Understanding if it's abuse

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is a set of behaviors employed by an individual to control and maintain power over their partner. These behaviors typically focus on harming, intimidating, manipulating, and controlling their intimate partner, forcing them to submit and behave in ways they would not otherwise choose. Domestic abuse impacts people from all backgrounds, communities, and economic standing. Multiple forms of abuse are usually present at the same time in abusive situations. 

Common forms of abuse


Physical abuse is any intentional, unwanted contact with you or something close to your body, or any behavior that causes or has the intention of causing you injury, disability, or death.

The following are descriptive examples of physical abuse, which can be triggering and upsetting to read:

  • Harming your children or pets
  • Punching, slapping, kicking, biting, choking, smothering you, pulling your hair, or throwing anything at you
  • Not allowing you to eat or sleep
  • Using or threatening to use weapons against you, including firearms, knives, baseball bats, mace, or anything else that could cause you bodily harm
  • Preventing you from contacting emergency medical or law enforcement services
  • Driving dangerously with you in the car, or abandoning you in unfamiliar places
  • Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol, especially if you have a history of substance abuse
  • Trapping you or preventing you from leaving your home or another location
  • Preventing you from taking prescribed medication or denying you necessary medical treatment


Emotional abuse includes behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, isolation, or stalking.

The following are descriptive examples of emotional abuse, which can be triggering and upsetting to read:

  • Insulting you or calling you names
  • Telling you what to wear, what to do, or how to behave
  • Yelling or screaming at you
  • Intentionally embarrassing you in front of others or starting rumors about you
  • Preventing you from seeing or communicating with friends or family, or threatening to have your children taken away from you
  • Damaging your property (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)
  • Using online communities or communications to control, intimidate, or humiliate you
  • Blaming their own abusive or unhealthy behavior on you or your actions
  • Being jealous of relationships with friends or family, or accusing you of cheating
  • Stalking you or your loved ones
  • Threatening to harm you, your pets, or people in your life
  • Threatening to harm themselves to keep you from ending the relationship
  • Gaslighting you by pretending not to understand or refusing to listen to you; questioning your recollection of facts, events, or sources; denying previous statements or promises
  • Trivializing your needs or feelings 
  • Making you feel guilty or immature when you don’t consent to sexual activity
  • Threatening to expose personal details, such as immigration status, or financial or identification information


Financial abuse is when one partner controls the other partner's access to financial resources and advancement. This harms the victim's ability to support themselves and may force them to depend on their harm doer.

The following are descriptive examples of financial abuse, which can be triggering and upsetting to read:

  • Giving you an allowance or monitoring what you buy
  • Depositing your paycheck into an account you can’t access
  • Preventing you from seeing shared bank accounts or records
  • Forbidding you from working, or limiting the hours you do
  • Preventing you from going to work by taking your car, keys, or other mode of transportation
  • Getting you fired by harassing you, your employer, or your co-workers
  • Hiding or stealing necessary financial support, such as student financial aid checks, government stimulus checks, food stamps, etc.
  • Using your social security number to obtain loans without your permission
  • Maxing out your credit cards without permission
  • Refusing to provide you with money, food, rent, medicine, or clothing
  • Spending money on themselves while preventing you from doing the same
  • Giving you presents or paying for things with the expectation of something in return
  • Using financial circumstances to control you


Technology abuse is the use of technologies like texting and social media to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner. This behavior often entails emotional abuse that is written and posted online for others to see.

The following are descriptive examples of technology abuse, which can be triggering and upsetting to read:

  • Telling you who you can or can’t follow or be friends with on social media
  • Sending you negative, insulting, or threatening messages or emails
  • Using social media to track your activities
  • Insulting or humiliating you in their posts online, including posting unflattering photos or videos
  • Sending, requesting, or pressuring you to send unwanted explicit photos or videos, sexts, or otherwise compromising messages
  • Stealing or pressuring you to share your account passwords
  • Constantly texting you or making you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone
  • Looking through your phone or checking up on your pictures, texts, and phone records
  • Using any kind of technology (such as spyware or GPS in a car or phone) to monitor your activities


Sexual abuse refers to any behavior that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexually that they don’t want to do. It can also refer to behavior that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity takes place, including oral sex, rape, or controlling reproductive methods and choices.

The following are descriptive examples of sexual abuse, which can be triggering and upsetting to read:

  • Unwanted kissing or touching
  • Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity
  • Refusing to use condoms or restricting access to birth control
  • Preventing you from using protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Sexual contact while intoxicated from drugs or alcohol, unconscious, asleep, or otherwise unable to give clear and informed consent
  • Threatening, pressuring, or otherwise forcing you to have sex or perform sexual acts
  • Using sexual insults toward someone


Stalking occurs when someone watches, follows, or harasses you repeatedly, making you feel afraid or unsafe.

The following are descriptive examples of stalking, which can be triggering and upsetting to read:

  • A pattern of showing up at your home or workplace unannounced or uninvited
  • Sending you unwanted texts, messages, letters, emails, or voicemails
  • Leaving you unwanted items, gifts, or flowers
  • Calling you and hanging up repeatedly or making unwanted phone calls to you, your employer, a professor or teacher, loved ones, or anyone who is important in your life
  • Using social media or technology to track your activities
  • Spreading rumors about you online or in person
  • Manipulating other people to investigate your life, including using someone else’s social media account to look at your profile or befriending your friends in order to get information about you
  • Waiting around at places you spend time
  • Damaging your home, car, or other property
  • Hiring a private investigator to follow or find you as a way of knowing your location or movements
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