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Abuse can be verbal, emotional, physical or sexual but it can also be less obvious and take the form of controlling behaviour. Learn about the different types of abuse, and how to recognise the signs of abuse.
There are various common types of abuse. It is worth remembering that some people may use a combination of these or may move on from one type to another. They may start with emotional abuse and then lead on to physical abuse. Abuse can be face-to-face and online.
Verbal abuse is if someone threatens you or calls you nasty names, perhaps someone who shouts at you all the time, or says cruel and hurtful things to you, to make you feel bad.
Emotional abuse is if someone uses their power to manipulate and control you. You might feel scared to do something in case it upsets them, or they might constantly check on you, or demand to know where you are all the time. Emotional abuse is scary because the person doing it can make you feel worthless, which can make it really hard for you to gather up the strength to escape.
This type of abuse takes many different forms, including criticising your clothes or telling you what to wear, which makes it easier for victims to doubt whether they are victims of abuse and to make excuses for the abuser. It also makes it easier for the abuser to insist they are behaving in this way out of love or concern.
Coercive and controlling behaviour became illegal in December 2015 through the Serious Crime Act 2015 (England and Wales).
The Government’s definition of domestic violence and abuse outlines controlling or coercive behaviour as follows:
Controlling behaviourA range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviourA continuing act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.
Physical abuse is if someone is physically hurting you in any way (by hitting or slapping you, for example). Physical abuse also includes female genital mutilation (FGM). Read more about FGM here.
Sexual abuse is when someone forces you into sexual activity you don’t want or threatens you if you do not have sexual contact with them. Sexual contact doesn’t just mean sex (which can be oral, vaginal, and anal) but includes any unwanted touching. Even if you have said yes to kissing or having sex in the past, it does not give another person the right to touch you without your consent. You don’t ever have to do anything sexual that you don’t want to do, no matter what anyone else says.
Financial abuse refers to the control of another person through money. It may not be as clear-cut as taking or withholding money, the abuser might tell someone what they can and can’t buy or they might buy the victim items to make them feel they owe their abuser something in return. It could also include being forced into sexual activity with that person or others or being forced into doing something that is illegal such as robbery or selling drugs.
If you are worried about yourself or someone else, see our page on how to get help, or call ChildLine for free to speak to one of their counsellors on 0800 1111.
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