be self-sufficient.
Mental and Psychological Abuse
Mental or psychological abuse may be a form of emotional abuse where the abuser continuously calls the victim’s mental wellbeing into question and makes them doubt their own sanity. They may do this by moving things to confuse the victim, adjusting lights and temperatures in the home, or denying that events happened, all in an attempt to make the victim question their own judgment and become more dependant on the abuser.
Cultural Identity Abuse
Cultural abuse happens when the abuser uses the victim’s cultural identity as a means to control or manipulate them. For example, they may restrict religious practices such as particular dress customs, diet, or religious observances. They may also use racial slurs, threaten to “out” someone as LGBTQ, or otherwise harass, restrict, or mistreat someone based on their cultural identity.
This type of abuse happens when the abuser restricts access to education or monitors your academic pursuits. It also includes preventing you from completing assignments, blaming you for poor grades, belittling your academic choices, or making fun of your studies. A parent or partner who restricts your access to education or makes it difficult to obtain education is implementing a form of control that makes you more dependent on them. This type of abuse also describes a teacher or authority figure who uses their power to manipulate students into doing inappropriate things in exchange for favors such as a better grade or a spot on a team.
Neglect is most often associated with children, but can also include the lack of care for elderly or impaired adults who are not able to care for themselves. This includes, at the most basic level, not providing adequate food, shelter, and care for a person under your supervision. This may mean withholding food or adequate clothing. It could mean leaving children or dependent adults unsupervised for a period of time. It might also include not providing proper hygienic practices or needed medications and treatments.
Abuse doesn’t always leave physical marks and it may not always be easy to spot. But every single person has value and should be treated with respect and kindness. It’s important to recognize the types and signs of abuse and to protect yourself and those you love from abusers. Don’t allow anyone to mistreat you or your loved ones, no matter how much they say they love you. Abuse is not love. Be brave. Say something. Break the cycle and live a life you love.