Types of Abuse

What is abuse?

Dating abuse is a pattern of behaviors that one person uses to gain and maintain power and control over their partner. There are many different types of abuse - and more than one type can occur at once.


  • 1 in 3 teens in the U.S. has experienced abuse (physical, sexual, emotional or verbal) from a dating partner1
  • 1 in 10 teens has experienced physical abuse from a dating partner in the last year2
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) teens experience dating abuse at the same rates and in similar ways as teens in straight relationships3
  • Females between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of dating violence- about three times the national average1
  • Only 33% of teens in an abusive relationship ever told someone about the abuse1
  • Nearly 1 in 4 girls who have been in a relationship reported going further sexually than they wanted as a result of pressure4

Dating abuse/violence can happen to anyone in a dating or sexual relationship. It does not discriminate and can happen regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation. Dating and domestic violence occurs across the world, throughout the United States, and in Hawai'i.

Physical: Physical abuse includes any unwanted physical contact with you (or someone close to you), or anything that puts you in physical danger. Remember that physical abuse does not always cause pain or leave a mark.

Examples of physical abuse:

  • Hitting, kicking, biting, choking/strangulation, pulling hair
  • Destroying belongings or property (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors)
  • Using weapons to hurt or threaten you
  • Restraining you/pinning you down
  • Blocking a door to keep you from leaving
  • Driving dangerously when you are in the car
  • Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol
  • Murder

Verbal/Emotional: Abuse is more than physical violence. Verbal and emotional abuse may not cause physical harm, but it can just as damaging and cause emotional pain.

Examples of verbal/emotional abuse:

  • Yelling, screaming, or swearing at you
  • Using a harsh or intimating tone of voice to make you feel scared or bad about yourself
  • Criticism and put downs
  • Embarrassing you on purpose
  • Blaming you for the abuse

Mental: Mental abuse includes tactics to make you feel scared and attempts to keep you away from your friends and family.

Examples of mental abuse:

  • Isolation: keeping you away from friends and family
  • Threats to commit suicide to keep you from breaking up with them
  • Threats to harm you, your pets, possessions, or people you care about
  • Threats to tell secrets
  • Mind games/manipulation
  • Threats to "out" you or your relationship
  • Silencing you with a look or an expression when you are in public

Cyber: Cyber abuse is using technology to control, intimidate, bully, harass, or stalk a partner.

Examples of cyber abuse:

  • Constant texts/calls to keep tabs on you
  • Looking through your phone
  • Telling you who you can or cannot be following/friends with on social media
  • Threats to post unwanted or explicit photos
  • Demands that you send explicit pictures (or sends them to you)
  • Makes you feel like you can’t be away from your phone
  • Demands your passwords or hacks into your accounts
  • Sends you threatening or degrading messages
  • Tags you in pictures or status updates to humiliate or embarrass you
  • Uses GPS to track where you are

When it comes to dating, remember:

  • It’s okay to turn off your phone! You have the right to spend time away from your phone without your partner getting angry or suspicious
  • You are never obligated to text any pictures or statements that make you uncomfortable
  • Your partner might forward anything you send them to other people. Think twice before sending anything you wouldn’t want other people (including your friends or family members) to see
  • We have passwords for a reason. You never have to give your partner your passwords. A healthy relationship is based on trust- therefore, your partner should trust that you have nothing to hide and therefore would never demand your passwords.

Financial: Financial abuse is when someone uses money to control their partner.

Examples of financial abuse:

  • Controlling where you spend your money or closely watching what you buy
  • Not allowing you to have a job or preventing you from working
  • Getting you fired by harassing you, your employer, or coworkers
  • Stealing your money or paychecks

Sexual: Sexual abuse includes any unwanted sexual contact, or action that pressures someone to do something sexually that they don’t want to do. Both men and women can be victims of sexual abuse and it occurs in straight and LGBTQ relationships.

Remember: consent is necessary in every sexual encounter, whether or not you are in a relationship or have been sexual with that person before. Learn more about consent HERE.

Examples of sexual abuse:

  • Any unwanted sexual contact or pressure to engage in sexual contact (such as kissing, fooling around, or sex)
  • Sexual contact with someone while they are asleep, unconscious, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or otherwise unable to give clear consent
  • Rape or attempted rape
  • Pressuring a partner to have sex with you, also known as sexual coercion
  • Refusing to wear condoms, restricting someone’s access to birth control, or preventing someone from protecting themselves again Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Help is available
If you have been sexually abused or assaulted, understand that the abuse was not your fault. You are not to blame, no matter the circumstances.

The most important thing to do right away is get safe and away from the perpetrator. You have options and help is available. You can:

  • Talk to someone you trust: Try to find someone you can talk to, like a friend, family member, counselor, or teacher. Many people feel scared, guilty, angry, confused, or shocked after they have been sexually abused. Talking to someone you trust can help.
  • Call 911: You have the option of reporting the sexual assault to the police.
  • Go to a health clinic or emergency room: If you can, try to seek medical support as soon as possible after you have been sexually assaulted or abused. You will be treated for injuries and offered medications to help prevent pregnancy and STIs.
  • Find local agencies or resources in your area: In Hawai'i, the Sex Abuse Treatment Center's (SATC) 24-hour hotline is available at 808-524-7273. They can offer you the support, care, and advocacy.

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