ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What Does Domestic Violence Look Like?

Updated on July 20, 2016

Types of Domestic Abuse:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Sexual
  • Digital
  • Financial
  • Psychological

If you've read my article about how the media portrays domestic violence, you'll know that I don't support how it is mostly depicted as physical or sexual violence. In fact, there are many types of abuse and each of them is damaging and hurtful for the victim. Domestic violence is anything used to control another partner in a relationship. It is the violation of the right we all have to healthy, supportive and safe relationships. In this article, I will explain the different types of domestic violence and what they might look like.



This one is probably the most obvious, as it is the abuse that we most commonly see on tv, movies and in the news. This aggressive behavior can range from bruising to murder. Examples of physical abuse include:

  • damaging valuable/personal property or throwing objects at the victim.
  • hitting, slapping, punching, or kicking.
  • scratching, hair pulling, pushing or grabbing.
  • burning.
  • strangulation (It only takes 15 to 20 seconds to lose consciousness and 2 to 4 minutes to die).
  • refusing medical attention or hiding medications that belong to the victim.
  • pressuring or forcing a partner to use substances such as drugs or alcohol.
  • use of weapons, including improvised objects.

An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. Women aren't the only ones being physically abused, men can also be victims of physical violence. The great difference here is that women are far more often seriously hurt or killed than men. Either way, it is unacceptable to physically hurt anyone.

Domestic Violence Awareness ad in Singapore shows how verbal abuse can be just as hurtful as physical abuse.
Domestic Violence Awareness ad in Singapore shows how verbal abuse can be just as hurtful as physical abuse.


Emotional abuse refers to abuse that affects how we feel. It's not just about how the victim feels at the moment of abuse but also how they feel about themselves and the world around them. This often gets linked to verbal & psychological abuse. So what is the difference? Well, verbal could definitely be considered emotional abuse, as the abuser uses hurtful words to affect how the victim feels about themselves. Mental/psychological abuse affects how our brain develops. (I'll go more in-depth with this later on in this article). Therefore, emotional abuse can include the following tactics:

  • name calling, insults, put downs.
  • blaming the victim for everything.
  • shaming or humiliation.
  • socially isolating the victim from family and friends.
  • ignoring, or withholding attention.
  • intimidation, which can be accomplished through verbal threats or displaying weapons.
  • stalking or harassment.

This list isn't extensive. There are many other ways that someone could be emotionally abused.

  • On average, almost 500 women are raped or sexually assaulted every day, in the U.S.
  • Approximately, two-thirds of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
  • Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
  • Victims of sexual abuse are 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.


Any action that impacts a person's ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs. Unfortunately, physical attacks by the abuser is often accompanied by, or culminates in, sexual violence wherein the victim is forced to have sexual intercourse with the abuser or take part in unwanted sexual activity.

Examples include:

  • forcing a partner to perform sexual acts against their will, including having sex with other people, imitate pornography.
  • pursuing sexual activity when the victim is not fully conscious, is not asked, or is afraid to say no.
  • hurting their partner physically during sex or assaulting genitals.
  • coercing a partner to have sex without protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • pressuring their partner to send nude photos or taking nude photos without their consent.
  • this can be taken to the other extreme by withholding physical affection.



In this high-tech world where we are constantly connected through technology, it has produced a new tool that abusers can use to exert power & control over their victims. Abusers can use technology to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. This includes:

  • hacking into a victim's email or personal accounts.
  • using gps to know where a victim is at all times.
  • reading all of their text messages or conversations on facebook.
  • spreading lies or humiliating the victim through social media.
  • recording or filming the victim's conversations with other people without their consent or knowledge.

Technology has become a quick and easy way for stalkers to monitor and harass their
victims. More than one in four stalking victims reports that some form of cyberstalking was used against them, such as email (83 percent of all cyberstalking victims) or instant messaging (35 percent). Electronic monitoring of some kind is used to stalk one in 13 victims.



Financial abuse is not just limiting spending or having control of the family budget. This is about destroying the victim's confidence and ability to earn a living for themselves, making the victim 100% reliant on the abuser for all of their basic needs. This can be accomplished through a variety of ways, including:

  • damaging a partner's credit score.
  • hiding financial decisions.
  • controlling financial assets and effectively putting the victim on an allowance.
  • threatening or actually kicking the victim out of the house.
  • interfering with the victim getting an education, this can include harassing them while they're trying to study or by refusing to pay for the costs of tuition.
  • causing a partner to lose their job through direct & indirect means, such as causing injury that prevents them from being in public or withholding transportation.

Mental & Emotional Abuse in Disney Musical Number


I saved this one for last because I think it is the most insidious and common form of abuse. 95% of men who physically abuse their partners also psychologically abuse them. Psychological abuse interferes with the cognitive development of victims. (i.e., how we learn, remember, solve problems, make associations between things, etc.) There have been so many times, in my own experience, where I have heard victims being called "brain-washed". And it is true, abusers have tactics they use that literally cause the victim to have distorted views about themselves and reality in general. Psychological or mental abuse affects how victims make decisions, because their minds don't follow a path of logic based on evidence they've gathered from their environment. Instead, it follows a distorted path of "logic" that the abuser has ingrained into them, that causes them to ignore reality and to react in abnormal ways. In my opinion, psychological abuse is probably the driving factor for why so many women stay in abusive relationships.

A popular method of mental abuse is called gaslighting. Gaslighting is where false information is given to the victim with the intent of making them doubt their own memory, perception and sanity. According to author and psychoanalyst Robin Stern, Ph.D., the signs of being a victim of gaslighting mental abuse include:

  1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
  2. You ask yourself, "Am I too sensitive?" a dozen times a day.
  3. You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
  4. You're always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend,, boss.
  5. You can't understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren't happier.
  6. You frequently make excuses for your partner's behavior to friends and family.
  7. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.
  8. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
  9. You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
  10. You have trouble making simple decisions.
  11. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person - more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
  12. You feel hopeless and joyless.
  13. You feel as though you can't do anything right.
  14. You wonder if you are a "good enough" girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend/daughter.

End the Silence

If you or someone you know is experiencing any type of domestic violence, get help! Don't stay silent, because it will only get worse. You can get help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or by visiting their website at Abuse, regardless what type or the severity, is absolutely unacceptable. Even if you don't personally know anyone who is a victim of domestic violence, you can still get involved in raising awareness. Please share this article with your friends and family. Help us educate society and bring an end to domestic violence.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Robertson 107 

      4 days ago

      I am just getting out of an abusive relationship..more psychological than anything else. I had never even heard of the term "gaslighting". Good to know there is a term, and that it isn't as uncommon as I thought. Great information!

    • profile image

      Signe Jorgensen 

      3 years ago

      Abuse come in many forms. Don't allow yourself to become or remain another victim. Getting through it myself. I know.

    • Lisa Lucero profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Colorado

      Savvy dating, I appreciate that you find my article useful. I am glad you left that boyfriend as soon as he hit you, physical violence usually escalates, so you made a very wise choice! Understanding victims of domestic violence and why they choose to stay is a very complicated topic. I intend to write an article on just that. As soon as it is published, I hope you'll check it out.

    • Lisa Lucero profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Colorado

      Joyette, thanks for the positive feedback! Unfortunately, yes, digital abuse is on the rise. There are so many new applications that help abusers become more controlling.

    • savvydating profile image


      4 years ago

      It's good to hear from someone who understands this subject well. I plan to read the paragraph on gas lighting once more, as that particular method of abuse must be rather difficult to detect.

      You've written a very useful hub here. I despise abusers. When I was 19, a boyfriend hit me once. I was out the door the same day. I just won't put up with that crap.

      It would be interesting to learn the psychology behind women who do put up with abuse. There must be a strong underlying reason, although I don't know what that reason is. I will look at more of your hubs to glean more insight on this matter. Great material!

    • Joyette  Fabien profile image

      Joyette Fabien 

      5 years ago from Dominica

      Great hub! You have been very thorough. The digital way is becoming quite prevalent in these times

    • Lisa Lucero profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Colorado

      Wow Marilyn, thank you so much for sharing your story. Thank goodness for that man who was willing to step in and save you. I've seen too often that people are afraid to help. I am glad that my article helped you to better understand the abuse you suffered. I appreciate the positive feedback. I am so sorry that you are still healing from this. I know what tremendous amount of courage it must've taken you to remove yourself & your children from that situation. Thank you again for your comment!

    • profile image

      Marilyn Hampton 

      5 years ago

      I am a 62 year old woman who went through domestic abuse in my first marriage from the late '60's to the mid '70's. What finally made me realize that I needed to get out for me and my two small children was his beating me and banging my face into a concrete floor as he told me He would fix me where no man would ever want to look at me. I was saved from his murdering me by a man who walked into the room where we were. This man ended up with a broken arm and nose to save me from being killed.

      I have never heard the term "gaslighting" until now. What an appropriate term. Domestic Violence is damaging not only to the body but emotionally and spiritually. I still to this day cannot handle someone scaring or touching me from behind I become like a warrior and attack them. I guess you could say I have PTSD. I also have lapses of memory and cannot put events in sequence for that time period.

      It is hard to think that someone can have that kind of control over you.

    • Lisa Lucero profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Colorado

      Thank you funmi Johnson for the positive feedback!

    • profile image

      funmi johnson 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for a wonderful article. The points about 'gaslighting' and how domestic abuse affects the brain were very instructive.

    • Lisa Lucero profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Colorado

      Ashley Ryan, I am so glad to hear that you have been able to escape that situation and have found a new & healthy relationship. Thank you so much for the positive feedback on my article. I hope that I am making a difference and comments like yours make me want to continue. Thanks again!

    • Lisa Lucero profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Colorado

      Ellereed, I am so glad you've made the decision to leave that relationship. I know it isn't always easy and you still have some healing to do, but I am positive that you have made a great choice for yourself. I am so grateful that my article helped you!

    • ellereed profile image

      Ladonne Reed 

      5 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      I am just getting out of an abusive relationship..more psychological than anything else. I had never even heard of the term "gaslighting". Good to know there is a term, and that it isn't as uncommon as I thought. Great information!

    • Ashley Ryan P profile image

      Ash Ryan 

      5 years ago from Red Dirt Country

      This is amazing.

      I never realized I was in a physically/financially/emotionally/digitally abusive relationship for a VERY long time. He would often grab me by my wrists and use my hands to hit himself in the face. He'd call me all sorts of names and tell me it was MY fault. I was the one who made him act that way. I blamed myself for the longest time, too. I still struggle with a lot. It's been years, but I still flinch at sudden movement. I still find myself apologizing profusely if I step on someone's shoe. I still ask permission to go to the store to buy milk. It's terrible!!

      I'm now in a super wonderful relationship with my BEST friend. He tries to make light of my old habits to help me break them. It is slowly working and sometimes puts strain on me. Being "trained" to do things for so long is almost impossible to force yourself to do otherwise... even years later.

      If it wasn't for hubs like these, I never would've gotten out of where I was. You don't know how many people you may affect by this. Thank you so much!!

    • Lisa Lucero profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Colorado

      I appreciate your information about the biological effect of gaslighting. I didn't even know that. Thank you for your positive feedback on my article.

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile image

      Dr Billy Kidd 

      5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for the great post on abuse!

      Gaslighting is the most common unacknowledged problem a woman has with a controlling man. Like you mention, she can't even explain the problem. There's a biological reason why.

      The research shows that being under chronic stress shrinks the hippocampus in the brain (same as having PTSD). The hippocampus translates short term memory (about 3 minutes) into long-term memory. When it shrinks, you can't keep track of the events in your life or what you're really trying to say. Men have used gaslighting for centuries to control women. Just keep them under constant stress.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)