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Domestic Abuse: What You Need to Know

What is domestic abuse?

United Nations defines domestic abuse, also called “domestic violence” or “intimate partner violence”, as a pattern of behaviour in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.

Who experiences domestic abuse?

While domestic abuse can happen to anyone, women are more susceptible to domestic abuse than men. Women’s Aid cited that women experience higher rates of repeated victimisation and are much more likely to be seriously hurt (Walby & Towers, 2017; Walby & Allen, 2004) or killed than male victims of domestic abuse (ONS, 2017).

According to World Health Organization, almost one third (30%) of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner. The prevalence estimates of intimate partner violence range from 23.2% in high-income countries and 24.6% in the WHO Western Pacific region to 37% in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region, and 37.7% in the WHO South-East Asia region.

What are types of domestic abuse?

There are many different types of domestic abuse but the most common are physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, and financial or economic abuse. See more specific examples of each type below:

Physical abuse

According to ReachOut Australia, physical abuse basically involves a person using physical force against you, which causes, or could cause, you harm. These can involve any of the following violent acts:

  • Scratching or biting
  • Pushing or shoving
  • Slapping
  • Kicking
  • Choking or strangling
  • Throwing things
  • Force feeding or denying you food
  • Using weapons or objects that could hurt you
  • Physically restraining you (such as pinning you against a wall, floor, bed, etc.)
  • Reckless driving
  • Other acts that hurt or threaten you

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse involves you getting forced to have sex. Here are some manifestations of sexual abuse according to United Nations:

  • Accuses you of cheating or is often jealous of your outside relationships
  • Wants you to dress in a sexual way
  • Insults you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names
  • Has ever forced or manipulated you into having sex or performing sexual acts
  • Holds you down during sex
  • Demands sex when you are sick, tired or after beating you
  • Hurts you with weapons or objects during sex
  • Involves other people in sexual activities with you
  • Ignores your feelings regarding sex

Emotional or psychological abuse

Emotional abuse is as serious as physical and sexual abuse, or possibly even more as it can affect your mental health in the long run. ReachOut Australia identifies different types of emotional abuse. These may involve:

  • Verbal abuse: yelling at you, insulting you or swearing at you
  • Rejection: Constantly rejecting your thoughts, ideas and opinions
  • Gaslighting: making you doubt your own feelings and thoughts, and even your sanity, by manipulating the truth
  • Put-downs: calling you names or telling you that you’re stupid, publicly embarrassing you, blaming you for everything
  • Causing fear: making you feel afraid, intimidated or threatened
  • Isolation: limiting your freedom of movement, stopping you from contacting other people (such as friends or family). It may also include stopping you from doing the things you normally do – social activities, sports, school or work
  • Bullying and intimidation: purposely and repeatedly saying or doing things that are intended to hurt you

Financial or economic abuse

This is a subtle form of emotional abuse. HelpGuide lists some forms of financial or economic abuse. These include any of the following:

  • Rigidly controlling your finances
  • Withholding money or credit cards
  • Making you account for every penny you spend
  • Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter)
  • Restricting you to an allowance
  • Preventing you from working or choosing your own career
  • Sabotaging your job (making you miss work, calling constantly)
  • Stealing from you or taking your money

In summary

Here’s one infographic that summarises the most common abusive behaviours or tactics — the Power and Control Wheel developed by Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP). You are free to download and disseminate this wheel to educate anyone.

Power and Control Wheel developed by Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP)

If you experience any of the abuses above, don’t be afraid to seek help. Call your friends or contact institutions that give legal and psycho-social assistance in your area.

Also read: A Double Pandemic: Domestic Violence in the Age of COVID-19


United Nations. (2020). What Is Domestic Abuse? Retrieved from

Women’s Aid Federation of England. (2019). Domestic abuse is a gendered crime. Retrieved from

World Health Organization. (2017). Violence against women. Retrieved from

ReachOut Australia. (2020). What is physical abuse? Retrieved from

ReachOut Australia. (2020). What is emotional abuse? Retrieved from

Smith, M. and Segal, J. (June 2019). Domestic Violence and Abuse. Retrieved from

Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs. (2017). Power and Control Wheel. Retrieved from