Note: This story discusses sexual and emotional abuse.
Statistics show that about half of all women and men in the U.S. have experienced some form of psychological aggression by a partner. And family and domestic violence — which includes child abuse, intimate partner abuse, and elder abuse — affects an estimated 10 million people every year in the U.S.
Since these numbers are incredibly high, it unfortunately means you may know (or have known) someone who has experienced abuse within an interpersonal relationship — even if they might not have realized it at first.
So when I saw Reddit user akand_1ask: “What is abuse and people don’t realize it?” I thought it would be helpful to read some of the answers below to help identify some of the different types of abuse. Here’s what they had to say below:
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"Sibling rivalry that goes unchecked by parents. Man, I can't believe how common/ignored sibling abuse is. Neglectful parents plus unruly children is a recipe for disaster."
"Or setting up the sibling rivalry in the first place."—u/SpicySavant
"My brother graduated with twins who got valedictorian and salutatorian. My brother and his friends made jokes about how when they got home, their dad would push one of their pictures higher up on the fridge than the other one. Later, he found out they pretty much did do that and it was a pretty real issue they dealt with their whole lives."—u/RichardBottom
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"Harnessing therapy speak to absolve oneself of accountability."
"My favorite example is the misuse and manipulation of boundaries. Boundaries are a way for you to govern your own behavior in the spirit of your own protection; they are not rules to impose on other people. For example, a real boundary: 'I don't feel safe around you when you drink. If you are drinking, I cannot be around you.' A fake boundary: 'You are not allowed to drink around me, I don't like it.' Abusers throw around this concept to control you, like the classic: 'My boundaries are that you can't go out without me, wear provocative clothing, and you have to text me constantly when we aren't together, and you can't say no because they're my boundaries.' It shuts the victim down because it makes them seem like they are harming their abuser by refusing them."—u/Em29ca
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"Mothers who treat their sons like surrogate boyfriends/husbands. If their sons DARE to have a girlfriend or get married, these women act like they're being cheated on."
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"Invalidating your feelings by making it about them and how you holding them accountable is upsetting them."
"This is my mother’s default whenever she doesn’t like what I’m saying, 'Oh, I’m sorry, I’m the worst mother in the world and your childhood was terrible.' Like eff off — that’s not what I’m saying and you know it."—u/SheepPup
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"Neglect. Neglect IS abuse."
"This one was hard for me to accept. My mum didn't neglect me to purposely neglect me, her mental health was awful and she was being physically abused. But it still makes the neglect abuse. We have a good relationship now and she takes full accountability for my CPTSD."—u/Few_Cup3452
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"Manipulation under the guise of caring for what happens to you."
"Love but with conditions. My stepson's dad is this way: 'If you tell me you're having fun at your mom's house it means you don't love me.' He can't celebrate his joy unless it's with him."—u/SnatchAddict
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"Trying to 'test' people's food allergies because they don't believe them or trying to sneak a food someone doesn't like into a dish to prove them wrong."
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"Continuing a certain behavior after the person you are affecting has (repeatedly) asked you to stop. But-I’m-Not-Touching-You-ism is a short route to abusive behavior."
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"Yelling. Years of walking on eggshells will damage a person's nervous system."
"My parents did a lot of yelling and now that I have kids, it’s wild how that has become my reactionary default move with my own children. I hate that I do it. I work really hard to not do it. And I find myself apologizing to my children more than I would like, because I internalized that yelling is the normal response to children acting up. Even knowing cognitively that it’s not a healthy response doesn’t change that that’s what I default to because that’s what my parents defaulted to.I’m getting better. But before I had kids, I had literally never yelled at anyone in my life. And I considered myself to be very patient and thought gentle parenting would be pretty easy for me based on my normal demeanor. But the way you’re parented sneaks up on you — and I want my kids to be better than me."—u/ACasualFormality
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"Reactive abuse. Basically, abusers will poke and prod their victim so much until their victim has an explosive reaction. The abuser will then use this reaction as justification for their abuse or to further manipulate and gaslight the victim."
"There seems to be this pattern for one person to stonewall the other and refuse to respond even about important matters that require collaboration. Then when the other party reaches the end of their rope and yells or becomes verbally hostile, the stonewaller points to it and claims abuse. Yelling looks like abuse from the outside, but stonewalling about important things like parenting decisions, shared finances, etc is abuse that flies under the radar."
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"Commanding both parties’ finances. Not just being a breadwinner, but also shaming the other party for making purchases and/or demanding their paycheck."
"My ex did it by spending recklessly and not being able to chip in for groceries, vehicle expenses, or utilities. Our gas, electricity, Internet, etc. were turned off so frequently, I started paying them on my credit card even though he was the main breadwinner and hardly anything left for myself after paying all the must haves in our communal home. He got to spend on anything he wanted. Financial abuse via weaponized incompetence."—u/cptn_leela
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"Gatekeeping hygiene and not teaching your child about normal hygiene and personal care. I didn’t even realize it was a common thing with narcissistic parents until recently."
"I'm realizing this as an adult. Things like caring for my hair, how to put on makeup or buy clothes and general hygiene my family would mock me for. That and 'common sense' maintenance when I was a bit older, like doing oil changes for your car or even as basic as when to scrub a toilet or how to do laundry. Or how to cook.
It wasn't until I was an adult and in therapy that I realized they loved to ridicule me for things it was their responsibility to teach.
Thankfully, the Internet has been invented. That plus my saint of a husband and an extremely loving and patient found family group has helped me catch up."—u/elcasaurus
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"Messing with someone’s sleep."
"I had an ex whose 'restless leg syndrome' would act up only on the nights I didn’t want to put out. He would shake his leg violently shaking the whole bed. I would get up to go sleep on the couch and he would follow me yelling, 'I wish my fucking girlfriend would want to sleep in the same bed as me!' I’d tell him I can’t sleep when he’s shaking the bed. 'I can’t help it, it’s my RLS!' Ok, then I’m gonna sleep on the couch. 'I wish my fucking girlfriend would want to sleep in the same bed as me!' Over and over and over again on loop. When I dumped his ass, I had to move back home with my parents on my crappy futon but maaaaaan I slept good on the crappy futon after leaving him!"—u/Imstillblue
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"Stonewalling a partner."
"Being on the receiving end of this, this is physically painful. I was curious about this when I was going through it and it turns out there is actual research that supports being on the receiving end of social exclusion activates the same areas in your brain that physical pain does."—u/acct4dumbQs
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"Telling a child how they should feel: 'You should be grateful.' 'You should be happy.' 'You should be sorry.' It shows the child just how little the parent actually cares about their feelings. The child is just a doll to them that they think they can control. I remember my cat’s leg and tail were broken, and my dad told me: 'You should be happy because I didn’t shoot her.' I will never forgive him for that."
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"Driving recklessly with you in the car."
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"Parentification. I recently learned in therapy that it wasn’t normal that I was cooking and changing my siblings diapers when I was eight."
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"Using personal things someone has told you against them when you are angry. My husband does this and tries to pretend he’s being 'constructive,' rather than just cruel. And I’m working on getting my shit together to get the fuck out because I’m tired of being painted as the bad guy when I get upset."
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"Not letting people express negative emotions because it's 'negativity.'"
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"Altruistic narcissism. People who do their best to be extremely helpful to everyone around them, but it's all a manipulative act. They don't actually care about you or what you go through, they just want everyone to see them in a good light."
"And then when you have any problem with them whatsoever, they immediately weaponize their 'kind acts"'against you: 'I've done so much for you, how could you!! You should be grateful!!'"—u/ITriedSoHard419-68
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