In Abuse, Relationships

Types of Domestic Violence and How to Break the Cycle

The common myth about domestic violence is that it occurs to women and their children. The reality is that anyone can find themselves in an abusive relationship at any stage of their lives. This article will not only cover the different Types of Domestic Violence, it will also cover the traits of these abusers and what you can do to break the cycle.

Physical vs Psychological Abuse

Physical abuse involves:

  • Hitting
  • Grabbing
  • Shoving
  • Slapping
  • Biting
  • Arm-twisting
  • Kicking
  • Stabbing
  • Withholding access to necessary resources

Psychological abuse involves:

Acts of Physical Abuse

When physical abuse occurs, there is often no question that an act of violence has taken place. This is because the abuser typically leaves some kind of mark on the victim, such as a cut or a bruise. Victims often put up with the abuse because they are too afraid to leave their partner or have become too dependent on them for their financial well-being.

Others have succeeded in leaving their physically abusive environments, only to have to endure psychological abuse that is just as frightening as the punches and name-calling they endured. Oftentimes, they have to contend with stalking and various other forms of harassment. Sometimes, they are killed because they dared to break free from their abusive partner.

Other Types of Domestic Violence

There are four other types of domestic violence that are not openly discussed but are just as prevalent as the first two types. These involve sexual, emotional, identity and economic abuse.

Sexual Abuse

Marital or acquaintance rape occurs every day, but it is very difficult to prove unless the victim has sustained physical evidence that they can show to his or her physician and local law enforcement. Abusers of this category will treat their partners in a sexually derogatory manner, criticizing the victim’s desirability and performance. Sometimes they will force the victim into prostitution or into having sex with others, such as friends or people they have just met.

Many times, they will accuse their partner of infidelity or intentionally withholding sex. Arguments typically escalate into a physical beating. After that is over, the abuser will force his or her partner into having sex, which may involve attacks on the physical parts of the body.

Economic Abuse

This is another area that is difficult to prove, especially when the couple is married. In most marriages, either the husband or the wife handles the financial responsibilities of their household. Abuse occurs when one of the partners takes complete control, preventing his or her partner from having any involvement in the decision making process.

The victim is forced into handing over his or her paycheck, social security check or public assistance check to their partner. They will receive little or no money, and often they will have to plead or cajole the abuser into letting them have a paltry amount. The victim is also required to justify every cent that he or she spends. This leaves the victim totally dependent on their partner and unable to financially support themselves, keeping them trapped in an unhealthy relationship.

Economic abuse isn’t limited to married couples. The abuser can be an adult child and the victim an elderly parent. In these cases, the child will withhold funds that are necessary to pay for medications and other health care supplies.

Identity Abuse

This type of abuse commonly overlaps the other types, especially emotional abuse. The abuser will assert that the victim will never have another relationship because he is too old, too ugly, crazy, etc. They will also use negative stereotypes to paint the person as a racist, homophobe and more. If the victim is gay, a lesbian or a transgender, the abuser will threaten to out him or her to family, friends and boss.

Emotional Abuse

This is the most difficult aspect of abusive relationships to prove because it is normal for couples to fight. In most cases, the victim has to have witnesses to testify that the abuse took place.

Emotional abuse includes:

  • Constant criticism
  • Name-calling
  • Insults
  • Silent treatment
  • Manipulating the victim’s feelings and emotions to induce guilt
  • Pitting their children against the victim
  • Repeatedly making and breaking promises

The Effects of Domestic Violence

The effects of domestic violence are far-reaching and devastating. Victims suffer not only physically, but psychologically. They feel a constant sense of shame and terror that causes them to isolate themselves from family and friends. They suffer from a variety of medical problems, such as depression, stress-related illnesses and sexually transmitted diseases.

Victims of domestic violence are more likely to commit suicide because their sense of self-worth is destroyed. They are also more likely to hop from job to job because their health problems cause them to miss too many days from work.

Domestic Violence also has significant repercussions on families, friends, co-workers and the community. Children are at particular risk because they witness and often experience the same types of abuse that are inflicted on their parent. They often grow up to repeat the same pattern, as a victim or an abuser.

Friends and family who try to intervene are also at risk because the abuser may retaliate against them. Sometimes the results of their intervention and the victim’s decision to leave lead to tragic results. However, staying with the abuser also has heavy consequences, which may result in death from a final blow or a sexually transmitted disease.

How You Can Break the Cycle of Domestic Violence

The best thing you can do is get out of the situation. In many cases, that is easier said than done. Once the abuser becomes aware of your intention, he or she will try to manipulate or force you into staying. Then, there is the emotional push-pull of your own emotions. The thing that you must remind yourself is that this person will never change and your situation will continue unless you do something about it.

You can start the process by educating yourself about domestic violence. There are a wealth of information online that can help you determine which course of action to take.

Domestic Violence Organizations

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is an excellent place to start. They will alert you about the possibility of computer monitoring once you load their site and provide you with a toll-free number to call. You will have the choice to use this number or continue exploring their site.

The Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project (GMDVP) offers a 24-hour hotline and a wealth of information that will help the victim determine if he is in a bad situation and what to do about it. There is also a section that contains survivor stories that many will find useful.

The Domestic Violence Action Center offers many services and programs for residents of Hawaii. If you are a parent who is concerned that your teenager is dating an abusive person, the section on teen dating violence is especially helpful because it educates the reader about this growing trend.

The Advocates for Human Rights website has a wealth of information about domestic violence which include general information, training and victim advocacy, law and policy and more.

Online Forums for Domestic Violence

Reading about other people’s stories can be a tremendous amount of comfort because you will learn that you are not alone. You will also find plenty of information about how these survivors extricated themselves from their abusive partners. Take notes about the advice and consult with your therapist and attorney about what you learned. They will help you to determine whether this is the best course of action for you to take or not.

Take Advantage of Your Community Resources

Research the counselors in your area who specialize in this type of abuse. Through psychotherapy, you will also learn about the ways you may be attracting abusive partners. They may be able to help you learn ways to stand up for yourself without putting yourself at risk, or they may suggest that you leave immediately and go to an emergency housing shelter. This depends on the severity of the abuse.

Check your local listings for family violence centers or women’s shelters. Services vary, but they can include counseling referrals and temporary restraining orders (TRO). They can also refer you to a 24-hour emergency shelter and place you in contact with police investigators who specialize in domestic violence, child and elderly abuse and stalking.

There may be local hotlines in your area that you can call to receive guidance and assistance. This can include legal advice, which is vital if you have children or other dependents.


Leaving an abusive relationship is not an easy process. However, it can be done by educating yourself, plus getting the appropriate therapy and legal counsel to improve your situation. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone.

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