Domestic violence can look like digital or online abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse.

There are many pervasive myths about domestic abuse. Many people think that domestic violence only refers to a person physically abusing their romantic partner. While intimate partner violence is common, domestic violence can take many forms.

Domestic violence includes any form of abuse that takes place within a household. This can include intimate partner violence, as well as situations where people abuse their children, parents, siblings, other relatives, and even roommates.

Domestic abuse is relatively common: it affects 10 million people in the United States each year. About 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men are victims of domestic violence.

While there are few statistics on nonbinary victims of domestic abuse, one review found that transgender people are 1.7 times more likely to experience intimate violence than cisgender people.

Abuse can take many forms, and it’s often difficult to identify abuse when you’re currently experiencing it. If you suspect you’re being abused, trust your instincts. You deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

Digital or online abuse is a form of domestic violence that occurs over the internet or through digital devices. It includes actions such as excessive monitoring, online harassment, and cyberbullying.

For example, an abuser might insist on having all the passwords to their partner’s or child’s social media accounts in order to control their online behavior. In another scenario, an abuser may repeatedly send derogatory messages via email or text in order to belittle their target.

Another prevalent form of digital domestic abuse is the distribution of explicit photos or videos without consent. This is often called “revenge porn” — although it’s not actually porn — and is intended to humiliate or manipulate the person involved.

Financial abuse is a form of domestic violence where an abuser tries to control their target’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain economic resources — in other words, they might stop their victim from making or using their money.

This creates financial dependency and often leaves the victim with limited options.

For instance, one person may insist on controlling all household finances, denying the other person access to their own bank accounts or financial information. They might forbid their partner or a family member from working, which restricts the victim’s economic freedom and forces them to be dependent on their abuser.

Alternatively, they might take their victim’s salary or bank cards and forbid the victim from using their own money.

Financial abuse can also include taking out credit cards or creating large amounts of debt without consent, undermining the victim’s financial stability.

Emotional and verbal abuse includes behaviors that belittle, degrade, or manipulate another person emotionally.

This could be a constant stream of negative comments that erode a person’s self-esteem. The abuser may use derogatory language, insult, or criticize the victim frequently.

Additionally, the abuser could exploit the victim’s vulnerabilities, manipulate emotions to gain control, or regularly threaten to leave or harm themselves to instill fear and guilt.

While emotional abuse is often verbal, it doesn’t always have to be. An abuser might use threatening body language or disgusted facial expressions in order to degrade their target.

Psychological abuse can be subtle yet has profound effects. It involves the systematic attempt to instill fear or manipulate a person’s thoughts and actions.

The abuser may use intimidation tactics such as making threats or displaying violent behaviors. They could isolate the victim by limiting the victim’s interactions with friends or family.

In more extreme cases, psychological abuse might include stalking, where the abuser persistently invades the victim’s personal space or privacy.

Gaslighting is an example of mental or psychological abuse, although it can also be considered a form of emotional abuse.

With gaslighting, an abuser question your beliefs, sanity, and perception of reality. A gaslighter may deliberately make you feel overly sensitive, irrational, or delusional.

Physical abuse involves any intentional act causing injury or trauma to another person’s body.

An abusive person may use bodily force to hurt you — for example, through hitting, slapping, choking, or pinching. They might also use other objects to hurt you. For example, they might throw things at you or burn you with a cigarette.

Physical abuse can also include situations where an abuser denies the victim necessary healthcare or withholds food, medication, or other essential resources.

For example, if someone needs to use a mobility device like a wheelchair, an abuser might deliberately get rid of the wheelchair or put it in an inaccessible location.

Sexual coercion or abuse involves any action that pressures or coerces a person into sexual acts without their consent. This form of violence may also be called rape or sexual assault.

An abuser may use pressure, guilt, or force to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to. For example, an abuser may pressure their spouse into having sex by saying it’s their marital duty, or implying they’ll cheat if their partner doesn’t do certain sex acts.

Sexual abuse may involve persistently pursuing sexual activity when the other person is clearly not interested or using substances to make the victim more vulnerable to unwanted sexual advances.

Another form of sexual abuse is nonconsensual voyeurism — for example, watching someone masturbate or have sex without their consent.

If you suspect that domestic violence is happening in your home, whether you’re a victim or a witness, don’t ignore your instincts.

Abuse is never the victim’s fault. You deserve to live in a safe space, free of violence.

If you fear immediate physical violence, try to get to a safe place like a friend’s house, a hospital, or a domestic violence shelter. Consider calling 911 or your local emergency services for help.

Leaving a violent partner or family member can be challenging. Abusers often manipulate their victims into believing they don’t deserve better or that they can’t live without the abuser. But this is not the case — it is possible for you to leave an abusive home and heal after domestic violence.

Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t try to fix them: Whether abusers can change or not is up for debate — but even if they are genuinely remorseful, it’s not your job to wait for them to get better, nor should you have to be in danger while they work on their behavior.
  • Build a support network: Speak with supportive friends who will keep your discussions confidential. Consider joining a support group or working with a therapist.
  • Create a plan to leave safely: This could include finding a shelter or friend’s place to stay, ensuring your children and/or pets are safe, and keeping important documents (like birth certificates or passports) in a safe place. Abuse hotlines, support groups, and domestic violence counselors can help you plan to leave. Here’s a helpful guide to creating a safety plan.

The following resources may be helpful:

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233). This hotline offers free and confidential advice 24/7. They can put you in contact with shelters and other necessary resources.
  • They offer a hotline and a searchable database of services so that you can find a domestic shelter, counselor, or legal support in your area.
  • Love Is Respect. This nonprofit allows you to get support from advocates via text, call, or online chat.

You can also check out our domestic violence resource guide.

Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.