The Different Types Of Domestic Abuse And How To Get Help

By Patricia Oelze|Updated June 21, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Lauren Guilbeault, LMHC

Domestic abuse, or more commonly known as spousal abuse or domestic violence, is a serious issue that can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, age, or culture. Unfortunately, this type of violence happens often and is quite common. In fact, research shows that in the United States, every nine seconds, a woman is beaten or assaulted. Sadly, one out of every three women and one in four men worldwide has experienced physical violence from their intimate partner. This can include anything from pushing to slapping to punching. Spousal abuse can be more than just physical abuse, though. There are many forms of abuse, including verbal, emotional, sexual, controlling, and financial.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can happen right away, or it may come on so gradually that you do not even realize it is happening. It can start with just pushing or shoving and escalate to shaking, slapping, kicking, and even punching or strangling. In many cases, the abuser is very loving and caring at first and may not show any signs of abusive behavior for years. Then they suddenly snap and push you or slap you for some reason. They may apologize and say it will never happen again. But it does. Nobody has the right to do that to anyone. It is against the law, and you need to get away.

Verbal Abuse

Whether it is threats, name-calling, yelling, or terrorizing, verbal abuse can be just as frightening and damaging as physical abuse. Verbal abuse is sometimes even more degrading and painful than physical abuse because the words that your abuser says can stick in your head forever and last longer than a slap or a punch. Threats and cursing at you are not normal people who love each other should do no matter how angry they may be. If your partner is calling you names, telling you that you are ugly or that nobody will ever want you, or making fun of you in front of other people, this is all verbal abuse and can be just as harmful as any other type of abuse.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional or mental abuse includes intimidation, insults, accusations, ignoring, belittling, and even forcing you to drink or do drugs. Similar to verbal abuse, emotional abusers tend to insult or humiliate their partner in an attempt to make them think they are worthless or to scare them into doing what they want them to do. Your abuser may threaten you or tell you that you are crazy and that everything is your fault. They may ignore you for days or neglect your needs, not letting you talk to or see anyone. Emotional abuse is all about manipulation and coercing you to behave how your abuser wants you to.

Sexual Abuse

Sometimes sexual abuse does not even feel like abuse. You may think that your partner is just having sex with you because they love you and that if you do not want it, then maybe you are the problem. That is exactly what your partner wants you to think. Whether you are married or in a relationship with your abuser, if you do not want to have sex and they do it anyway, that is sexual abuse. It does not even have to be sexual intercourse. Just having them touch you or even talking about sex in front of you can be a form of sexual abuse. In the past, many people thought that if you were married or in a relationship with someone that you were obligated to have sex with them. However, this is absolute nonsense. If you say no and they do it anyway, that is sexual abuse.


Like other types of abuse, being controlled by someone can gradually come on so gradually that you do not even know it is happening. It may begin with your partner asking you where you have been or checking your phone or the car's mileage. They may start questioning your family and friends as to what you do when you are with them. Eventually, your partner may start keeping you from hanging out with friends or family and may even stop you from working. They can cut you off from everyone by taking your car, money, and phone so you cannot get help. Your abuser wants to control everything you do. Do you feel that you have no other choice but to do what they want?

Financial Abuse

Also known as economic abuse, this is a way to control someone by controlling their income. Your partner may not allow you to have any money or may take your paychecks away. They may spend all the money on drugs, alcohol, or whatever else they want and blame you for not having the money to pay bills. It may start as your partner simply asking you to put your check into their account to combine your income and pay bills. They may say they will pay the bills, so you do not have to worry about it. However, eventually, it will be a control issue as your partner does not allow you to access the account and does not pay the bills or buy groceries and other needs.

Your abuser may also cause you to lose any job you get by calling and harassing you and your coworkers or making you late for work. This type of abuse can make it difficult for you to get money to get away from your abuser. That is part of the plan as your partner knows that you have no money to leave, no vehicle or gas, and they have likely isolated you from all your family and friends as well.


This can seem innocent at first as your partner wants to spend time with you "alone" and keeps you at home with them rather than visiting family or friends. They may tell your family and friends that you do not want to see them or may even threaten to hurt them if they keep trying to talk to you. Eventually, you notice that you have nobody to turn to when you need someone to help you. However, there is always someone to turn to. Even if you do not have money or cannot get in touch with family or friends, some people can help. Professionals such as police or a counselor can help you get away from your abuser. And a counselor or therapist can help you heal.

Get Away

The first thing you need to do is to get safe. You can call the police and have your abuser arrested or get away from your abuser. You may think you have no place to go, but there are plenty of domestic violence shelters that can help you even if you have children. In fact, especially if you have children. Whether your abuser has ever abused your children or not, they are being harmed just by witnessing the abuse. And this is emotional abuse for them. So they are being abused as well.

If you are being abused, no matter what type of abuse it is, you are in danger and need to leave or have your abuser arrested. Sometimes it can be difficult to prove that your abuser has hurt you, especially with emotional, verbal, or financial abuse. In these cases, it is best to get away from them. If you do not have any family or friends nearby, go to the nearest police station or hospital. Find a shelter that helps abuse survivors and tells them what is going on. They will help you or find someone who can help you.

Get Help

Once you get away from your abuser, it is important to stay away from them. Many abusers will cry and say how sorry they are and that it will never happen again. They will promise to get help and change. You cannot fall for that. Stay away no matter what they say. Of course, you want to believe that they are sorry and will never do it again. You love them and want your relationship to work. But for them to change, they need counseling. And so do you.

Couples Counseling

Choosing to talk to a counselor or therapist can be as scary as being abused, but once you realize how good it makes you feel to let all that out, telling someone what is happening to you will feel so much better. Of course, you are not going to feel better overnight magically, and you may continue to have doubts about whether you should go back to your partner or not. As long as you stay on track with counseling, you will soon learn that none of this is your fault and that it is not up to you to change. It is up to them. And you need to worry about yourself. Let your abuser worry about themselves, and if they do end up getting help in the future, you two may be able to do couples counseling together. If not, you need to move on and let yourself heal.

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