Types of Abuse

Types of Abuse

The following are some examples of common types of abusive behavior, many of which often involve technology misuse. Most of these are often considered crimes, but will depend on your state laws. Some of these may also have federal laws that could apply. Please visit www.WomensLaw.org for more on your state's laws or see the National Domestic Violence Hotline's Is This Abuse? page for more information 


Cyberstalking is the misuse of online spaces or technology to stalk and harass someone. Types of technology misused may include email, social media, messaging apps, online accounts and data, or location tracking devices and services. Even if your state doesn’t have a criminal law specifically defining cyberstalking, this behavior may still fall under stalking or harassment statutes. Learn more about Stalking & Cyberstalking

Destroying Reputation

This can be a tactic of abuse when a person deliberately damages another’s character, which can result in emotional, financial, or physical harm to the victim. Legally, this behavior is considered “Defamation of Character.” This behavior is frequently perpetrated online through social media, websites, or by the distribution of false and/or embarrassing content. This may include, for example, distributing intimate images without consent. Learn more about Images & Abuse.

Destruction of Property

Legally, this is defined as Injury to real or personal property through another's negligence or willful destruction. In the context of domestic violence, abusive partners will often destroy the other person’s property and/or belongings. Learn more about State-Specific Laws for the destruction of property. 

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence (IPV), domestic abuse, dating violence, gender-based violence or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behavior used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence may include emotional, financial, physical, sexual, or technology-facilitated abuse. All behaviors identified in this document can be forms of domestic violence. 


Doxing refers the posting of personally identifying information online, such as someone’s name, address, date of birth, workplace, etc; usually with the intent to harm, harass, or publicly shame.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional Abuse is behavior that undermines someone’s self-worth and is a tactic to scare, isolate, harm, or control the person. It is sometimes also called psychological abuse. This may include humiliation, name-calling, getting the children to say bad things about the other parent, gaslighting (making you question your reality), and other behaviors. Learn more about Emotional Abuse.


Fraud and theft refer to intentional deception meant to secure an unlawful gain or deprive someone of a legal right. Theft involves the taking of something without the owner’s permission. Both are tactics of Financial Abuse. Learn more about your State Fraud and Theft Laws.

Harassment/Online Harassment 

Harassment is conduct that is directed at a specific person that causes the person to feel seriously alarmed, or annoyed. The unwanted conduct may occur in person or via text messages, emails, social media posts, or voicemail messages, among other forms. Harassment can include behavior or content that is threatening and abusive, but can also consist of non-threatening behavior and content, such as sending many unwanted, repeat messages. Harassment may also include disclosing personal information to embarrass or hurt the victim. Learn more about Harassment.


Impersonation is when someone uses a false identity, pretending to be someone else, to deceive or harm another person, or for personal gain. This frequently involves technology, such as creating fake social media and email accounts, or posting content and sending messages pretending to be another person. Impersonation can also occur when someone logs into another person's account and sends messages pretending to be that person. This may also be considered computer fraud and abuse. Learn more about Impersonation.

Interception and Recording of Communications

Interception of communication is when someone uses a tool or listening device to secretly listen to a conversation they are not a part of. This can also be known as eavesdropping and is usually illegal. Even when a person is a party to the conversation, it may still not be permissible for them to make a recording of the conversation. States with two party consent laws require both people in the conversation to consent to being recorded. Other state laws, known as single party consent laws, allow a person who is a party to the conversation to make a recording of that conversation. Laws on recording conversations vary widely. For more information please visit interception and recording laws.  

Nonconsensual Distribution of Intimate Images (NCII) or 
Nonconsensual Image Sharing

These terms refer to the sharing of sexual, intimate, nude, or semi-nude photographs or videos without the consent or knowledge of the person. This can include images originally obtained without consent (e.g. by using hidden cameras, hacking phones, or recording sexual assaults) as well as images consensually obtained within the context of an intimate relationship. Images could also be coerced from the person or faked. NCII is frequently referred to as “revenge porn” or “nonconsensual pornography”, although legally the crime may be called “unlawful distribution of sexual or intimate images” or something similar. For more information, visit www.WomensLaw.org, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, or our piece on Images & Abuse.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is any non-accidental act or behavior causing injury, trauma, or other physical suffering or bodily harm. Legally this is often referred to as battery or assault and it can consist of grabbing, pinching, shoving, slapping, hitting, hair pulling, biting, etc. or denying medical care, basic necessities such as food, heat, and water, or forcing alcohol and/or drug use. To learn more, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s Is This Abuse? page or see the Talk to Someone Now section.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is when someone forces or manipulates someone else into unwanted sexual activity without their consent. This could include rape or sexual assault, unwanted sexual contact, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, watching or filming/taking images of someone in a private act without their knowledge, among other behaviors. To see how your state legally defines rape and other forms of sexual assault, visit RAINN's State Law Database. To learn more, see the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s Factsheet on Sexual Violence or see the Talk to Someone Now section.


Spoofing refers to the masking or hiding one’s actual phone number, email address, or text identification so that another phone number (chosen by the user) shows up on the recipient’s caller ID. Abusers may misuse spoofing to pretend that they are someone else. To learn more about spoofing in the context of abuse, see Abuse Using Technology page. 


Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that causes fear. It can be carried out in a number of ways, many of which involve technology and online spaces. Some of the behaviors may not be illegal on their own, but when combined with other acts or repeated over time to create fear, it may be considered stalking. Learn more about the federal stalking law and State Stalking Laws

Surveillance/Electronic Survelliance 

Surveillance refers to when someone monitors another person’s conversations, locations, or action without their consent or knowledge. This can be done in-person, online, or through electronic devices (phones, cameras, GPS location trackers, spyware, eavesdropping devices, etc). Learn more about laws against Surveillance.


Swatting is a criminal harassment tactic of deceiving an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing an emergency services dispatcher) into sending police and emergency service response teams to another person's address.

Technology Abuse 

Technology abuse, also referred to as technology-facilitated abuse, is the misuse and/or manipulation of technology as a tactic to abuse, monitor, track, harass, stalk, and control someone. This may include misusing tracking devices to monitor someone’s location, listening in on conversations, monitoring phone or computer activity, using technology to impersonate someone, sending harassing or threatening messages, or posting content about someone online to harm them. Learn more about Technology Abuse and the Laws Addressing This Behavior.


Threats are any communicated statements of intent to inflict some level of harm to another. This can be a verbal, nonverbal gesture, or written communication that implies the use of physical, sexual, emotional, or reputational harm.

Video Voyeurism

Video Voyerurism is the misuse of a video camera or other recording device to secretly view, broadcast, or record a person, without that person's knowledge and consent, who is dressing, undressing, or privately exposing the body, at a place and time when that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. 


There are many resources that can help you identify the abuse you may be experiencing. You can learn more by visiting: WomensLaw.orgTechSafety.orgThe National Domestic Violence Hotline, or The Stalking Prevention Awareness Resource Center.

Talk to Someone Now