When we think of abuse, we all believe that we would surely recognize it when we see it. What’s there to be in doubt about? Nonetheless, the abusiveness in any relationship usually has many nuances and can be hard to identify, or distinguish from otherwise normal (although often unpleasant) reactions. Especially from within. That is why we list several main categories of abuse, and talk about what makes a relationship pathological.
1. Physical abuse
When we think “abuse” most of us go straight towards the idea of a battered woman being brutally beaten and physically pushed around. And, unfortunately, many women and children (but also men) are too often physically assaulted by their loved ones. Physical abuse itself also has many shades, and includes actions that are sometimes borderline abusive, so victims are often reluctant to name what is happening to them as violent. However, in addition to being punched, choked, slapped, or pinned down, which are fairly obvious forms of physical assault, there are others as well. Being put in a jeopardizing situation (for example, being in driven in a car in an intentionally reckless way), or being denied help when sick or hurt is also labelled physically abusive behavior.
2. Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse can also be very easy to pinpoint (any sexual act towards children, for example), but is also hard to establish at times. It comes in a form of a very traumatic combination of physical and emotional abuse. Adult victims of sexual abuse within a relationship are often stigmatized, and it is not rare to hear that there is no such thing as a rape in a marriage. However, this is simply not true. Sexual abuse in a romantic relationship can happen, and includes not only being forced to sex when not wanted, but also being forced to sexual activities that are frightening or hurtful to the victim. Furthermore, if the abuser refuses to practice safe sex, or denies the victim the right to use contraception, that is also sexually abusive behavior.
3. Verbal abuse
Verbal violence is often just as damaging and hurtful as physical abuse. Speaking to someone in a demeaning manner, insulting them, “joking” about their weaknesses, yelling and shouting offends at someone, humiliating them in public or in private, all that constitutes verbal abuse. However, not every instance of a raised voice in a family or relationship means abuse. It’s perfectly normal to lose it sometimes and yell and roar at someone. The difference between normal reaction to frustration and an abuse lies in what comes afterwards. After the emotion is expressed (howled, rather), healthy step is to sit down, calmly talk it over, and reach a solution. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, has only one purpose – to control the victim.
4. Emotional abuse
Emotional abuse is a little more difficult to recognize than the previous three forms of pathology in relationships. This is because sometimes the exact same actions can be both an emotional abuse and a genuine emotional reaction without any malice to it. For example, a person can act in hurt and withdraw affection from their partner or a loved one for some time. That is not emotionally abusive. However, if the same reaction had a purpose of manipulating the “offender” into guilt, submission, remorse, feelings of inadequacy and similar, then that would be abuse. The purpose of such abuse is, as always, the need of the abuser to control their victim. But this need is often hidden to the abuser himself, and they believe that they’re just expressing their authentic emotions. Emotional abuse, simply put, results in the victim being drawn into a pool of negative feelings and experiences, while all the time believing that they’re to blame for such ordeal.
5. Economic and academic abuse
Finally, all these forms of abuse can lead into economic or academic abuse, which rarely occur on their own as they usually come with verbal and emotional manipulation. The abuser uses their maneuvering skills to deprive the victim of his or her economic and academic independence. This may sound like the times long passed since husbands forbid their wives from going to work or school, but it still happens. Such abuse often happens subtly, resulting in the victim “willingly” forsaking their ambitions and plans. Surely, there is also the “old fashion” direct denial of one’s rights to make their decisions regarding their careers and schooling, but more commonly the abuser just makes it easier for the victim to give up her aspirations than to undergo all sorts of manipulations and remain assertive.