Forms of domestic violence

Physical violence
This is the clearest form of abuse to recognise.  It may include punching, beating, kicking, hair pulling, smothering, pushing, shaking, slapping or strangling the woman or holding her against her will. Or it may include damaging property, throwing or breaking objects, particularly those which have sentimental value to her. It may also include harming pets.

Verbal abuse
This form of abuse humiliates the woman and erodes her confidence. It includes putting her down, threatening, yelling, shouting at her or calling her names, and telling her that she is useless and worthless.

Sexual abuse
This form of abuse turns the woman into an object.  It includes rape, demanding sex or forcing her to have sex against her will.  It may include using objects, treating her as a sex slave and/or sex object, forcing her to have sex in various positions and/or physically attacking the sexual parts of her body.

Emotional and psychological abuse
These forms of abuse are less easy to recognise. Often the abuse starts slowly, on a small scale and, by the time it has escalated, the woman has lost so much self-esteem, she may feel she is to blame for the abuse. Subjected to her partner’s mind games, unpredictability and irrationality, she may feel that she is going crazy.

These forms of abuse include humiliating the woman, continually putting her down regarding her physical appearance or how good she is as a mother, so that she feels guilty about her children. He may intimidate her with looks, gestures or a loud voice, possibly humiliating her in front of her friends and family. The abuser may behave in inconsistent, irrational and unpredictable ways, and may blame her for his moods and behaviour. He may be dishonest, break promises and only give conditional affection. He may use silence as a weapon and refuse to talk through any issues.

She no longer knows how he will react or behave, even though her behaviour is consistent: there is no logic to whether he is friendly and loving, or angry and rude. Whatever she does, it seems to be wrong. Because he is so unpredictable, she starts to question herself, losing her confidence and wondering if she is going crazy. This is all part of his control and manipulation: he wants her to believe that she is crazy, useless and stupid. He may tell her she is incapable of looking after her children. He may threaten to take them away, or he may threaten to harm them, other family members or pets, or he may threaten to harm himself.

Social abuse
This form of abuse isolates the woman and prevents her from having any life outside the relationship. It includes isolating her from her family, friends and interest groups; controlling who she speaks to or who she will see and when; or forcing her to stay at home. It may include continually calling her on the phone to see what she is up to, checking her mail, mobile phone, emails or Skype account. It may include criticising her family and friends.

Economic abuse
This form of abuse makes the woman (and children) reliant on the abuser for money and, therefore, survival. It includes not allowing her to work, or taking her wages from her, and controlling the finances within the home, so that she must ask for money. The abuser may make all the big decisions about how the money will be spent and demand that she account for all money she has spent. It may include gambling and selling or pawning household items which belong to the woman and the children to pay accumulated debts. Sometimes the abuser puts all the debts into her name and keeps all their assets in his own name.

Spiritual abuse
This form of abuse includes not allowing the woman to fulfil her spiritual and/or religious commitments and making putdowns regarding her beliefs and values.  Or he may literally interpret religious texts, using words like ‘submission’ and ‘obedience’ to control her.