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What Are 7 Forms of Domestic Abuse Besides Physical & Sexual? Part 1

By: Ashlee Stumpf, LPC

COVID-19 has caused countless issues for us this year; some directly, some indirectly. One indirect consequence of this virus is the rise of domestic violence. To be clear, domestic violence has been at epidemic levels for years, but with recent stay-at-home orders, job losses, and lack of out of the house interaction the reports have gone up. However, no matter the situation, it is NEVER appropriate to abuse another person. Whether your relationship be married, dating, parent, child, or roommate to the other person, abuse is never acceptable.

The reason for writing this article is to introduce people to concept of domestic violence and the different forms it can take. Most people are aware of physical and sexual abuse and could name examples. And while more awareness still needs to be raised, this article will highlight the lesser known forms of abuse. But before we start, let’s define domestic abuse.

 “Domestic abuse, also called ‘domestic violence’ or ‘intimate partner violence,’ can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. “ –

The important parts of that definition include “any relationship,” and “power and control.” The words “any relationship” shows domestic abuse does not solely apply to one’s partner. Any close relationship can become abusive. This article will mostly use examples of romantic partners for clarity purposes, but family members, roommates, or the romantic partner of a family member/roommate could be an abuser. The other words, “power and control” are seen are the cornerstone of domestic abuse. The actions committed by an abusive individual are either an attempt to exert power over their partner, keeping the other person from having power, or trying to control the other person. Sometimes the abusive person tries to do all three. Sometimes these acts are done unconsciously. However, their impact on others is anything but unfelt.

The following forms of abuse are a part of the Duluth’s model’s power and control wheel. The Duluth model is the standard many domestic abuse intervention programs in the United States are based on.   

  1.       Coercion and Threats

Keeping in mind that power and control are the main motivators for domestic abuse, the use of coercion and threats involves making the partner believe harm will come to them if they don’t act in the way the abuser wants. This could take the form of threating to leave the relationship, to cheat, to commit suicide, harm you (your children, pets, etc.). The abuser may also try to use information they know about their partner to manipulate them; like threatening to out their partner’s sexuality or report on their legal status. An abusive partner maybe using those threats to coerce their partner to have sex with them, do illegal things, make them drop criminal charges, etc. Whatever the reason, coercion and threats help an abusive partner keep the other feeling powerless.  

  1.       Intimidation

Intimidation can be like coercion and threats but often is more understated. Threats are typically direct. “You do X, or I’ll do Y.” Intimidation, on the other hand, involves non-verbal communication. It shows what the partner what the other could do.  For example, smashing items in front of their partner. The abusive partner has not made a verbal threat but non-verbally it could be interrupted as “Look at my anger and how I could turn it on you.” Other examples of intimidation can be destroying the partner’s property, harming pets, or displaying weapons.  

  1.       Emotional Abuse

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”                                                                                                                                                           – Alice Walker

In emotional abuse, this type of thinking is encouraged by an abusive partner. The goal is to make the other partner doubt and/or feel bad about themselves. This could involve the abused party being called out of their name, being told “you’re crazy” or “stupid,” made to feel guilty or humiliated.  With this method the abusive partner increases their power in the relationship by making the other doubt their worth.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse of any kind, please get help.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

(800) 799-7233

Available 24/7

City of Chicago Domestic Violence Help Line

(877) 863-6338

Available 24/7

Several of the counselors at Symmetry, including myself, have experience helping victims and survivors of domestic violence. Please reach out and seek help. The hardest part is often making the call, but it is worth it. There is help. 


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