Most state protective services constitute abuse to be neglect, sexual, or physical. But a bruise should not be a requirement for proof of abusive behavior. 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 ways it is manifested is through physical, mental, verbal, emotional, financial, sexual and spiritual. The following list is not inclusive but rather provides an opportunity to explore, evaluate and discuss any potentially destructive behavior.
Physical Abuse. Have you experienced:
- Intimidation – Bullying by standing over, looking down, or getting “in your face” and then refusing to back off.
- Isolation – Limiting your ability to escape from or abandoning you in dangerous situations.
- Restraint – Confines you 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, shaking, pinching, choking, hair pulling, dragging, burning, cutting, stabbing, strangling, and force-feeding (including overdose or misuse of drugs).
- Endangerment – Verbal threats of killing you or someone you know or love mixed with physical violence and use of weapons.
Mental Abuse. Have you 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 you doubt your memory, perception, and sanity. The abuser claims and gives evidence of past wrong behavior further causing doubt for you.
- The Stare – An intense stare with no feeling behind it frequently mixed with the silent treatment.
- Silent Treatment – Punish by ignoring. The abuser also has a history of cutting others out of their life permanently over small things.
- Projection – The abuser dumps their issues onto you as if you did it.
- Twisting – When confronted, the abuser will twist things around to blame you for their actions. The abuser will not accept responsibility for their behavior and instead insist on an apology from you.
- Manipulation – Threats to make your worst fear come true such as abandonment, infidelity, or rejection.
- Victim Card – When all else fails, the abuser resorts to playing the victim card to gain sympathy and further control your behavior.
Verbal Abuse. Have you experienced:
- Extremes in Volume and Tone Voice – One way is to increase the volume by yelling, screaming, and raging. The second is complete silence, ignoring, and refusing to respond.
- Intimidating Words – The abuser swears and uses threaten language when you refuse to do what they want.
- Intense Manner of Speech – It is argumentative, competitive, sarcastic and demanding. The abuser frequently interrupts, talks over, withholds key information, bullies and interrogates.
- Personal Attacks – Common examples include criticizing, name-calling, mocking responses, defaming character, berating feelings, and judging opinions.
- No Apology – The abuser refuses to take responsibility, becomes hostile, invalidates or dismisses your feelings, lies, and conveniently forgets promises or commitments.
- Blame Game – Anything that goes wrong is your fault. Accuses you of being too sensitive, is overly critical of your reactions, one-ups your feelings, and opposes your 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. Have you experienced:
- Nitpicking – Whatever is important to you is minimized in comparison to the abuser’s agenda. They belittle your accomplishments, aspirations, or personality in front of others. Teasing or sarcasm is commonly used to degrade and mock.
- Embarrassment/Shame – The abuser shares private information without consent, treat you like a child, or exposes some shameful event. Constantly reminds you of your shortcomings, often in a passive-aggressive way.
- Increased Anxiety – It is easy to become anxious when questioned about every move, motive or aptitude. You feel overwhelmed from the excessive responsibility the abuser dumps on you. They also expect you to drop everything to “cheer them up”.
- Excessive Guilt – The abuser claims that they should be the most important person in your life. It is selfish for you to take care of yourself.
- Insecurity – You are held to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard. Then when you fail, the abuser treats you as inferior.
- Confusion – Being treated as an extension of the abuser, not a separate person.
- Alienation – Belittling friends and family and making your social engagements a nightmare (by contrast, they will be amazingly charming at their social engagements).
- Anger/Fear – The abuser generates an angry response by acting immature and selfish but then accuse you 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. Have you experienced:
- Forbidden Access – To money, checking accounts, or possessions to create a dependency on the abuser for food, clothing, shelter, and necessities. The abuser 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 your prior knowledge.
- Paychecks – Forces your paychecks to be handed over and deposited it in their account.
- Bills/Credit – Puts all the bills or credit cards in your name. The assets are in their name but debt is in your name. Maxes out credit cards without your knowledge and ruins your credit rating.
- Taxes – Falsifies tax records to show greater reductions and expects you to sign documents without question.
- Budget – Puts you on a strict allowance with an impossible “budget” thereby setting you up for failure. Punishes spending with verbal, physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
- Career – Forbids you from earning money, attending school, or advancing careers.
- Work – Interferes in a work environment by calling your boss. Insists on having access to work emails and calendar knowing details about the job that is excessive, unprofessional, and violates confidentiality. Harasses you while at work through unannounced visits, excessive phone calls or texting to negatively impact the job.
Sexual Abuse. Have you experienced:
- Grooming – The abuser doing an unwanted or embarrassing sexual act designed to catch you off-guard, create a feeling of trepidation, and see if you comply.
- Jealousy Rages – Demands to be told everything about your previous sexual partners. Then they use the information to call you 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 you into having sex. They nag, insult, become disruptive, and refuse to allow sleep until you concede.
- Threatens Infidelity – Dangles the possibility of another person in order to bully you into doing uncomfortable sexual acts.
- Inciting Fear – You submit to unwanted sexual acts out of fear that you will be hit, be left, humiliated, punished, betrayed, or money will be withheld.
- Selfish Appeals – A classic example of selfish sex is unprotected sex. Because intercourse is all about how the abuser feels, they refuse to use condoms and insist that you take full responsibility for birth control or STD/STI protection.
- Sexual Withdraw – Some abusers completely withdraw all sex from the relationship for no reason. Any requests for sex are met with ridicule, rants about performance, and excessive excuses for abstinence.
- Ultimatums – For the abuser, your 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 – Your 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. The abuser will not view these acts as degrading but you 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 you through drugs or alcohol, administering pain (whipping) during sex, confining you 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. Have you experienced:
- Dichotomous Thinking – The abuser 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 – Refuses to associate with people or groups they consider impure or unholy.
- Submission – Requires that you 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 seen as disobedient, rebellious, lacking faith, demons, or enemies of the faith.
- Public Performance – Demand perfection and happiness at all times. Religious activities such as attending church have extreme demands, excessive expectations, and rigidity.
- Legalistic – Strict adherence to the abuser’s 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. The abuser has 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.
Reminder: This list is a starting point to bring about a discussion. There are many more ways a person can be abused such as legally, senior abuse, and neglect of the basic needs. If you are experiencing abuse, please get help from a professional.