Signs of Abuse
Margaret E. Retter, Esq.
There are many kinds of abusive behavior – psychological, sexual, physical, legal, and economic. The following is a list of some possible signs.This list is not complete but only examples of types of abuse.
Perpetrators will use varying combinations of psychological abuse depending on what works on their victims.
Verbal threats, name-calling, and criticism against the victim, family members, and pets. Verbal attacks usually focus on the victim’s vulnerabilities, which are well known to the abuser. The perpetrator’s threats of harm may be against the victim, others important to the victim, or they may be threats of suicide.
Harassment and blackmail
Threats to kidnap the victim’s children
Standing over the victim in a threatening manner
Outing same-sex partners
Threats to out same-sex partners
Isolation: Abusers try to control their victims’ time, activities, and contact with others. Control over the victim is gained through a combination of isolating and misinformation tactics. If a victim is isolated s/he will believe whatever the abuser says, since there are no other sources of information. Tactics include:
Moving the victim away from supportive friends and family members.
Claiming that the victim’s friends or family are “interfering”
Restricting access to the phone, transportation, and outside world.
Sabotaging a partner’s relationship with his/her children
Misinformation: These tactics can be used by the abuser to distort what is real or the truth. They can include: giving contradictory information, lying to the victim, and withholding information.
Some domestic violence victims are unclear whether forms of sexual abuse are really abuse, believing it to be their duty as a spouse/partner.
Coerced sex by manipulation or threat of physical force
Sex at a time when the victim is not willing
Forcing victim to watch pornography
Assaults to genital area or breasts
Forced sexual activity with a third person
Withholding or demanding frequent sex
There are many degrees of physical abuse. Some result in physical injury; some do not. Some forms of physical abuse could be as subtle as a purposeful overdose of anti-diarrheal medication. Other examples include:
Grabbing, choking, pushing, kicking, slapping, punching, biting, hair-pulling, and/or burning
Forcing alcohol or drug use
Using weapons against the victim
Withholding access to medication, medical care, food, fluids, and/or sleep
It is not uncommon for abusers to use the legal system against the victim. Examples of this can include:
Falsely reporting victim to law enforcement. If reported first, the victim is often forced to defend herself instead of protecting herself from the abuser.
Threatening to report drug use
Threatening reports to social service agencies who might cut benefits
Filing orders of protection against the victim to make the victim appear to be the violent one
Instituting legal proceedings that the victim cannot afford to fight
Threatening to have victim declared incompetent
The abuser may purposely prevent the victim from becoming financially self-sufficient in order to maintain power and control- financial dependence is often a reason a victim remains with the batterer. Examples of this behavior include:
Controlling access to resources such as cars, food, clothing, shelter, money
Victims are put in the position of having to ask permission to spend money on basic family needs.
Preventing victim from keeping a job or from attending school
Not listing victim as owner on a car, home or insurance policies
Ruining the victim’s credit
Threatening to take victim off of medical insurance
Refusing to work or to be responsible for financial affairs
Controlling how all resources are spent
Working “off the books” or for cash so that no or very little income is reported which the victim may be awarded
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