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Advocacy Tip: The 5 types of domestic violence

The 5 Types of Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence is an unfortunately reality for a large number of children who enter CPS care. These children are more likely to have been victims of physical abuse themselves and to exhibit aggressive behaviors towards other. Children who witnessed domestic violence are also likely to suffer from PTSD, depression, and anxiety. While most people think of domestic violence as physical abuse between intimate partners, there are actually five different forms of domestic violence that can occur between intimate partners or other family members.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is the form of domestic violence that most people are familiar with and what most people envision when they hear the term “domestic violence”. This form of domestic violence involves inflicting or attempting to inflict physical injury. However, physical violence can also involve withholding or restricting one’s access to resources necessary for the individual’s health. For example, withholding prescribed medications from a spouse can be considered a form of physical violence as it may place the spouse at risk for their physical well-being if they do not receive their prescribed medication.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is another well-known form of domestic violence and includes a broad range of sexual violence towards the other individual. This type of violence can include coercing sexual acts, attacks on sexual parts of the body, and treating another in a sexually demeaning manner. This type of domestic violence also includes marital rape and any forced sexual acts after physical violence has occurred.

Economic Abuse

Economic abuse involves making one individual financially dependent on the other. This can include withholding or restricting one’s access to money, refusing to allow a person to work, or maintaining total control over all financial decisions. A common example of economic abuse is an individual who refuses to allow their partner to obtain a job, often citing the need for the victim to be available to take care of them.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is often one of the first “signs” of domestic violence in a relationship. This type of domestic violence involves undermining an individual’s self-worth. Name-calling, humiliation, withholding affection, and constant criticism are all forms of emotional abuse. Perpetrators of domestic violence may also attempt to damage their partners’ relationships with their children or other family members as a form of emotional abuse.

Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse is often characterized as instilling or attempting to instill fear in an individual. This is most often done through threats or intimidation, but can also include isolating a person from their friends, family members, or co-workers. Perpetrators of psychological abuse will often threaten physical harm to the individual, their children, or other family members. Psychological abuse can also involve physically harm to a family pet. For example, a partner may kick the family dog in front of their children and then threaten to do the same to them or the kids if they “step out of line”.


By understanding the different types of domestic violence, advocates can help identify situations where domestic violence may not have been previously identified as a concern. It may be necessary for advocates to recommend services to assist the family in alleviating these concerns if they are not being addressed already. Advocates can also recommend therapy to specifically address any trauma or trust issues the children may be experiencing as a result of witnessing domestic violence.

1. True or false. Domestic violence only occurs between intimate partners.

2. A situation where one partner insists that the other stay home to clean the house and attend to all of their needs is an example of what type of domestic violence?

3. Explain how psychological abuse differs from emotional abuse.

To receive 1 hour worth of training credit, read the above article and submit answers to the accompanying training questions to Leticia Hernandez at

Advocacy Tip: The 5 types of domestic violence