In line with the theme of April  – Sexual Assault Awareness – let’s discover what exactly fits under the umbrella of “abuse”. 

Who should read this information?  EVERYONE!  This document should be distributed to all in the workplace and especially to Peer Educators or those in Employee Wellbeing Programmes


OVERT ABUSE:  This abuse is open and includes threatening, beating, lying, berating, demeaning, chastising, insulting, humiliating, exploiting, ignoring, and devaluing.  Verbal abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse are all examples of Overt Abuse.

COVERT OR CONTROLLING ABUSE:  This abuse is all about control and manipulation.   He or she uses charm, extortion, coercion etc.  The abuser acts unpredictably, impulsively, inconsistently and irrationally.

Info taken from parts of following web site:


  1. What is Physical Abuse?

The non-consensual infliction of pain and bodily harm to another.

  • Binding
    Tying, chaining, manacling, taping or in any other way using physical restraints on another to restrict movement. No exceptions.
  • Burning
    The infliction of burns of any kind – via cigarettes, open flame, hot objects, immersion in hot or boiling water, forced exposure to the direct sun – is abuse. No exceptions.
  • Hitting, Striking
    Physically hitting, striking, slapping, or pushing another as an expression of frustration, impatience, dislike, anger, or fear; throwing an object at or using an object to hit another.

Exceptions: Only when to prevent bodily or life-threatening harm to another, such as a child reaching for a hot skillet.

  • Imprisonment
    Locking another in a closet or room, confining another to a dwelling, controlling when and where another goes and who they visit.

Exceptions: Grounding a minor for a specific – and reasonable – amount of time, not allowing a minor to associate with known abusive/criminal peers and/or adults.

  • Pushing/Pulling/Shoving
    Physical displacement of another by pulling hair, clothing, and bodily parts; or shoving another by direct contact or by shoving an object into or at another.

Exceptions: Only when to prevent bodily or life-threatening harm to another, such as pulling a child back from going into traffic, or tackling a person unaware of an oncoming vehicle.


  1. What is Verbal Abuse?

Verbal abuse is the use of language to manipulate, control, ridicule, insult, humiliate, belittle, vilify, and show disrespect and disdain to another,

  • Accusing / Blaming
    Accusing and blaming another for one’s own outbursts, expressions of anger, bad moods, mistakes, and failures. Example: “If you weren’t so lazy, forgetful, sloppy, and inattentive, I wouldn’t get so mad!
  • Covert / Subtle
    Seemingly sincere, expressed in a loving and concerned manner, but placing all blame and fault on the other person in an exclusive or condescending manner. Example: “It’s OK; we have problems talking to each other because you really aren’t capable of understanding the whole picture. I’ll just compensate for that.”
  • Denial
    The inability to admit and take responsibility for ones actions and words concurrent with accusations and blame directed at the one abused. Examples: “I never said that, you can’t get anything straight“, “You’re lying, making that all up to make me look bad”, “Where did you get that crazy idea?
  • Discounting / Dismissiveness
    Denigration and/or denial of the experience, skills, maturity, and abilities of another; often marked by distortion and/or fabrication. Examples: “You call that art? Even a chimpanzee could do better than that!“, “You so dumb you couldn’t even add up two and two and get four!
  • Judgmental Criticism
    Criticism that goes beyond neutral and/or constructive verbal correction of erroneous actions; comprised in part of ridicule, name calling, denigration, and/or humiliation. Examples: “What are you, stupid? Can’t you ever do anything right?“, “You didn’t even finish college, you’re just a quitter and a failure
  • Humiliation
    Public or private intentional shaming and embarrassment of any kind. Example: “oh, you need to be tolerant of him, he doesn’t know any better
  • Manipulation
    Appealing to and/or using another’s sense of responsibility or obligation to achieve a personal goal. Example: “If you really loved me, you would…”
  • Name Calling / Epithets
    All name calling, and epithets directed at another are abusive.
  • Ridicule
    Making fun of and otherwise “putting down” another person or group based on their appearance, gender, competency, beliefs, ethnicity, culture, or religion. Example: “He will never amount to anything because he is just a <fill in the blank>
  • Teasing / Joking
    Humor at the expense of another, comprised of humiliation, dismissiveness, exaggeration and/or fabrication.





c. What is Mental / Emotional Abuse

Mental and emotional abuse includes a large component of verbal abuse, as well as the following.

  • Control
    Complete control of any or all aspects of another’s life; including where and when one goes; what one reads, listens to, or views; how one dresses; control of bank accounts and spending; refusal to share money, food, transportation.
  • Disregard/Dismissal
    Dismissal and/or complete disregard of ones feelings, opinions, abilities, and skills. Refusal to socialize and/or spend time with one. Withholding of approval and/or acknowledgement
  • Harassment/Jealousy
    Harassment and/or accusations about imagined affairs, spending habits, clothing styles, friends and/or acquaintances, coworkers, and personal activities.
  • Manipulation
    Use of lies contradictions to keep one off-balance and confused; to maneuver and otherwise force or trick one into doing “favors”.
  • Threats
    Threatened to hurt one, family members, friends, or pets. Threats to destroy personal belongings, or to take control of personal assets (car, finances, clothing, etc.) Threatening to use a weapon or an object to harm and/or kill.
  • Violence
    Destruction of personal belongings, furniture, appliances. Punching holes in walls. Harming or killing pets. Physically throwing one out of the home and/or preventing entry into the home.
  1. What is Sexual Abuse?
  2. The forcing of unwanted sexual activity by one person on another, as by the use of threats or coercion.
  3. 2. Sexual activity that is deemed improper or harmful, as between an adult and a minor or with a person of diminished mental capacity.