There are many types of abuse, including emotional and spiritual

The purpose of abuse is to maintain power and control over someone.  Physical violence is one tool that the abuser uses to do this, but there are many, many others as well.  His mindset is very different from the mindset that you may have regarding relationships.  You may think that relationships are about people being equal and mutually supportive. His mindset is that he is central, superior and deserving.  If he is central, that makes you peripheral.  If he is superior, then you must be inferior.  Where he feels he is deserving, you must be undeserving.  This mindset explains much of what can be so confusing and hurtful in relationship with a manwho is abusive.

It often does not occur to women that anyone would even think about relationship this way.  The many techniques that the abuser uses may give you the feeling that something is wrong but you just can’t put your finger on it.  One can compare the experience to that of a frog put into lukewarm water that gets hotter over time, but the change is so gradual that it doesn’t take notice until things become extremely uncomfortable!

Power and Control Wheel

Power and Control Wheel: Copywrited in 2008 by Jill Cory & Karen McAndless-Davis

There are many forms of abuse, with significant overlap between the categories mentioned below.  The list is not comprehensive, but intended to give some sense of the ways that people who are abusive attempt to control others.

A wheel diagram of power and control

Physical abuse

  • Pushing, shoving, shaking
  • Slapping, hitting, beating
  • Biting, spitting, scratching
  • Kicking, choking, pulling hair
  • Urinating or defecating on a person or their property
  • Locking someone out of the house
  • Reckless driving
  • Threatening with a weapon
  • Threatening to harm or kill
  • Abandoning someone in a dangerous place
  • Throwing objects

*Sometimes victims of abuse use protection strategies such as shoving in self-defense. It is important to recognize that self-defense is not abuse.

Sexual abuse/harassment

  • Telling insulting gender-related jokes
  • Treating someone as a sex object
  • Touching someone inappropriately
  • Coercing someone into performing any sexual act, such as intercourse or oral sex, with statements like, “If you loved me you would do this”
  • Using physical force to gain sexual intimacy
  • Rape/sexual assault
  • Having an affair
  • Calling someone sexually-derogatory names
  • Using pornography
  • Coercing someone to view pornography
  • Inappropriate/unwanted communication (phone calls, letters, emails)

Emotional abuse

  • Ignoring or neglecting the feelings of others
  • Criticizing or embarrassing others in public
  • Constant criticism
  • Controlling and refusing to share financial resources with other household members
  • Using threats to force compliance, for example threats to commit suicide or leave the relationship
  • Manipulating and/or lying
  • Hurting or scaring pets
  • Breaking, taking or giving away someone’s valued things
  • Isolating someone
  • Giving the “silent treatment”

Spiritual abuse

  • Using Scripture or other religious material to control someone’s behavior, thoughts or feelings
  • Using a position of church leadership to control or manipulate someone
  • Using religious education to have power over others
  • Ridiculing another’s beliefs