Abusive Behaviors

Learn more about the different types of abuse:

Relationship violence can be physical or sexual, but also extends to other threatening and harmful behaviors. Learn more about each form of abuse:

Physical abuse is the use of intentional, undesired physical force to, or close to, someone’s body in a way that injures or endangers that person. Even if the abusive action doesn’t hurt or leave a mark, the behavior is still not OK. Physical abuse includes:

  • Punching, slapping, hitting, kicking, pinching, pulling hair, biting, etc.
  • Preventing them from eating or sleeping
  • Damaging property or throwing things
  • Using weapons to threaten or harm them
  • Blocking a door or restraining them to prevent them from leaving
  • Harming children or pets
  • Forcing the use of drugs or alcohol
  • Grabbing their face, throat or neck

Sexual abuse involves pressuring, forcing, or coercing someone to have sex or perform a sexual act – including through the use of drugs or alcohol. Any sexual activity without consent is never OK, even if you are married or in a relationship. Sexual abuse includes:

  • Demanding or coercing sex
  • Forcing uncomfortable sexual acts
  • Causing physical harm during sex
  • Involving others in sex without consent
  • Insulting them in sexual ways
  • Ignoring their feelings regarding sex
  • Forcing them to watch pornography
  • Purposefully trying to transmit an STD
  • Forcing them to dress in a sexual way

Emotional, psychological, and verbal abuse involves threatening, confusing, teasing, manipulating, yelling, and other non-physical behavior. Even though abuse may not be physical, it’s never OK to intimidate, humiliate or frighten an individual through words or actions. Emotional abuse includes:

  • Criticizing them constantly
  • Blaming them for everything
  • Confusing them to distort their sense of reality
  • Attacking their self-esteem and self-worth
  • Threatening to expose their secrets
  • Name-calling, insulting, and mocking
  • Yelling and screaming
  • Embarrassing or humiliating them in public
  • Criticizing or diminishing their accomplishments
  • Forcing them to do something using threats
  • Acting excessively jealous or possessive
  • Constantly accusing them of flirting or cheating

In the modern age of technology, relationship violence encompasses digital abuse through the internet, text messages, and social media. Although there is no physical harm caused by these behaviors, it is never OK to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate someone digitally or otherwise. Digital abuse includes:

  • Dictating who can or can’t be their friends on social media
  • Sending insulting or threatening messages
  • Using technology to monitor their location or activities
  • Sending or demanding unwanted, explicit images
  • Stealing their passwords or personal information
  • Spreading rumors about them on social media
  • Constantly texting or messaging them to instill fear
  • Looking at their texts, calls, or photos

One of the more subtle forms of relationship violence, financial abuse is also the most common. Using money to maintain power and control, it includes not allowing someone to work, further their education, have access to money, or have a say in financial decisions. It’s never OK to control someone’s money, how they use it, or their ability to earn it. Financial abuse includes:

  • Denying them access to personal or family income
  • Forbidding or limiting work/education
  • Causing them to lose their job
  • Stealing their money or property
  • Refusing to work or contribute to the household
  • Confiscating individual or joint tax returns
  • Refusing to pay for necessities or shared expenses
  • Forcing them to sign financial documents
  • Making them account for every cent spent

Stalking involves repeatedly watching, following, or harassing someone to keep tabs on them or make them feel afraid. It’s never OK to track their location, movements, or actions without their permission whether it’s in-person or through technology. Stalking includes:

  • Following or tracking their location
  • Spying on or watching them with hidden cameras
  • Monitoring their movements and interactions
  • Suddenly showing up without being invited
  • Cyberstalking through text, email, apps, or social media
  • Monitoring their use of a computer or mobile device
  • Repeatedly calling and hanging up
  • Contacting their friends and family seeking their location

Reproductive abuse involves coercing or controlling decision-making regarding birth control, contraceptives, pregnancy, and childbirth. It’s never OK to deny them the right to make these choices. Reproductive abuse includes:

  • Refusing to use a condom or birth control
  • Removing, breaking, or tampering with a condom
  • Lying about birth control (vasectomy, pill, etc.)
  • Forcing pregnancy or an abortion
  • Continually keeping them pregnant
  • Sabotaging birth control

One of the least talked about forms of relationship violence is spiritual or religious abuse. This involves denying someone the right to practice their own beliefs or forcing them to practice one’s own beliefs. Everyone has a basic right to believe and practice what they want and it is never OK to deny them that. Spiritual abuse includes:

  • Coercing them into practicing religious or spiritual beliefs
  • Preventing them from practicing religious or spiritual beliefs
  • Using their religious or spiritual beliefs for manipulation
  • Ridiculing their religious or spiritual beliefs
  • Forcing religious or spiritual beliefs on children