16 Days of Activism 2016: Types of abuse

Not all abuse is physical and visible. Abuse is classified as physical, sexual, economic and psychological, although they often go together, and usually but not always committed by somebody trusted. Read more about the types of abuse.

Physical abuse is intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to you. The contact does not have to scar, bruise or even be painful.

Common forms of physical abuse:

  • Scratching, punching, biting, strangling or kicking
  • Pulling you, your hair or your clothes
  • Touching any part of you
  • Preventing you from leaving or forcing you to go somewhere

Sexual abuse is when someone is coerced or forced into sexual acts. All sex and sexual acts where a person has not given or legally cannot give consent are sexual abuse.

Common forms of sexual abuse:

  • Spousal sexual abuse
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Sexual abuse of people with developmental disabilities
  • Sexual abuse of elders

Economic abuse happens when someone deprives their partner of money and resources. This forces the partner to be dependent on their abuser for financial support and to be manipulated into behaving in ways they otherwise would not.

Psychological abuse includes manipulative, harmful behaviours that do not cause physical damage but do cause emotional pain and lasting psychological damage. It is often a precursor to other forms of abuse and will escalate into physical violence if left unchecked.

Common types of psychological abuse:

  • Constant monitoring
  • Humiliating, name-calling and shaming
  • Harassment
  • Intimidating and threatening
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Stalking
  • Gaslighting

What these forms of abuse have in common is that an aggressor violates the victim’s dignity and human rights. The abuse can have lasting psychological and physical consequences for the victim.

If you are being abused, report it to the police. Organisations like Tears (*134*7355) also help rape and sexual abuse victims. If someone you know is being abused, help them by reporting it.