Keep yourself or a loved one safe by spreading awareness about different types of abuse
Many people know the signs of physical and emotional abuse, but sometimes bad behavior is harder to recognize. When abuse isn’t obvious, victims may mistakenly believe they’re dealing with someone rude or selfish rather than an actual abuser.
This is dangerous because it can prevent people from leaving an abusive relationship. Victims may stick around and make excuses for a parent, significant other, friend, or even a boss if they don’t realize abuse is happening.
If you’re in this situation, your self-esteem may plummet. Eventually, you may even start doubting your sanity. These are red flags, and it’s important to address them quickly. If something feels off about your relationship with someone, platonic or otherwise, keep an eye out for subtle signs of abuse.
Here are 3 types of lesser-known abuse that you or someone you know may experience:
1) Financial abuse
Financial abuse occurs when someone, often a partner or parent, uses money to control or intimidate you. This may involve your money, their money, or shared accounts.
For example, one stay-at-home mom said her husband gave her a weekly allowance of $10. This money was for personal care essentials, such as feminine products and shampoo, as well as anything else she or the kids wanted. She typically didn’t have money for extras such as a candy bar or coffee, as most of her allowance went toward basic hygiene items and gas for her car.
The husband had a 6-figure annual income, and the family was not struggling financially. He established these rigid rules so that his wife was often stuck at home. Hubby claimed she would cheat on him if she left the house too often.
Here are some other examples of financial abuse:
- Refusing to pay your half of rent, mortgage, or utilities even though you have the funds available
- Spending money in joint accounts on yourself but making it difficult for the other account holder to do the same
- Refusing to let a significant other get a job or do freelance work (this includes flat-out denying requests to work as well as causing trouble at a partner’s job by stalking or harassing them there)
- Creating unreasonable household budgets, such as $20 per week to feed a family of 5, even though more funds are available
- Stealing money from a partner’s wallet or hiding their credit cards, debit cards, or checkbook so they cannot access their money
- Intentionally ruining someone’s credit by refusing to pay debts you have accrued in their name
Financial abuse is often linked to other forms of abuse, such as physical or emotional abuse. Abusers control these victims financially so it’s harder for them to escape a dangerous relationship.
2) Legal abuse
When someone uses the legal system for revenge or leverage, this is a form of legal abuse. Legal abuse is also known as litigation abuse.
Litigation abuse often occurs during high-conflict custody cases or divorces, but you may also see it happen during civil cases or criminal hearings. Former spouses and significant others can commit legal abuse, but it’s not limited to jaded lovers. Judges, attorneys, police officers, and guardian ad litems may also abuse others via the legal system.
Examples of legal abuse include:
- Appealing legal rulings, even when they benefit the abuser, in an effort to force you to return to court
- Repeatedly filing petitions with the court against you
- Attempting to make you give up custody or assets by filing constant claims until you run out of money for legal fees
- Intentionally filing false claims against you, such as pretending you have violated a custody order or owe the abuser money
- Pretending you were served with legal documents that you never received
- Requesting parental evaluations, drug tests, psychological evaluations, and other costly tests despite knowing that you are not an unfit parent
- Using the discovery process to violate your privacy and find out information that isn’t relevant to your case
- Making false claims of abuse or harassment against you
- Lying to protect a friend or family member in court
- Giving special treatment to one party, such as ruling in their favor because you play golf together
It’s hard to prevent legal abuse for several reasons. For starters, litigants basically have the legal right to file anything they believe is true. Also, there are numerous loopholes for judges and attorneys, and requirements are vague or subjective. Because of this, it’s hard to hold legal professionals accountable when they behave in an unethical manner.
3) Spiritual abuse
Spiritual abuse happens when someone uses religion to harass, threaten, or shame you. Many people are quick to blame Christians for toxic behavior, but any religious or spiritual practice can attract abusers.
Spiritual abuse includes:
- Using religion as a weapon to punish someone or make them feel bad about themselves
- Justifying physical abuse or other harmful behaviors by claiming the Bible encourages these things
- Pretending they have received messages from God, angels, or the universe in an attempt to manipulate others
- Banning members of the church from speaking to friends or family who have different religious beliefs
- Pressuring others to make excessive donations, such as giving their home or all of their financial investments to the church
- Refusing to let someone practice their preferred religion at home
None of these situations are okay, so keep an eye out for them. If you’d like to learn more, Dan Foster has some detailed information in his article about spiritual abuse.
Resources for victims of abuse
Abuse can jeopardize your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. If you’re being abused and need help, you may find these resources helpful.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Text SMART to 88788
National Dating Abuse Helpline
National Sexual Assault Hotline
(800) 656–4673 (HOPE)
You can find additional resources at NCADV.org.
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