Types Of Abuse
One of the areas I specialize in as a Licensed Professional Counselor is women with past abuse. Often, a woman might not realize that she has been the victim of abuse because we tend to only think of physical abuse, or domestic violence, as abuse. But that is only one type of abuse. Often abusers will use other non-physical types of abuse before escalating to physical abuse. In this blog, I will highlight five types of abuse that are used to gain and keep power and control over another person.
I could also call this mental abuse. It is not unusual for a pattern of abuse to begin in the dating relationship with name-calling and verbal insults. Because the abuser doesn’t hit you, you think that it’s not abuse. Also, because of low self-esteem issues, you can begin to believe the put-downs and insults are true. “Maybe I am worthless, stupid, ugly, etc.. Maybe no one else would want me as broken and messed-up as I am.” Verbal abuse doesn’t leave physical marks, but it does leave emotional wounds that take even longer to heal than physical wounds. Words, like weapons, wound and kill the soul.
Verbal abuse is like water dripping relentlessly on limestone, slowly wearing it away until huge caverns are formed in the psyche. A pattern of hurtful words or actions will erode your mental wellbeing. There are cases where a partner practices gaslighting. Gaslighting is when an abuser says or does something and then makes you think it never happened, that you’re crazy, that you don’t remember it right. Over time, you can begin to believe that you are crazy, that something is wrong with your mind. You can start to doubt yourself and stop trusting your own judgment. You’ll fear telling anyone about what’s happening because you think no one will believe you. Another thing abusers do is isolate their partner and deny them friends or visits to family so that the abused spouse becomes dependent on their abuser.
In any relationship, whether it is a company, a church, or a marriage, whoever controls the money has the power. Abuse is all about power and control, so it is common for abusers to use money to control and dominate their spouse. In a marriage, it is usually the husband who takes control of the bank accounts, credit cards, etc. and controls the spending. Wives go along with this because it is the traditional role for a husband to handle the money, and with a normal and loving husband, it’s not a problem. But with an abusive husband, the wife becomes financially dependent on someone who does not have her best interest at heart or see her as a partner. But when she realizes she is being abused, because she doesn’t have her own money, she is unable to leave because she is financially shackled to her abuser. Sometimes he will run up the credit cards and do things to intentionally ruin their credit so that she can’t get an apartment, a job, a loan or anything that would help her start her own life.
I don’t need to elaborate on this. We all know what domestic violence looks like: punching, hitting, slapping, kicking, choking, poisoning, physically restraining someone against their will, etc.. It could include intentionally driving recklessly and even getting in “accidents” that cause physical harm. Physical abuse might begin in the dating stage or it might not appear until after marriage. But once it appears, the abused partner’s life and the lives of the children are in danger. It is very often exacerbated by the use of alcohol and/or drugs. Because of psychological abuse, abused partners often think that the violence, no matter how severe it was, was somehow their fault, and they will return to the abuser thinking that if they don’t repeat their own bad behavior, the abuse will stop.
Yes, sexual abuse is physical abuse. I think of rape and forcing sexual acts on you. That is domestic violence, to be forced to do something you don’t consent to, even by your spouse. Since 1993, mirtial rape is illegal in all 50 states. But sexual abuse can also be non-physical. When sex is used as a weapon, that is sexual abuse. When a partner withholds sex to manipulate their partner, that is abuse. When a partner uses sex to devalue you, to make you feel that you are not good enough or physically attractive enough, or “fill in the blank” enough, that is abuse. Or if they make you think that all you’re good at and all you’re good for is sex, that is abuse. Sex is an act of love and intimacy that absolutely requires safety and trust. If your spouse uses sex as a tool of power and control, that is abuse.
If you are experiencing any of these types of abuse, or if you have experienced abuse in your past. I urge you to seek a counselor who can help you process your trauma and heal. I only work with women who have experienced abuse, but if you are a man who has experienced abuse, seek help. We have male counselors who can work with you. I encourage you to read more about trauma, and reach out to us at Christian Counseling Associates to schedule a free consultation to get you started on the road to healing.
Ruby Pappachen is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Christian Counseling Associates. She specializes in helping women with past abuse. She is taking new clients.