Understanding the Types of Abuse - Premier Counseling
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Understanding the Types of Abuse

By Casey Hall LPC, LMFT

When most people hear abuse or intimate partner violence, they think of physical abuse, but this is only one of many ways that intimate partners can be abusive. Whether you’re experiencing intimate partner violence, have been in an abusive past relationship, or you have a loved one who is experiencing intimate partner violence, it’s important to develop a deeper understanding of the many different forms of abuse. Misunderstandings about what abuse is or failure to recognize non-physical abuse as a problem, can contribute to perpetuation of these types of intimate partner violence. In this blog, we’ll walk through the different types of abuse and their common warning signs to help raise awareness.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is the most well-known form of intimate partner violence. It involves hitting, kicking, shoving, throwing things, choking, and other forms of physical violence.

Some of the warning signs that a person is experiencing physical abuse include:

  • Bruises, burns, lacerations, or scars
  • Broken bones
  • Damaged clothing, eye glasses, shoes, or accessories
  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Avoiding interacting with loved ones

Emotional & Psychological Abuse

After physical abuse, emotional and psychological abuse are probably the most commonly known. This form of abuse involves manipulating a person’s emotions, lying, intimidating, harassing, or otherwise using a person’s emotions to control them. Gas lighting is a popular phrase in the media right now, but convincing someone that their emotions, beliefs, or understanding of a situation is wrong, is a common type of emotional abuse.

Some of the warning  signs that a person is experiencing emotional and psychological abuse include:

  • Seeming agitated or moody
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding loved ones
  • Nervousness or edginess, especially around their intimate partner
  • Lack of confidence in their own thoughts or opinions

Financial & Economic Abuse

Financial and economic abuse can occur on their own or be part of how an abuser maintains control of their partner. Economic abuse involves controlling someone’s finances in order to prevent them from leaving, keep them from reporting their abuse, and otherwise make them do what the abuser wants.

Some of the warning signs that a person is experiencing financial and economic abuse include:

  • One partner manages finances and budgets without the other partner’s knowledge or consent
  • One partner is required to report everything they spend
  • Someone quits their job unexpectedly with no explanation
  • Individual suddenly seems to be struggling financially
  • The individual is unable to engage in activities they once enjoyed due to lack of funds

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse includes being forced or coerced into performing any intimate or sexual acts or being made to engage in sexual activity when you’re unable to provide consent. This type of abuse is often thought of as something that isn’t done within intimate relationships. Instead, people think of sexual abuse as being perpetrated outside of partnerships. However, research indicates that as much as half of all rapes are committed by intimate partners.

Some of the warning signs that a person is experiencing sexual abuse include:

  • Bruises around genitals or in areas of restraint (wrists, ankles)
  • Unexplained infections or venereal diseases
  • Avoiding being alone with partner
  • Fear or discomfort when being touched
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • New or increased substance use
  • Self-harm
  • Difficulty or discomfort when walking or sitting
  • Having a hard time sleeping
  • Changes in diet

Reproductive Coercion

Reproductive coercion may be considered as a form of sexual abuse. This type of abuse involves causing a pregnancy by tampering with or refusing to utilize birth control, forcing a partner to terminate a pregnancy, or causing bodily harm with the goal of causing miscarriage.

Some of the warning signs that a person is experiencing reproductive coercion include:

  • Repeatedly losing or misplacing birth control pills
  • Having IUDs or other contraceptive devices removed outside a doctor’s office
  • Having multiple unplanned pregnancies
  • A woman says she feels forced to terminate or continue a pregnancy against her will


Stalking involves repeated incidents of physical closeness or unwanted communication from one partner to another. The goal of stalking varies, but in many cases, an abuser hopes they can intimidate their partner into returning to the relationship.

Some of the warning signs of stalking include:

  • A person changes their daily routine repeatedly
  • An individual asks others to stay with them, walk them to and from their car, or otherwise help them feel safer
  • A person installs a security system, more locks, or takes other safety measures
  • Individual stops interacting with loved ones or stays home all the time
  • A person won’t answer the phone, avoids social media, or otherwise changes their communication habits

Religious Abuse

Religious or spiritual abuse occurs when one partner uses religious beliefs to make their partner behave in a specific way. This may include things like making the partner feel guilty or embarrassed of their actions, convincing them they need to behave in a specific way as a member of their faith, refusing divorce, and a variety of other controlling and abusive behaviors. In other cases, an abuser may belittle their partner’s religious beliefs to diminish their confidence, separate them from their community, and establish dominance over them.

Some of the warning signs of religious abuse include:

  • A person stops attending church or religious ceremonies
  • A person attends church or religious ceremonies more often
  • A person changes their faith background
  • A person changes their clothing, hair, or behavior as part of their faith

Central Arkansas Counseling Group Is Here if You Need Support

If you or a loved one have experienced any form of abuse, therapy may be an important resource to process the emotional and psychological effects of intimate partner violence. If you’re interested in adding a therapist to your network of support, don’t hesitate to reach out to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable counselors. We’re here for you.

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