Recognizing the Types of Domestic Abuse

Recognizing the different types of domestic abuse and what the effects can be, is a crucial way to prevent this behavior from continuing in a domestic situation. It often enables both the perpetrator and the victim to receive help when it is identified and confronted. 

There are some common patterns of domestic abuse that a perpetrator will often exhibit. Alternating between abusive and apologetic behavior is very common. The abuser may even be very pleasant a large amount of the time and is often the main reason why victims have a hard time deciding to leave the relationship. 

Domestic abuse will include abuse of a child, a spouse or partner, and/or elder abuse. The key elements will be intimidation, humiliating the other person, and/or physical injury. 

Types of Domestic Abuse

  • Physical abuse/domestic violence. This type of abuse is the use of physical force against another person that can injure that person or put them at risk of being hurt. It ranges from physical restraint to murder. It will include pushing, kicking, slapping, choking, assault with a weapon, breaking bones, burning, etc.


  • Verbal or nonverbal abuse—psychological, mental abuse, emotional abuse. This behavior may consist of threats, destruction of personal property, or threats to do so. Yelling and name-calling, humiliating the other person, criticism, possessiveness, and isolation from others, making the other person feel that there is no hope or no way out, are also included. 


  • Sexual abuse. Forcing someone to take part in unwanted, degrading, or unsafe sexual activity is sexual abuse. This behavior can also include sexual exploitation, such as forcing a person to watch or look at pornographic material or to participate in pornographic film-making. 


  • Stalking/cyberstalking. This is harassment or threatening another person in a devious and repetitive manner, as in intense monitoring of the other person’s behavior during or after a relationship. Stalking may be conducted around the victim’s home or workplace or as they travel about town, or by phone or online. Online stalking is considered cyberstalking. The victim may experience repeated phone calls, tracking, following, and even being watched by hidden cameras. People who practice stalking are unpredictable, and these practices should always be considered dangerous. 


  • Economic/financial abuse. This form of abuse can include withholding financial resources, such as credit cards or money, stealing from the other person, withholding food, clothing, or medicines, or preventing the partner from working.


  • Spiritual abuse. Using a person’s spiritual or religious beliefs to manipulate them is considered spiritual abuse and prevents someone from practicing those beliefs. Ridiculing beliefs or forcing children to be raised in a faith that the other parent has not agreed to is another example. 

Domestic violence and abuse play out around us every day, either in our own lives or in the lives of those we work with, socialize with, or go to school with. Recognizing the types of domestic abuse that you or another person is suffering can help to gain some clarity when deciding to leave the situation and seek help. 

Here at Bridges Domestic Violence Center, our mission is to serve women, men, and children affected by domestic violence. We provide a safe transition to successful independent living through education, intervention, and case management. If you or someone you know or care about is suffering from the effects of this kind of mistreatment and has decided to leave the abusive relationship, we’re here to help. Your privacy is important to us. Any assistance you receive is free of charge and will be provided with complete confidentiality. Please call us here at 615.599.5777. If you are in immediate physical danger, please call 911, then give us a call afterward. 

We are a member agency of United Way of Greater Nashville.

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