Domestic abuse varies dramatically in relationships, but the constant components are rooted in one person asserting power and control over the other. Domestic Violence comes in various forms including physical, psychological, sexual, and financial abuse; being able to recognize the patterns of control is paramount in knowing if you are in an abusive relationship.
Physical abuse is someone using their body or objects to cause you physical harm such as hitting, slapping, kicking, pushing, pulling your hair, etc. It does not have to leave physical marks to be physical abuse. This also includes abuse that is directed at children, pets, or destroying property. Even if your partner is drunk and did not mean it, or if they “just got so angry they couldn’t control themselves” it is still physical abuse. If they cannot acknowledge that what they are doing is wrong, they are likely to continue doing it.
Psychological or verbal abuse is when a partner causes you harm through putting you down, isolating you, threatening you, gaslighting you (denying your reality), or manipulating you. With this type of abuse, you might find yourself neglecting your own needs for your partner, walking on eggshells, or agreeing to things that you do not want to do. Psychological abuse is the most common type of abuse and is often where abuse in a relationship will start.
Sexual abuse is any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against any individual by another using manipulation, pressure, tricks, coercion, or force. In a sexual context, consent is a freely given, enthusiastic yes, that is retractable. Sexual abuse can happen inside or outside of relationships, which is why communication about what you want and do not want is so important. You may be experiencing sexual abuse in your relationship if your partner demands sex when you are tired or have said no, insults you in sexual ways, ignores your feelings during sex, or intentionally hurts you during sex.
Financial abuse is when your partner has control over your finances. It can look like not allowing access to the bank account or controlling how much money you can have. Financial abuse can also look like opening credit cards in your name or intentionally damaging your credit. If you are experiencing this type of abuse, you may have to ask permission to spend money or feel like nothing belongs to you. Your partner may even interfere with your ability to make money. Financial abuse is another means to assert power and control over another person.
Abuse is Never Okay
Abuse can be confusing because your partner may not always be abusive, there can be times when they are nice and loving. Sometimes you are unsure if you are experiencing abuse or not, “they are just having a bad day,” or “maybe I should have not brought that topic up.” It is important to remember that abuse is never okay. As a community the more we can understand what these behaviors in unhealthy relationships look like we are better able to prevent them, recognize them, and offer appropriate support and resources to each other.
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