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What is abuse?

Abuse is common. Abuse is when your partner or ex tries to gain or maintain power and control over you by using a pattern of intimidation, manipulation and coercion.

Abuse can take many forms. It can be emotional, sexual, physical, online and economic.

Watch: What is intimate relationship abuse?

Red flags of abuse

Abuse can happen subtly and slowly, and take over your whole life. Learn the common red flags for abuse so you can spot them early on.

  • You never spend enough time with me

  • If we broke up I’d kill myself

  • I never said that, you’re being so dramatic

Learn the red flags

No excuse for abuse

Drug and alcohol misuse is not an excuse to abuse you. It’s common for abusive partners to blame their behaviour on drugs or alcohol to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

In a healthy relationship your partner completely trusts you. If your partner gets jealous often it means they are insecure and do not trust you. They might use this distrust as an excuse to manipulate and control you. This is a red flag for abuse.

If your partner looks through your phone this is very controlling behaviour and is an invasion of privacy. In a healthy relationship your partner respects your privacy and trusts you.

Insecurity is not an excuse for acting abusively towards you. Many people can feel insecure and not behave abusively towards others.

Types of abuse

Abuse is not always physical, it can take many different forms. Remember: if it feels wrong it probably is.

Relationships can be abusive even without physical abuse. Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviours like threats, insults, constant checking in, excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, isolation, stalking, and gaslighting.

Examples of emotional abuse are:

  • Calling you names or putting you down
  • Yelling or shouting at you
  • Demanding to know where you are or who you are with
  • Threats to hurt themselves or you

Physical abuse doesn’t always leave visible marks or scars but it can get much worse over time.

Examples of physical abuse are:

  • Threatening to hurt you
  • Slapping, shoving, scratching, punching, biting, strangling, choking, kicking or burning
  • Pulling your hair
  • Throwing things at you
  • Grabbing your face to make you look at them
  • Not letting you leave somewhere

Sexual abuse is when your partner pressures or coerces you to do something sexually that you don’t want to do. Consent is essential, even in a relationship.

Examples of sexual abuse are:

  • Being told you owe your partner sex or oral sex
  • Unwanted kissing or touching
  • Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity
  • Refusing to use a condom or restricting your contraception
  • Being raped or assaulted

Image based sexual abuse

Image Based Sexual Abuse (sometimes inappropriately referred to as ‘revenge porn’) is when someone shares sexually explicit images or videos of you without your consent. This includes sexting if you previously sent the photos/videos consensually or being secretly recorded. Image based sexual abuse is now a crime in Ireland and you can report it to An Garda Síochána. Find out what to do if this has happened you.

Coercive control is when your partner assaults, threats, humiliates and intimidates you to frighten, harm, or punish you. It traps you in your relationship and makes it impossible or dangerous to break up with them.

It can contain some or all forms of abuse (emotional, physical, sexual and threats).

Coercive control, including the threat of coercive control, is a crime in Ireland and can be reported to An Garda Síochána.

Online abuse is when someone uses technology like texting and social media to harass, intimidate or stalk their partner or ex online.

Examples of online abuse are:

  • Telling you who you can or can’t be friends with online
  • Sending you negative DMs, texts and comments
  • Stealing or pressuring you to share your account passwords
  • Looking through your phone
  • Threatening to share intimate images or videos of you online
  • Using social media to monitor your movements e.g. tracking your location on Snapchat

Learn how to stay safe online and block someone who is harassing you.

Economic abuse is when your partner uses access to money as a means of controlling you.

Examples of economic abuse are:

  • Monitoring what you buy
  • Forbidding you from working or limiting the hours you can work
  • Hiding or stealing your bank card
  • Denying money for food for you and your children.

If any of these feel familiar, you can chat to us about it on our instant messaging support service.