University of Southern California

Intimate Partner Violence

Different Types of Intimate Partner Violence

There are many different forms of intimate partner violence, and a person may be subjected to more than one type at a time. Different types of abuse include:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Emotional or Psychological Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Economic or Financial Abuse

Physical Abuse

The most obvious form of abuse, physical abuse, is characterized by the infliction of injury or injuries.  It is often the most visible type of abuse, and also the most lethal.  Sometimes referred to as battering, physical assaults often start small, maybe a small shove during an argument, or forcefully grabbing a wrist, but over time, physical abuse usually becomes more severe, more frequent, and can result in the death of the victim. 

Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to:
Slapping Hitting Punching
Pushing Hair-pulling Reckless driving
Grabbing Biting Hitting with objects
Striking Arm-twisting Use of weapons
Pinching Choking

Physical restraint

(i.e. pinning against wall, floor, bed, etc.)

Shoving Burning
Slapping Kicking

Emotional or Psychological Abuse

Defined as routinely making unreasonable demands or the intentional infliction of anxiety, hurt, guilt or fear through verbal or nonverbal acts, emotional abuse serves to degrade and undermine an individual's sense of self-worth and self-esteem while rejecting their opinions and needs.  It is designed to further control the victim by instilling fear and ensuring compliance.  It may include:

  • Verbal attacks including name-calling, yelling, putting down, insults, humiliation, etc.
    Intimidation including gestures, looks, throwing/smashing/breaking things, punching the wall, throwing a glass, etc.
  • Threats including threats to kill, threats to disappear with the children, threats to report the partner to Social Services as an unfit parent, threats to harm a significant third party (i.e. a family member), threats to leave or to commit suicide
  • Isolating the victim from family members, friends, or regular activities (prevented from seeing or talking to others, not allowed to go out)
  • Denying the abuse ever happened, shifting responsibility for abuse, or using the statement "It's your fault."
  • Exposing a child to family violence, threatening to harm themselves, threats to harm property or pets
  • Threats to out an LGBTQ individual to family, friends, educational institution, or employer

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is defined as any sexual encounter without consent and includes:

  • Any unwanted touching, unsafe or forced sexual activity, be it oral, anal or vaginal
  • Forcing the victim to perform sexual acts
  • Painful or degrading acts during intercourse (i.e. urinating on victim)
  • Manipulating for sexual purposes
  • Unwanted petting, fondling, beating sexual parts of the body, forced prostitution, sex with weapons, rape with a foreign object, etc.
  • Forced stripping, forced sex when the partner refuses/is sick or tired
  • Date rape or marital rape
  • Excessive jealousy
  • Sexual criticism
  • Sadistic sexual acts
  • Taking unwanted sexual photos and/or videos
  • Undermining a person's sexuality with derogatory comments, withholding of sexual affection, and unfounded allegations of promiscuity and/or infidelity (i.e. "You are such a worthless slut/whore/etc.")
  • Humiliating, criticizing, or trying to control a person's sexuality or reproductive choices

Economic or Financial Abuse

Defined as the control of a person's financial resources, as well as educational and employment opportunities, economic abuse can take many forms, from denying a partner all access to funds, to making the partner solely responsible for all finances (i.e. putting all the bills in the partners' name) while handling money irresponsibly himself/herself.  It may include:

  • Making, or attempting to make, a person financially dependent by maintaining control over all household income, and/or not disclosing family income or resources
  • Stealing from, defrauding, manipulating, exploiting or inappropriately using the victim’s finances
  • Demanding paychecks
  • Forbidding employment/the search for a job, controlling partner's choice of occupation, or harassing the individual at his/her workplace or school
  • Preventing the partner from attending school
  • Making the partner beg for money for necessary items like personal hygiene items and children's items
  • Giving an allowance and requiring justification for all money spent
  • Stealing or destroying the victim’s personal belongings
  • Refusing to pay the victim court-ordered child or spousal support
  • Forcing the victim to obtain credit, then ruining their credit rating or future ability to obtain credit