Domestic violence happens all across the world in various forms, the most commonly recognized of which is physical abuse. While this is one devastating form of domestic violence, there are many other types of domestic violence you might not be aware of that affect women, men, the elderly, children, even pets. All forms of domestic violence are rooted in the perpetrator's desire to control others. This control can come in the form of physical, emotional, economic, sexual, spiritual, and technological abuse, as well as threats of violence toward the victim's loved ones. Bustle spoke with Dr. Carla Smith, senior vice president of programs at New York City's Urban Resource Institute, about common forms of domestic violence that are harder to recognize than physical or emotional abuse, and often get less attention.
"There is no one face of domestic violence — the issue cuts across ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and age," Dr. Smith tells Bustle. "All too often, it is assumed that intimate partner violence is solely a cisgender male against cisgender female phenomenon. These misconceptions have significant consequences and marginalize some of the most vulnerable victims within the LGBTQ community."
Here are just a few kinds of domestic violence that don't get talked about as much as other forms of intimate abuse. If any of these look like behaviors that are happening in your own relationship, or in a friend's, don't be afraid to seek help: you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233).
Financial or economic abuse is a form of domestic violence that perpetrators use to keep their victims dependent on them. "Abusers may open up credit cards in their partners’ names, prohibit them from working, or restrict their access to spending money to prevent them from being able to escape the relationship or establish independence," Dr. Smith says.
Additionally, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says on its economic abuse fact sheet that "Victims of coerced debt may face massive barriers to economic self-sufficiency, including struggling to find a job or even obtaining a place to live after leaving an abuser due to debt and its detrimental effects on their personal credit scores."
Abuse Of Family Pets
Many people may stay in an abusive situation because they fear their partner may harm their pets if they leave. And, because most domestic violence shelters don't accept pets, people are forced to choose whether to stay and protect their animals, or leave and risk them being harmed.
"If pets are in the household, abusers often use their partners’ relationship with their pet as a method of control, either through harming the pet or threatening to do so," Dr. Smith explains. "As many as 48 percent of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations because they don’t want to leave their pet behind when fleeing."
URI’s PALS (People and Animals Living Safely) program is one of the few shelters in the U.S. that allows survivors to co-shelter with their pets. "This means victims don’t have to make the nearly impossible choice of leaving without their pets or staying in an abusive relationship rather than separating from their pet," Dr. Smith says. "The human-pet is bond is very important and it can provide emotional and physical healing in a survivor’s time of need."
According to WEAVE, a crisis intervention service for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Sacramento County, California, technological abuse is a form of verbal or emotional abuse that occurs digitally using "technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner."
Some signs of technological abuse, according to WEAVE, include: Constant cell phone calls and texting to exercise constant control day and night; controlling passwords and financial accounts; controlling social media accounts or using social media to monitor the victim; GPS tracking; and making threats to use social media against a partner.
Spiritual abuse, according to WEAVE, entails the perpetrator belittling the victim's moral, religious, or cultural beliefs. "Spiritual Abuse is anything that comes in the way of you doing something or feeling good about yourself," WEAVE noted on its website. The goal of spiritual abuse is to get the victim to abandon their beliefs, and give up on pursuing things they love and believe in. This type of abuse destroys self esteem, and keeps the victim dependent on the abuser for their self worth.
The Risk Is Higher For The LGBTQ+ Community
While domestic violence affects people from every background, Dr. Smith says the LGBTQ+ community is at greater risk for all forms of domestic violence. "We don’t hear about it that often, but intimate partner violence is a serious issue in the LGBTQ community. According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 44 percent of of lesbian women and 26 percent of gay men experience rape, physical violence, stalking, or some combination of the three by an intimate partner in their lifetime, compared with 35 percent of heterosexual women and 29 percent of heterosexual men," she explains.
Transgender people are particularly vulnerable. "According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ 2015 IPV Report, transgender women are three times more likely to report experiencing sexual violence and financial violence than survivors who do not identify as transgender women," Dr. Smith says. "The same study suggests that transgender women of color are particularly vulnerable to abuse."
How To Raise Awareness About Domestic Violence
"While society is still too tolerant of abuse, we’re seeing more conversation and awareness than at any other point in time, which is progress," says Dr. Smith. She adds that education and an open dialogue are vital for raising awareness about all forms of domestic violence. Some of the things that are key to curbing domestic violence include:
- Teaching young adults about healthy relationships in school can help stop cycles of abuse and violence early on.
- Trainings for first responders and law enforcement officials can create an environment where the authorities recognize signs of abuse and know how to address a situation safely.
- Working with abusive partners also has to be part of the prevention equation.
- Encouraging public discourse, acknowledging that intimate partner violence affects a variety of sociodemographic groups, continuing to engage in efforts to destigmatize the issue, and ensuring that services are provided in a trauma-informed, culturally competent manner will help victims feel confident reaching out for help.