Domestic violence affects millions of people all around the world. And while physical abuse is often the most apparent manifestation of this cruelty, there are also many other hidden and often unacknowledged forms that can have equally devastating consequences. Emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual assault, coercive control, and gaslighting are just a few of these insidious types of abuse that can cause long-lasting damage.

Emotional Abuse

One of the most insidious forms of domestic violence is emotional abuse. While emotional abuse may not leave physical scars, its effects can last a lifetime. Emotional abusers use words, actions, and behaviours to manipulate, control and humiliate their victims. They may belittle their partner's opinions, isolate them from friends and family, and minimize their successes. Emotional abuse can make the victim feel constantly on edge, anxious, and afraid. If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional abuse, it's important to seek help and support. 

Financial abuse

Financial abuse is another hidden form of domestic violence that often goes unnoticed. Financial abusers may use their partner's finances as a means of control and manipulation. They may prevent their partner from working or control all the money in the relationship, leaving the victim feeling trapped and helpless. Financial abuse can have severe long-term consequences, including damaged credit scores and limited financial opportunities.

Recognising the signs of financial abuse is crucial in addressing and preventing this form of domestic violence. It's essential to seek help and support if you or someone you know is experiencing financial abuse. 

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault includes any unwanted sexual contact or behaviour without consent, and it can manifest in different ways, including rape, sexual coercion, and sexual harassment. Victims of sexual assault often experience feelings of shame, guilt, and fear, which can make it challenging to seek help.

According to the Rape Crisis England & Wales, one in four women and one in eighteen men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Furthermore, sexual assault can have severe physical and emotional consequences, including unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Therefore, recognizing the signs of sexual assault and seeking support can be life-changing for survivors.

Coercive Control

Coercive control is a form of domestic violence that is often hidden and difficult to detect. It is a pattern of behaviours through which an abuser seeks to gain power and control over their partner. These behaviours can include isolating the victim from friends and family, monitoring their movements, and controlling their access to finances and other resources.

Coercive control can also involve emotional abuse, such as constant criticism and belittling, as well as threats and intimidation. The goal of this type of abuse is to maintain power and control over the victim, often at the expense of their autonomy and well-being.

Victims may feel trapped, isolated and helpless, making seeking help and support even more challenging. Gaslighting, which involves manipulating a victim's sense of reality to make them doubt their own perception, is one of the tactics of coercive control and will be discussed in the next section.


Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that falls under the umbrella of coercive control. It involves tactics that manipulate a victim's sense of reality, making them doubt their own perception. Gaslighting can be incredibly insidious, leaving the victim feeling confused, anxious and powerless.

The abuser may use gaslighting to create a false sense of reality, often by denying the victim's experiences or feelings. For example, they may tell the victim that they are overreacting or being paranoid, or that they are simply imagining things. The abuser may also twist the victim's words and actions, making them feel like they are the ones responsible for the abuse.

Gaslighting can be difficult to recognize, as it often happens gradually over time. Victims may feel like they are losing their grip on reality and may start to doubt themselves and their own perceptions. This can make seeking help and support even more challenging, as the victim may not even realise that they are being abused.

If you are worried that your or a loved one is being gaslit and you want to read more about it, read our article about spotting the red flags of gaslighting behaviour here.

How to Seek Help If You Are Experiencing Domestic Abuse

Recognising signs of domestic violence that are often hidden can be challenging, but seeking help is crucial to prevent continued harm. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, there are resources available for support and safety.

The first step to seeking help is to acknowledge that abuse is happening. It can be difficult to come to terms with the fact that someone you love or trust is hurting you, but accepting this reality is necessary to begin the healing process.

Once you have acknowledged that abuse is occurring, it is important to reach out for help. This may involve seeking support from friends or family members, finding a therapist or counsellor who specialises in supporting victims of abuse, or contacting organizations that provide resources and assistance for abuse survivors. 

Some helpful resources include the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which provides confidential support and assistance 24/7, and local shelters and organizations that offer emergency housing and support for those fleeing abuse.

0808 2000 246

Or if you are male then you may feel more comfortable calling the men’s advice line.

0808 8010 327

And if you if you are experiencing any kind of domestic abuse and live in South Tyneside – please call us in confidence on 07375 788 835 (opening hours Mon-Fri 9am-5pm), or email us at [email protected].

It is important to remember that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a brave and necessary step towards healing and safety. No one deserves to be abused, and there is no shame in seeking support and assistance to break free from the cycle of violence.

To read about ways you can support a friend or loved one who is experiencing domestic abuse, read our article here.