Types of Abuse

Abuse comes in many forms and it can be hard to pin down exactly what is happening. Abuse is not always physical and very often not visible. Blatantly hurting another intentionally is not acceptable and is an issue that needs to be addressed. Abuse can be Financial, Legal, Emotional, Spiritual, Sexual, Mental, Social, Physical, Animal & Pet Abuse, and many more. Of these topics, Verbal and Emotional Abuse tend to be the most common.

Below is a list to assist in recognizing these abuses.*

WITHHOLDING: By withholding, the verbal abuser is saying, “I’ve got something you want and I can withhold it from you, therefore, I am in control.”

COUNTERING: The abuser will state the opposite opinion from the victim simply to stay in control. The abuser cannot tolerate the victim having a different opinion or individualized thoughts. This common type of abuse destroys a relationship as it prevents discussions, denies the victim’s reality, and is a put-down of the partner’s experience.

DISCOUNTING OR MINIMIZING: Denies the reality and experience of the abuse.
Example: After abusing you, the abuser might say something like, “you’re too sensitive.” “you’re making a big deal out of nothing,” or “I didn’t really hurt you, you’re crazy.”

VERBAL ABUSE DISGUISED AS JOKES: These cut to the quick. The abuser usually has a look of triumph. Mocks partner’s intellectual abilities, competency, personality, or character.

BLOCKING AND DIVERTING: This prevents conflict resolution. It can be accusatory, switching topics, or diverting the victim away from issues with allegations and irrelevant comments.

ACCUSING AND BLAMING: The accuser blames the partner for the abuser’s own anger, irritation, or insecurity.

JUDGING AND CRITICIZING: By expressing judgments in a critical way, the abuser’s lack of acceptance is on display. Negative “you” statements are used such as, “you’re always….,” “I wouldn’t be angry if…,” or “if only you would do…”

TRIVIALIZING: This makes the partner’s feelings, actions, perceptions, thoughts, concerns, and opinions seem less important than they are.

UNDERMINING: Withholds emotional support of partner; erodes partner’s confidence. “You wouldn’t understand.” “What’s the big deal?” or “Who asked you?”

THREATENING: Threats that bring up the partner’s deepest fears are utilized. “Do what I want or I’ll leave/reject you.” or “If you leave, I’ll make sure you never see the children again.”

NAME CALLING: The most obvious and covert form of verbal/emotional abuse.

FORGETTING: Constantly (intentionally) “forgetting” interactions that have had a great impact on the partner. This involves denial and manipulation, like forgetting promises or agreements.

ORDERING: Denies equality and autonomy of the partner. By treating the partner as “less than” or a servant, the abuser feels entitled (i.e., to services or preferred treatment).

DENIAL OR CRAZY-MAKING: Insidious actions because it overtly denies the reality of the partner. “I never said that!”

INVASIVE BEHAVIORS: The abuser invades their partner’s privacy or personal boundaries.
Examples: The abuser may read their partner’s private diary/journal or won’t allow their partner any private time or space.

ANGER: The underlying, motivating force behind all verbal abuse is ANGER. Both partners are responsible for their own emotions and behaviors. An abuser attempts to make the victim feel responsible for their anger, insecurities, and/or fears. The victim is not responsible for being yelled at, snapped at, raged at, glared at — despite the abuser’s demands, accusations, and blaming.

Within the context of a verbally abusive relationship, the perpetrator’s anger can stem from a general sense of personal powerlessness (“I feel powerless so I’m going to assert control over you in order to feel better about myself”) or from a sense of privilege or righteousness (“I have the right to have my needs met regardless of how it impacts you”). The victim/partner is the scapegoat, used to justify the perpetrator’s abuse. The abuser releases tension and reasserts dominance over the partner by the use of verbal/emotional abuse.


* Cited From SafeHouse Progressive Alliance for NonViolence
Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence m 835 North Street
Boulder, Colorado m 80304 m (303)449-8623

Print Friendly, PDF & Email