PEDESTRIAN.TV and Our Watch have partnered up to make sure we're all on the same page when it comes to non-physical abuse.

CONTENT WARNING: This article deals with abuse.

There’s something quite concerning about looking back on couples you knew or at least knew of and only now realising that it wasn’t the healthiest of relos.

The thing is, the reason I personally couldn’t recognise certain unhealthy behaviours in relationships even a couple of years ago was that I wasn’t completely in the know – some situations that were usually glossed over or swept aside were actually quite serious, but just because it wasn’t full-blown, in-your-face physical abuse, no one seemed to know how to deal with it.

Often times, a lot of non-physical abuse happens out of sight of friends, family or acquaintances, so unless someone in the relationship brings it to your attention, how are you supposed to know? And, how is a partner supposed to tell people about situations that they might not even consider abuse?

To clear up a few misconceptions, we’ve pointed out six common types of non-physical abuse which can happen in relationships more than we’d like to let on.

Financial abuse

Arguably the lesser known form of mistreatment, financial abuse is no less serious than other types of non-physical abuse.

If our partner is limiting our access to money in any way, whether it’s by hiding debit cards, restricting access to bank accounts or spending our money without telling us (not that I wouldn’t realise if my partner was spending my money, all $35 of it) that’s a pretty heavy problem.

Restricting someone’s financial freedom against their will is 100% a form of non-physical abuse and strips them of their independence.

Spiritual abuse

It should go without saying that interfering with a partner’s faith is not something anyone should make a habit of doing. Or even doing it once off, to be fair.

It’s completely reasonable to not associate with a religion if we don’t vibe with it ourselves, but judging someone else, or making them feel uncomfortable solely because we don’t agree is a completely different story.

Technological abuse

In an age where people spend 90% of their lives on their phone (wild guesstimation but from what I’ve witnessed I’m probs not far off), the devices have become something of an extra limb for so many of us. Unlike our arms and legs though, this limb often contains deeply private information.

Technological abuse can be as drastic as sending a partner’s nudes out of spite, or something as seemingly trivial as glancing at a message on our partner’s phone. I say it’s seemingly trivial because in actuality, prying into our partner’s personal life via their phone is incredibly invasive. As someone who’s quite lax with my own phone and what I do on it, I’d be mortified if anyone, even a partner, happened to go through something like my browser history.

Going through someone’s phone or computer is a form of intimidation and makes them feel like they’re being monitored by someone who’s supposed to love them.

Let’s just keep our phones to ourselves, team.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is behaviour that can often be noticed by friends and people who are familiar with a couple – if you know what to look for.

Have you ever experienced a situation where you’re hanging out with some mates, and someone decides to make a pretty lame joke directed at their partner? It’s uncomfortable, it’s degrading and it is indeed emotional abuse.

Making your partner feel worthless or lesser than, even for a second, is completely off the table. As is making threats of any sort – even in jest – or getting verbally irate. It can and will chip away at the partner’s self-esteem and that feeling can stick with them for life.

Social abuse

Emotional abuse and social abuse can often intertwine a tad, as one of the primary behaviours of social abuse is to embarrass your partner in front of others – that includes those off-colour jokes I touched on earlier.

But social abuse also covers a bunch of other dodgy behaviours – dictating who our partners hang out with, for one. Similarly, purposely creating a divide between any of our partner’s relationships should be sounding some pretty loud warning bells.

There are always going to be certain people who you like more than others in your partner’s friendship group, but that’s life – making someone feel like they can’t choose who they hang out with is stripping them of their freedom.


Okay, so obviously stalking someone is fucked – that’s a no-brainer.

But stalking goes above and beyond your run-of-the-mill, follow-someone-down-a-street-to-their-apartment type of stalking. Intentionally trying to show up to the same place “by chance”, attempting to talk to someone who has made it clear they don’t want to talk and harassing them with texts or phone calls, even if what’s being said isn’t necessarily malicious, are still forms of non-physical abuse.

For more info on the different forms of non-physical abuse, head over to Our Watch‘s No Excuse For Abuse campaign. They give some primo examples of what can count as abuse along with some vids.

If you or someone you know has experienced any kind of abuse, sexual assault, domestic or family violence please call 1800RESPECT or visit

If you feel you are in any kind of danger please call 000. 

Image: iStock / Marjan_Apostolovic