Types of Abuse


Click on a link below to learn more about the types of abuse:

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a pattern of physically, sexually and/or emotionally abusive behaviors used by one individual to assert power or maintain control over another in the context of an intimate or family relationship.

  • It is often on a continuum and rarely occurs as an isolated incident.
  • The behavior can range from verbal threats, put-downs and name calling to hitting, slapping, pushing and sexual abuse to economic deprivation. 
  • It is typically planned and repeated as part of a pattern to control the relationship.
  • It is against the law.
  • It is a violation of an individual’s body.
  • It is something that affects everyone including the victim, their family and friends. (Adapted from the Virginia Tech Stop Abuse program, Blacksburg, VA)

Reactions of Survivors

IPV victims may experience some of the following reactions:

  • Fear
  • Nightmares and sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Shame and embarrassment
  • Chronic physical complaints
  • Substance abuse
  • Social withdrawal
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Self-blame
  • Numbness
  • Hypervigilance (inability to relax, jumpiness)

Domestic violence victims will often blame their own behavior, rather than the violent actions of the abuser. Victims may try continually to alter their behavior and circumstances in order to please the abuser-believing that if they follow certain rules and make sure the abuser is happy-they will not be hurt. However, violence perpetrated by abusers is often self-driven and depends little on victims' actions or words.

Domestic violence victims may minimize the seriousness of incidents in order to cope, and not seek medical attention or assistance when needed. Victims, because they fear the perpetrator and may be ashamed of their situation, may be reluctant to disclose the abuse to family, friends, work, the authorities, or victim assistance professionals. As a consequence, they may suffer in silence and isolation.

If you or someone you know is the victim of IPV, please see the section, “What to do if you or someone you know is a victim” for suggestions on receiving help and assistance. 


Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is a wide range of behaviors that may include aggressive behavior inflicted by the abuser on the victim’s body. Some examples include:

  • Pushing, slapping, biting, kicking, hitting or choking.
  • Abandoning you in a dangerous or unfamiliar place.
  • Damaging property when angry (thrown objects, punched walls, etc).
  • Scaring you by driving recklessly.
  • Pulling hair
  • Using a weapon to threaten or hurt you.
  • Forcing you to leave your home.
  • Trapping you in your home or keeping you from leaving.

Sexual types of physical abuse involve aggressive sexual acts against the victim’s body. Examples include:

  • Unwanted pinching of the breasts, buttocks, genitals, etc.
  • Sexual activity accompanied by physical assaults.
  • Forced sexual activity.
  • Forcing sexual activity with third or other parties.
  • Hurt you with weapons or objects during sex.
  • Demanded sex when you were sick or tired.

If you or someone you know is the victim of physical violence, please see the section, “What to do if you or someone you know is a victim” for suggestions on receiving help and assistance. 


Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse is abusive behaviors and tactics that often hurt more than physical abuse. It involves the systemic destruction of a person’s self worth through verbal harassment and threats. Examples include:

  • Brainwashing.
  • Calls you names, insults you or continually criticizes you.
  • Deprivation of food and sleep.
  • Does not trust you and acts jealous or possessive.
  • Tries to isolate you from family and friends.
  • Monitors where you go, who you call and who you spend time with.
  • Does not want you to work.
  • Controls finances or refuses to share money.
  • Punishes you by withholding affection.
  • Expects you to ask permission.
  • Threats of suicide, further violence or deportation
  • Threatening to take children, custody fights
  • Destruction of property or pets – no physical contact with person directly. However, this can be very damaging to self esteem and state of mind. Destruction of property is planned and deliberate. When the batterer destroys property, it usually is specifically the victim’s belongings and ones that have great sentimental value. Examples includes:
    • Breaking objects during arguments
    • Breaking favorite possessions
    • Destroying photo albums
    • Attacks on pets

If you or someone you know is the victim of psychological abuse, please see the section, “What to do if you or someone you know is a victim” for suggestions on receiving help and assistance. 


Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a broad term that encompasses any forcible sexual activity that occurs without the victim’s consent. It includes but is not limited to unwanted kissing and fondling, forcible vaginal, oral or anal intercourse, forcible vaginal, oral or anal penetration with an object or a finger. 

  • It is not about sex. It is about another person asserting their power and control over you!
  • It is not gender specific. Sexual assault can occur between a male and female, male and male, or female and female. 
  • It is everyone’s problem!
  • It is against the law.
  • It is a violation of the individual’s body. It affects everyone including the victim, their family and friends. 

Fact vs. Myth

  • Victims of sexual abuse sometimes cause the abuse to happen because of their actions or dress.  
    MYTH – Nothing the victim says or does causes the abuse to happen. The rapist is always responsible for having committed the rape. Regardless of the victim’s appearance, behavior, judgment or previous actions, sexual abuse is never the victim’s fault. Suggestions that a woman shouldn’t dress a certain way, or go to certain areas of a city are commonly used to suggest that a rape victim “asked for it.”
  • It is not a big deal if a woman is forced to have sex with someone she knows (like a boyfriend, date, friend or spouse.)
    MYTH – Sexual intercourse forced by an acquaintance or date is rape, and by a spouse is marital rape. It is especially traumatic because the victim’s trust in others, as well as her own judgment can be seriously damaged.

  • Men are never victims of sexual assault. 
    MYTH – While women are by far the most frequent victims of rape and sexual assault, both men and women may be victims or perpetrators. Unfortunately, male victims tend to seek help less often than women due to embarrassment and fear that they will not be taken seriously. 
  • It is better to forget about sexual abuse than to talk about it. 
    MYTH – Although it can be hard to talk about the sexual abuse, it is important for victims to get help and talk about what happened.
  • When a woman says “no,” she really means “maybe” or “yes.” 
    MYTH – When a woman says “no,” she means NO. Sexual intercourse without consent is rape. A person has the right to control her/his own body.

    (Adapted from Crossroads Sexual Assault Response and Resource Center, Alamance County, NC and the Virginia Tech Stop Abuse Program, Blacksburg, VA)


Drug Facilitated Rape and Sedating Substances

Substance related rape involves a perpetrator intentionally giving a victim drugs, also often referred to as sedating substances, without her permission and then commits an unwanted sexual act against her involving oral, anal, or vaginal penetration. Sedating substances most often are colorless, odorless and tasteless, making the drug undetectable. The drug(s) are normally slipped into the victim’s drink when she is not looking or is unaware of what is happening. The physical effects of the drug(s) occur quickly and can give the impression that the victim is drunk (i.e. slurring words, stumbling). The emotional effects are often more long lasting. A victim of substance related rape may have gaps in her memory from the rape and may not recall the rapist. Often times a survivor may ask the question “Whom should I fear?” The inability to completely recall the incident and possibly the identity of the rapist can create extreme anxiety for a survivor. 

Types of Sedating Substances

  •  Rohypnol (flunitrazepam)
    Rohypnol is a sedative/depressant belonging to the Benzodiazepine family. Valium is a similar drug in this family. Some street names for Rohypnol are Rophy, Roofies, Ruffies, Roach 2, Forget-Me-pill, LA Rochas, Mind Erasers, Rope, Mexican Valium and Circles. 

    This drug is not manufactured or approved for use in North America. It is found as a street drug. The old pills are colorless and still available, but the newer pills turn blue when put into a liquid.

    The effects of Rohypnol can be felt within 20-30 minutes, with the strongest effects being felt within 1-2 hours. The effects may last up to 8 hours, but with alcohol the effects may last up to 36 hours. After ingestion it can be found in the blood stream for 24 hours and in urine samples for 48 hours.

    Effects include:

    • Impaired judgment, motor skills and coordination

    • Dizziness

    • Slurred speech

    • Confusion

    • Drowsiness

    • Extreme intoxication after consuming a non-alcoholic beverage or a small amount of alcohol

    • Inability to remain awake and conscious (black out)

    • Memory loss

    • Hot spells

    • Lower blood pressure

    • Nausea

    • Death

Gamma Hydroxybutyrate or GHB
GHB is a central nervous system depressant. It was once sold in health food stores as a sleep aid and a growth stimulant for body builders. It is also used in some countries as a general anesthetic. It was banned in the United States in 1990 under the Samantha Reid Date-Rape Prohibition Act of 2000 following concerns of overdoses and other health problems related to the drug.  Today, GHB is hard to control due to a number of makeshift (home or street) laboratories that use readily available and legal ingredients. Some street names for Gamma Hydroxybutyrate or GHB are Liquid X, Georgia Home Boy, Easy Lay, Salt Water, Grievous Bodily Harm, Bedtime Scoop, Cherry Meth, Soap, Vita-G, G-Juice.

GHB begins to take affect within 15 minutes of indigestion and can last approximately three hours. 


Effects include:

  • DrowsinessDizzinessHallucinations
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Seizures
  • Convulsions or tremors
  • Amnesia
  • Reduction or loss of gag reflex
  • Loss of consciousness (black out)
  • Coma
  • Death – combining alcohol and GHB can be letha
  • Ketamine Hydrochloride
    Ketamine is a legal drug sold as a veterinary sedative and is in the same family of drugs as PCP. Ketamine used illegally is typically stolen from veterinary clinics. Street names for Ketamin include: Special K, Super K, K, Vitamin K, Kid Rock, Kit Kat, Purple, Black Hole, Cat Valium, Green, K-Hole. In undiluted form it looks like an off-white powder, in diluted form it looks like slightly cloudy water.

    When taken orally or nasally (snorted), the effects can begin in 10-15 minutes. The effects last less than 3 hours and are detectable in the system up to 48 hours depending on the method of ingestion. 

Effects include:

  • Distorted perceptions of sight and sound
  • Vivid hallucinations
  • Feeling out of control
  • Mild respiratory depression

  • Confusion

  • Irrationality and impaired judgment

  • Violent or aggressive behavior

  • Vertigo

  • Slurred speech

  • Delayed reaction time

  • Euphoria thinking

  • Altered body image

  • Memory problems

  • High blood pressure

  • Coma
  • Alcohol
    Any drug that can affect judgment and behavior can put a person at risk for unwanted or risky sexual activity. Alcohol is one such drug. In fact, alcohol is the drug most commonly used to help commit sexual assault. When a person drinks too much alcohol:

  • It’s harder to think clearly.
  • It’s harder to set limits and make good choices.

  • It’s harder to tell when a situation could be dangerous.

  • It’s harder to say “no” to sexual advances.

  • It’s harder to fight back if a sexual assault occurs.

  • It’s possible to blackout and to have memory loss.

  • Ecstasy
    The club drug “ecstasy” (MDMA) has been used to commit sexual assault. It can be slipped into someone’s drink without the person’s knowledge. Also, a person who willingly takes ecstasy is at greater risk of sexual assault. Ecstasy can make a person feel “lovey-dovey” towards others. It also can lower a person’s ability to give reasoned consent. Once under the drug’s influence, a person is less able to sense danger or to resist a sexual assault. 

    Even if a victim of sexual assault drank alcohol or willingly took drugs, the victim is NOT at fault for being assaulted. You cannot “ask for it” or cause it to happen. 

Reducing the Risks of Substance Related Rape

  • Do not leave beverages unattended.
  • Do not take any beverages, including alcohol, from someone you do not know well and trust.
  • Keep your drink with you at all times, even when you go to the bathroom.
  • Don’t share drinks.
  • Don’t drink from punch bowls or other common, open containers. They may already have drugs in them.
  • At a bar or club, accept drinks only from the bartender, waiter or waitress. Watch the drink being poured or made.
  • At parties, do not accept open container drinks from anyone.
  • If you realize you left your drink unattended, pour it out.
  • Have a non-drinking friend with you to try to make sure nothing happens.
  • Be alert to the behavior of friends. Anyone appearing disproportionately inebriated in relation to the amount of alcohol they have consumed may be in danger.
  • If you feel drunk and haven’t drunk any alcohol – or, if you feel like the effects of drinking alcohol are stronger than usual – get help right away.
  • Anyone who believes they have consumed a sedative-like substance should be driven to a hospital emergency room or should call 911 for an ambulance.
  • Try to keep a sample of the beverage for analysis.

(Adapted from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources and The SARA Program, Roanoke, VA)

If you or someone you know is the victim of sexual assault or violence, please see the section, “What to do if you or someone you know is a victim” for suggestions on receiving help and assistance.



Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention, harassment, and contact.  It is a course of conduct that can include:


  • Following or repeated waiting for the victim.
  • Repeated unwanted, intrusive, and frightening communications from the perpetrator by phone, mail, and/or e-mail.
  • Damaging the victim's property.
  • Making direct or indirect threats to harm the victim, the victim's children, relatives, friends, or pets.
  • Repeatedly sending the victim unwanted gifts.
  • Harassment through the Internet, known as cyberstalking, online stalking, or Internet stalking.
  • Securing personal information about the victim by:  accessing public records (land records, phone listings, and driver or voter registration), using Internet search services, hiring private investigators, contacting friends, family, work, or neighbors, going through the victim's garbage, following the victim, etc.

The Impact of Stalking on Victims

Individual responses may vary but commonly include:

  • Fear: of what the stalker will do next, of leaving the house, of the dark, of the phone ringing.

  • Anxiety: about the unknown consequences, the safety of family members or pets, what the future holds, whether the stalking will ever end, how other people will respond if they find out what's happening. 

  • Vulnerability: feeling totally exposed, never feeling safe, not knowing who to trust or where to turn for help. 

  • Nervousness: feeling anxious, fearful, jumpy, irritable, impatient, on edge, getting startled by small things. 

  • Depression: feeling despair, hopelessness, overwhelmed with emotion, tearful, angry. 

  • Hypervigilance: being continually alert to known and unknown dangers, taking elaborate safety measures against the perpetrator or any suspicious people, repeatedly re-checking locks and bolts on doors and windows. 

  • Stress: having difficulty concentrating, forgetting things, feeling generally distracted and worried. 

  • Stress-related physical symptoms: such as headaches and stomach aches. 

  •  Eating problems: not feeling hungry, forgetting to eat, and eating all the time. 

  • Flashbacks or intrusive memories: reliving frightening incidents, not being able to break away from disturbing thoughts, feelings, and memories. 

  • Sleeping problems: nightmares, interrupted sleep patterns, not being able to fall asleep, wanting to sleep all the time. 

  • Isolation: feeling disconnected from family or friends, feeling no one understands. 

  • Use of alcohol or drugs: to numb fear and anxiety triggered by stalking incidents, to induce calm and sleep.


Cyberstalking and Other Uses of Technology to Stalk

Cyberstalking is an escalation of online harassment where an individual “follows” another around the Internet. This may include sending emails and IM’s, showing up in chat rooms, newsgroups and/or websites when the victim is using them. 

Cyberstalking takes many forms such as: threatening or obscene e-mail; spamming (in which a stalker sends a victim a multitude of junk e-mail); live chat harassment or flaming (online verbal abuse); leaving improper messages on message boards or in guest books; sending electronic viruses; sending unsolicited e-mail; tracing another person's computer and Internet activity, and electronic identity theft.

Similar to stalking off-line, online stalking is a terrifying experience for victims, placing them at risk of psychological trauma, and possible physical harm. Many cyberstalking situations do evolve into off-line stalking, and a victim may experience abusive and excessive phone calls, vandalism, threatening or obscene mail, trespassing, and physical assault.

Potential Effects of Cyberstalking

Just because cyberstalking does not include physical contact with the perpetrator does not mean it is not as threatening or frightening as any other type of crime. Victims of cyberstalking often experience psychological trauma, as well as physical and emotional reactions as a result of their victimization. Some of these effects may include:

  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Nightmares
  • Hypervigilance
  • Anxiety
  • Helplessness
  • Fear for safety
  • Shock and disbelief

The term “cyberstalking” does not cover the use of many other forms of technology, including GPS equipment and cameras. In these cases, the term “uses of technology to stalk” is more appropriate to prevent confusion and to build a stronger court case. 


(Adapted from the Virginia Tech Stop Abuse program, Blacksburg, VA and The National Center for Victims of Crime.)

If you or someone you know is the victim of stalking or cyberstalking, please see the section, “What to do if you or someone you know is a victim” for suggestions on receiving help and assistance. 


VOICE Resources

VOICE ICON Resource List
VOICE ICON Types of Abuse
VOICE ICON Healthy vs. Unhealthy
VOICE ICON What to Do if You or Somone You Know is a Victim
VOICE ICON Immigration and Refugee Services 
VOICE ICON Top 10 Safety Tips
VOICE ICON Batterer Intervention Program
VOICE ICON Filing a Report and Protective Orders
VOICE ICON Jefferson College of Health Sciences Policies
VOICE ICON Virginia Policies
VOICE ICON Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)