8 Different Types of Abuse

Abuse is cruel, violent, demeaning or invasive behavior by one person towards another person or animal, causing physical, sexual and psychological or emotional harm. Anyone of any age, gender, race or background can be a victim of abuse.

It is estimated that child abuse or neglect affects one in seven children in the United States each year. Likewise, it is estimated that one in four women and one in seven men in the United States have been hurt by an intimate partner.

This article will explain the different types of abuse, its causes, risks, treatment, how to respond, and how to report abuse.

Who is Affected by Abuse?

Abuse is when a person physically, sexually, psychologically or emotionally harms another person or animal in a cruel, violent, demeaning or intrusive act. Children, adults, the elderly and anyone can be a victim of abuse. In addition, there are many different types of abuse.

child abuse

Child abuse and neglect is when a parent or caregiver harms a child physically, sexually, psychologically, or fails to care for their needs. This is a serious problem around the world, including in the United States. It varies in severity and can be fatal. In 2019 alone, nearly 2,000 children in the United States died from abuse or neglect.

What is neglect?

Neglect is when a parent or carer does not provide needed care. Examples of neglect include:

  • Not providing adequate housing, food, education, clothing, or access to health insurance
  • Ignoring your child’s emotional needs, such as when they cry or have mental health problems
  • Exposing a child to witness violence or abuse
  • Shows disregard for children’s health

adult abuse

Adult abuse is similar to child abuse in that it involves one person hurting another, but the victim is an adult. It can be physical, sexual, psychological or emotional in nature. A common form of adult abuse is intimate partner violence, where one person in an intimate relationship causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to another person in the relationship, their partner.

However, adult abuse is not limited to intimate partners and can be any adult abuse.

elder abuse

Elder abuse is physical, psychological, sexual or material harm or neglect by one person against another person who is 65 years of age or older. Older adults without family or friends, or those with disabilities or memory problems, are at increased risk of abuse. While more women are affected, older men can also be abused.

Elder abuse is very common in nursing homes and assisted care facilities. It is estimated that as many as one-third of adults have been abused in nursing homes.

type of abuse

Children, adults and older adults can experience different types of abuse. Some people experience a combination of multiple types. For example, an adult may experience repeated abuse by their partner (intimate partner violence) over the course of many years, including sexual, psychological, and physical harm. While each type of abuse is different and can vary in severity, frequency, and duration, they can all have a significant impact on overall well-being.

The eight types of abuse are:

  • Physical Abuse: When one person hurts another and causes harm to the body.
  • Sexual Abuse: Any form of sexual violence or exploitation.
  • Psychological or emotional abuse: When a person intentionally harms another person’s mental health in a non-physical way, it is sometimes called non-physical abuse.
  • Financial or Substance Abuse: The misuse or removal of another person’s money, assets or possessions for personal gain, sometimes through coercion, threats or deception.
  • Domestic or intimate partner violence: When a person physically harms a partner.
  • Discriminatory Abuse: When one person treats another person differently based on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or other characteristics, causing harm, causing disadvantage, harassment, victimization, or other conduct in favor of another.
  • Neglect or abandonment: When the person responsible for the care of another person fails to provide the care they need or leaves them unattended. This could be neglect of children, elderly, disabled or sick or anyone in need of care.
  • Workplace Violence or Organizational/Institutional Abuse: Intimidation or physical violence related to employment and employment environment.


People can abuse others for different reasons, including substance use and mental health conditions. The abuser may have experienced abuse themselves. An abuse cycle is when a child learns abusive behavior from being abused or witnessing it. In addition, children from families with lower socioeconomic status were five times more likely to be abused or neglected, which may be partly related to increased stress levels.

Abuse is never the victim’s fault

For whatever reason, the abuse is unjustified and is never the victim’s fault.


The main effects of abuse are physical harm, psychological and emotional harm, and sometimes death. Physical abuse can be so severe that it leads to death, and there is a link between abuse (both emotional and psychological) and suicide. Victims of abuse may develop depression and post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Sexual abuse can lead to unwanted pregnancy.

In addition, abuse can lead to traumatic union or traumatic union. This is when the victim of abuse forms an emotional attachment with the abuser and experiences power imbalances and ongoing hurtful relationships.


Treatment for abuse depends on the type, severity and harm caused. Types of care include:

  • Medical care to help treat injuries such as wounds and broken bones.
  • Psychotherapy (talk therapy), including trauma-focused psychotherapy, for the treatment of psychological and emotional injuries, including learning how to live a good life after abuse.

Suicide Prevention Hotline

If you are having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our national helpline database.

how to respond

In addition to medical and talk therapy, there are many things victims of abuse can do to cope with the effects and improve their overall well-being and quality of life after the abuse.

It’s important to prioritize physical and mental health by getting enough quality sleep, managing stress, and relaxing throughout the day. This promotes physical and psychological recovery. Regular exercise and engaging in creative activities like hobbies can also help.

It’s also important to understand ideas and work towards developing healthy self-talk. This is a skill that can be learned and practiced. A trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, can help you with this process.

Choose the right therapist

How to Report Abuse

Any type of abuse can be reported by contacting local law enforcement. Additionally, many states have systems and phone numbers dedicated to reporting abuse. In the event of an emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately for emergency response. There are many other resources available to help report abuse, develop a safety plan, and get out of an abusive situation, including hotlines dedicated to domestic violence and abuse, child abuse, and sexual assault.

Domestic Violence Hotline

If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from a trained advocate.

For more mental health resources, see our national helpline database.

Child Abuse Hotline

If you are a victim of child abuse or know someone who may have been abused, please call or text the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 to speak with a professional crisis counselor.

For more mental health resources, see our national helpline database.

Sexual Assault Hotline

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can get confidential support from trained staff at your local RAINN branch by calling the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

For more mental health resources, see our national helpline database.


Abuse is harm done by one person to another. It can be physical, mental or emotional, or it can be sexual. Anyone can be abused, including children, adults and the elderly. Other types of abuse include financial or physical abuse, domestic or intimate partner violence, discriminatory abuse, neglect or abandonment, and workplace violence or organizational/industrial abuse.

Abused people are at increased risk for adverse effects such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The physical and mental effects of abuse are treated with medical and talk therapy. There are also coping strategies that can help, such as relaxation, stress management, and thought management.

Abuse can be reported by contacting local authorities or the national hotline, or 9-1-1 for emergencies. Can provide support for an abusive situation and overcome the long-term effects of abuse after leaving the abusive situation.

These ‘Distress Signals’ Can Help You Get Out of Unsafe Situations

VigorTip words

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, you can seek help. It may be difficult to find a way out, but there is always a way out.

For domestic violence or abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you suspect child abuse or potential harm, please call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline or text 1-800-422-4453. For sexual assault support, call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

Abuse can also be accompanied by many feelings, such as shame and guilt. Remember that abuse is never the victim’s fault. A therapist can help you overcome post-abuse emotional challenges and find relief, both physically and emotionally.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can you help someone who is being abused?

    There are several things that can help someone who is being abused. First, allow yourself to talk to your abuser when they can safely stay away from them. Encourage and empower them by telling them you are there for them and helping in a specific way. Provide them with abuse resources and professionals they can contact for help and support in dealing with or leaving an abusive situation. In the end, let them make their own decisions, even if they decide not to leave for a while.

  • How to protect children from abuse?

    Any suspected child abuse or harm to a child can and should be reported to a child protection agency at the local, county or state level. Also, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline or text 1-800-422-4453 to speak with a professional crisis counselor.

  • Why do abuse victims feel guilty?

    It is common for victims of abuse to feel guilty. It could be because they think they should do something to prevent or stop the abuse, or they do something wrong and deserve to be abused. These thoughts are incorrect; the abuse is never the victim’s fault.