What is considered abuse? The six types

While physical abuse is visible and shocking, there are other types of abuse we may not be aware of. See if any of these surprise you in this fourth Recognising Healthy Relationships column from the Revelstoke Women's Shelter Society.

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Abusive relationships slowly break people apart. Photo: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

“If there is any type of abuse, instantly know it is not going to change. If it happens once it’s not going to change. If you are scared of a guy or not comfortable, or not happy, it’s not going to change.” – previous client of the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter

While we may want to believe the best in people it can be difficult to know when someone is taking advantage or abusing you.

Sometimes people don’t realize that their relationships, friendships or intimate, may have elements of abuse. Other times, there are clear signs of disrespect and control.

Below is a list of the types of abuse and how these play out. Please note that this isn’t a final list and there are other types of abuse such as neglect/elder abuse.

Are any of these actions surprising to you? Do you do any of these? With this added knowledge, you can identify any troubling signs. 

Image looking down on the tops of brown shoes next to cracked white ice on gravel.
Are you ignoring the cracks in your relationship? Photo: Jachan DeVol/Unsplash

Mental Abuse

  • Wearing you down until you give in (not accepting no)
  • Ignoring your boundaries
  • The silent treatment (punishment)
  • Rewriting or distorting history (confusing you/gaslighting)
  • Brushing off hurtful comments or humiliation because they were only “joking.”
  • Threatening to commit suicide if you leave or threatening to leave you
  • Minimising your concerns, denying and blaming
  • Excessive interest in your whereabouts and who you are in contact with. This may lead to what is essentially stalking,
  • Excessive jealousy and/or dislike of your connections. This can lead to expecting you to remove relationships from your life for them.
  • Treating you like a child and making decisions for you
  • Pressuring you to do things you don’t want to e.g. sign forms, give money etc.
  • Recalling your past mistakes and using them to punish/silence you in the present
  • Undermining you with family/children

Verbal abuse

  • Name calling
  • Saying “you always…” or “you never…”
  • Blaming all problems, relationship and otherwise, on you
  • Shaming
  • Lying
  • Threats
  • Dismissive tone when speaking to you

Verbal and mental abuse fall under the category of emotional abuse. Emotional abuse makes a person feel stupid or worthless. It is subtle and over time it contributes to continual self-doubt and wearing down of self-esteem. It can take a long time for someone to heal from this and regain a strong sense of self.

A nigh time photo shot from within the dark interior of a restaurant with the words Let's pretend this never happened in neon lights.
Emotional abuse often makes the victim confused. They question and doubt themselves and their instincts. Photo: Patrick Tomasso/Unsplash

Physical abuse

  • Driving recklessly
  • Throwing things near you
  • Threatening gestures
  • Deliberately occupying your personal space
  • Aggressive or controlling physical contact of any type
  • Making you consume substances without permission

Sexual abuse

  • Unwanted touching (may be shrugged off as unintentional/accident)
  • Insisting on unsafe sex
  • Demanding sex as payment
  • Pushing sexual acts that you are uncomfortable with
  • Criticizing how you dress
  • Sexual put downs
  • Telling others about your sex life in a disrespectful or casual manner

Financial

  • Controlling and restricting access to your money/accounts
  • Creating debt in your name
  • Not allowing you to work (or getting you fired)
  • Not paying child support
  • Using or selling your assets without permission
  • Damaging your property

Cultural/Spiritual

  • Preventing or forcing dietary or dress customs of culture or faith
  • Belittling your spiritual or cultural beliefs and practices
  • Denying access to your community
  • Using faith or culture to justify abuse
  • Racial slurs
  • Threatening to ‘out’ someone as LGBQT
  • Using status of immigration against you

As you can see, abuse can be a number of things. But the underlying motive is control. Any of us may be guilty of doing some of these in mild forms. But abuse doesn’t feel good. Once we identify these actions, we can learn and grow. If your partner or a friend exhibits these behaviours and is not interested in changing, there is little you can do.

Anyone is susceptible to getting into an abusive relationship, particularly if you’re in a vulnerable time in life. Working on your self-esteem, growing boundaries and gaining knowledge can help you ensure you surround yourself with healthy and respectful relationships.

Image of a handful of dry scattered leaves on asphalt with the words YOU GOT THIS written in chalk.
You have the power to grow and become stronger. Photo: Sydney Rae/Unsplash

The Revelstoke Women’s Shelter can be contacted on our crisis line on 250-837-1111. Shelter staff are happy to chat and conversations are always confidential. Check out our website for more information. Alternatively you can reach out to Victim Link B.C. at 1-800-563-0808 or 310-6789 (no area code) for mental health support.

Recommended reading: (Both available at Revelstoke Library. You can put a hold on these if they are checked out)

  1. Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancrof. Explains what goes on inside the minds of men who control and tear down their partners.
  2. When Love Hurts by Jill Cory and Karen McAndlee-Davis. Helps to clear your confusion and show you paths to regain control of your life. Includes helpful lists and worksheets to learn and see how you’re being impacted.

Previous Recognising Healthy Relationships column posts by the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter Society:

  1. Challenging the stigma
  2. Signs you’re in a toxic relationship
  3. Are you experiencing the Cycle of Abuse

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