October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but there are many forms of domestic violence that are unfamiliar or not commonly spoken of. Knowing the different types of domestic violence is key to supporting survivors because it allows us to: recognize their trauma, facilitate the removal of victims from their abusers, and help survivors heal from the abuse. Domestic violence includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Physical Abuse: Perhaps the most commonly-known form of domestic violence, physical abuse occurs when an individual uses battery, physical assault, and/or sexual assault to gain power over an intimate partner. These methods are often used systematically to control a partner, and can result in serious injury, and, at times, death. Physical abuse is often used in conjunction with other forms of abuse, such as stalking or economic or psychological abuse, to heighten the abuser’s control.
Psychological Abuse: Psychological abuse is the use of threats, threatening acts, coercion, and/or verbal abuse to control, degrade, or terrorize another. This form of abuse often occurs concurrently with or prior to sexual or physical abuse, and often heightens the trauma of those abuses. However, studies confirm that psychological abuse causes long-term mental health damage even if a victim does not experience any other forms of abuse. This may result in depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, low self-esteem, and difficulty establishing trust with others. Psychological abuse is most dangerous when the abuse is covert, rather than blatant, and can be more dangerous than physical abuse because of its long-lasting effects.
Economic Abuse: Perpetrators use economic abuse as an opportunity to control victims financially. This may include attempting to prevent individuals from attending school or getting a job, withholding finances, purposefully withholding financial information, or coercing the victim to take on debt. This creates a financial dependence that discourages victims from leaving the abusive relationship because they are, or feel unable to, finance a life independent of the perpetrator.
Sexual Assault: A common form of domestic violence, sexual assault ranges in severity, and may include actions such as coercive sexual behavior and marital rape. Sexual assault perpetrators abuse individuals of all ethnicities, races, genders, socioeconomic classes, and ages, however, women with disabilities or those who are pregnant and/or attempting to leave their abuser are most likely to experience intimate partner rape. Those who are physically violent towards their intimate partners are more likely to be sexually violent as well, and victims of both types of abuse are more likely to suffer death at the hands of their abuser than if they experience one of these types of violence on its own.
Stalking: Perpetrators may use stalking to intimidate and even terrorize both former and current intimate partners. Stalking includes actions such as surveillance, harassment, or intimidation that causes an individual to fear for his or her health and/or safety and the health or safety of a loved one, household member, or pet. Stalking may motivate the victim to take extreme actions in order to avoid the perpetrator, and is a serious crime.
Gun Violence: Gun violence is the use of or threat of using firearms to attempt to control or terrorize victims. Nearly 1,000 domestic violence victims die as a result of gun violence in the United States every year.
Child Abuse: All of the above forms of abuse are considered child abuse when performed on a child. However, even if the child is not the direct victim of the abuse, studies indicate that children who witness domestic violence often become more anxious, fearful, and withdrawn, and are more likely to display depression and have lower self-esteem then their peers. Because witnessing domestic violence leads children to feel powerless, individuals who experience child abuse or witness domestic violence are more likely to experience or perpetuate domestic violence as adults.
Domestic violence is an all-too-common occurrence, but we can support survivors and mitigate domestic violence by knowing the signs and types of abuse. Follow @we.will.organization on Instagram for more information on how to be an active participant for change in your community.