Aaron wrongly believed that the only type of abuse was physical and then only if it left a mark. This is a common misunderstanding in our culture. When he took some time to review the different types of abuse, he realized that he experienced it in his marriage, from his parents, and on occasion was guilty of abusive behavior as well.
There are many other ways a person can be abused. Abuse can be manipulation, exploitation, maltreatment, neglect, violence, cruelty, harm, hurt, ill-treatment, and exploitive. The seven main ways it is manifested is through physical, mental, verbal, emotional, financial, sexual and spiritual. Legal abuse is very specific and is not readily seen, however, it does occur. The following list is not inclusive but rather provides an opportunity to explore, evaluate and discuss any potentially destructive behavior.
Aaron used this list as a checklist, marking up his and other’s errors in behavior. Awareness is the first step to stopping abuse.
Physical Abuse. Has the victim experienced:
- Intimidation – Bullying by standing over, looking down, or getting “in your face” and then refusing to back off.
- Isolation – Limiting the ability to escape from or abandoning in dangerous situations.
- Restraint – Confines by blocking a doorway, grabbing when trying to leave, locking doors with no key, or tying up.
- Aggression – Hitting, kicking, punching, arm twisting, pushing, beating, shoving, biting, slapping, striking with an object, throwing objects, shaking, pinching, choking, hair pulling, dragging, burning, cutting, stabbing, strangling, and force-feeding (including overdose or misuse of drugs/alcohol).
- Endangerment – Verbal threats of killing mixed with physical violence and use of weapons.
Mental Abuse. Has the victim experienced:
- Rage – An intense, furious anger that comes out of nowhere, usually over nothing, startling and shocking a person into compliance or silence.
- Gaslighting – Lying about the past making a person doubt their memory, perception, and sanity. They claim and give evidence of past wrong behavior further causing doubt.
- The Stare – An intense stare with no feeling or anger behind it frequently mixed with the silent treatment.
- Silent Treatment – Punishing by ignoring. There is a history of cutting others out of their life permanently over small things.
- Projection – Dumping their issues onto others as if the other person did it.
- Twisting – When confronted, twisting things around to blame others for their actions. They will not accept responsibility for their behavior and instead insist on an apology.
- Manipulation – Making others fear the worst such as abandonment, infidelity, rejection, or death.
- Victim Card – When all else fails, they resort to playing the victim card to gain sympathy and further control behavior.
Verbal Abuse. Has the victim experienced:
- Extremes in Vocal Volume and Tone – One way to increase the volume is by yelling, screaming, and raging. The second is complete silence, ignoring, and refusing to respond.
- Intimidating Words – Swearing and threatening language are done when a person refuses to do what they want.
- Intense Manner of Speech – This is argumentative, competitive, sarcastic, and demanding. They frequently interrupt, talk over, withhold key information, bully, and interrogate.
- Personal Attacks – Common examples include criticizing, name-calling, mocking responses, defaming character, berating feelings, and judging opinions.
- No Apology – They refuse to take responsibility, become hostile, invalidate or dismiss feelings of others, lie, and conveniently forget promises or commitments.
- Blame Game – Anything that goes wrong is someone else’s fault. Accuses others of being too sensitive, is overly critical of reactions, one-up feelings and opposing opinions.
- Browbeating – Typical sayings include: “If only you would…, then I won’t have to be this way,” “You don’t know how to take a joke,” “The problem with you is…,” and “That (verbal abuse) didn’t really happen.”
Emotional Abuse. Has the victim experienced:
- Nitpicking – Whatever is important to others is minimized in comparison to their own agenda. They belittle accomplishments, aspirations, or personality in front of others. Teasing or sarcasm is commonly used to degrade and mock.
- Embarrassment/Shame – They share private information without consent, treat other people like a child, or expose some shameful event. Constantly being reminded of shortcomings, often in a passive-aggressive way.
- Increased Anxiety – It is easy to become anxious when questioned about every move, motive or aptitude. Feeling overwhelmed from the excessive responsibility being dumped, expecting others to drop everything to “cheer them up”.
- Excessive Guilt – They claim that they should be the most important person in others life. It is selfish for others to take care of themselves.
- Insecurity – From being held to an unrealistic, unattainable, or unsustainable standard. Then when the person fails, they are treated as inferior.
- Confusion – Being treated as an extension of the abuser, not a separate person.
- Alienation – Belittling friends and family and making other’s social engagements a nightmare (by contrast, they will be amazingly charming at their social engagements).
- Anger/Fear – They generate an angry response by acting immature and selfish but then accuse the other person of behaving that way. Use of intimidation, threats, frightening behavior, or destruction of treasured possessions.
- Hostility/Rejection – Stalking in and away from the house. Refusing to acknowledge worth by withholding love or intimacy creating a threat of rejection.
Financial Abuse. Has the victim experienced:
- Forbidden Access – To money, checking accounts, or possessions to create a dependency on them for food, clothing, shelter, and necessities. Maintains secret accounts at various financial institutions. Depletes retirement accounts without knowledge.
- Stealing – Steals, defrauds, or exploits from family and expects everyone to be ok with it.
- Assets – Demands that all financial gifts, assets, or inheritances be placed in their name. Open bank accounts in their name without giving access to records. Cancels life, health, car, or house insurance without discussing.
- Paychecks – Forces paychecks to be handed over and deposited it in their account.
- Bills/Credit – Puts all the bills or credit cards in other’s name. The assets are in their name, but debt is in someone else’s name. Maxes out credit cards without knowledge and ruins other’s credit rating.
- Taxes – Falsifies tax records to show greater reductions and expects others to sign documents without question.
- Budget – Puts others on a strict allowance with an impossible “budget” thereby setting them up for failure. Punishes spending with verbal, physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
- Career – Forbids others from earning money, attending school, or advancing careers.
- Work – Interferes in a work environment by calling the boss. Insists on having access to work emails and calendar knowing details about the job that is excessive, unprofessional, and violates confidentiality. Harasses while at work through unannounced visits, excessive phone calls, or texting to negatively impact the job.
Sexual Abuse. Has the victim experienced:
- Grooming – Doing an unwanted or embarrassing sexual act designed to catch others off-guard, create a feeling of trepidation, and see if others comply.
- Jealousy Rages – Demands to be told everything about previous sexual partners. Then uses the information to call them a slut. Frequent accusations of being attracted to others, flirting, flaunting your body, and cheating.
- Coercion Tactics – Use of harassment, guilt, shame, blame, or rage to coerce others into having sex. They nag, insult, become disruptive, and refuse to allow sleep until they concede.
- Threatens Infidelity – Dangles the possibility of another person in order to bully into doing uncomfortable sexual acts.
- Inciting Fear – Others submit to unwanted sexual acts out of fear that they will hit, leave, humiliate, punish, betray, or withhold money.
- Selfish Appeals – A classic example of selfish sex is unprotected sex. Because intercourse is all about how they feel, they refuse to use condoms and insist others take full responsibility for birth control or STD/STI protection.
- Sexual Withdraw – Some completely withdraw all sex from the relationship. Any requests for sex are met with ridicule, rants about performance, and excessive excuses for abstinence.
- Ultimatums – For them, others body is theirs and their body is theirs. Ultimatums include demands to lose weight, groom a certain way, forced pregnancy or an abortion, and forbidding breastfeeding.
- Destroying Principles – Previous sexual standards are obliterated. For instance, participating in pornography, prostitution, having multiple partners at one time, or sex with animals was completely out of the question but now are common.
- Rape – The FBI defines rape as “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
- Degrading Acts – Degradation is in the eye of the beholder. They will not view these acts as degrading, but others might. Here are a couple of examples: urinating on a person, having sex while on the toilet, or forced sex in public places.
- Sadistic Sex – There are two forms of sadistic sexual acts: mild (also known as S&M) and severe which can lead to death. Mild examples include: master-slave role playing, immobilizing others through drugs or alcohol, administering pain (whipping) during sex, confining others to a cage, typing up, blindfolding, or clamping sexual organs. The severe examples include: physical beatings, choking, psychological torture, burning, cutting, stabbing, vampirism, and murder before, during or after sex.
Spiritual Abuse. Has the victim experienced:
- Dichotomous Thinking – Dividing people into two parts. Those who agree with them and those who don’t. They make fun of, belittle, and show prejudice towards other beliefs.
- Elitists – Refusing to associate with people or groups they consider impure or unholy.
- Submission – Requires that others completely adopt their point of view. There is no room for differing opinions or questioning their authority. Name calling, chastising, and the silent treatment are common maneuvers into compliance.
- Labeling – People who don’t comply with their beliefs are disobedient, rebellious, lacking faith, demons, or enemies of the faith.
- Public Performance – Demand perfection and happiness always. Religious activities such as attending church have extreme demands, excessive expectations, and rigidity.
- Legalistic – Strict adherence to their rules and regulations are commanded with absolute statements about insignificant issues such as hair color or style. Non-compliance is met with severe discipline and even excommunication.
- Segregation – Use secrecy or withholds information to a few select worthy individuals. Estrangement from extended family members and friends outside of the religion. This includes shunning, alienation, or persecution.
- Blind Obedience – Is expected. They have replaced religion with themselves and people are expected to worship them.
- Abuse of Authority – Use position or authority to connive for their personal benefit which is often financial. They justify the behavior by saying they deserve it.
- Fraud – Engaging in criminal misconduct or cover up the transgressions of others in the name of their religion. This includes covering up sexual abuse, physical abuse, financial felonies, and misdemeanors.
Legal Abuse. Has the victim experienced:
- Frivolous Lawsuits – Filing senseless lawsuits that have little merit for the point of forcing the opposing party to hire an attorney and incur unnecessary expenses
- False Accusations – Bearing their opponent to court by falsely projecting their issues onto the opponent.
- Entrapment – Inciting and encouraging victims to act irrationally and then call the police on them. This event is then later used as a threat in another lawsuit or civil action.
- Gaming the System. Using the laws designed to protect a person as a point of manipulation against them. For instance, not allowing a child to see or speak to the other parent on “their time” because that would give the other parent more time than them.
- Senseless motions/hearings. In order to delay the process, filing senseless motions, excessive hearings, and multiple postponements. This is done to drain the financial resources of the opponent and create an atmosphere of the never-ending-lawsuit.
- Committing Perjury. Lying about matters that are not material and are inconsequential to the case just to anger their opponent.
- Using Loopholes. Finding loopholes in the law and using it their favor.
- Jury Tampering. Bribing or intimidating members of a jury to decide a certain way. While this is usually the stuff movies are made of, it still does happen in the courtroom.
As a reminder, this list is a starting point to bring about the discussion of abusive behavior. There are many more ways a person can be abused other than the items listed here. Acknowledgment is the first step towards healing.