This article is from the Dissociation FAQ, by Discord (firstname.lastname@example.org) with numerous contributions by others.
Abuse may be physical, emotional/verbal, sexual, ritualistic in nature,
religious, financial, or some combination of these.
Physical abuse is straight physical harm: beatings, whippings, punching,
hitting, kicking, scratching, slapping, and the like. (Non-consensual, of
course; the author wants to differentiate this from consensual whipping,
scratching, biting, and so forth.)
Sexual abuse is sexual actions done without one's partner's consent.
This ranges from feeling someone up without their consent to sexual
intercourse. Sexual abuse is often combined with physical abuse, as in
Some people believe that all sexual contact with children is
automatically sexual abuse. The definition of "child" in this case
varies, but it would seem most people agree that any pre-pubescent
individual is a child.
Some people believe that discussing sex in an inappropriate way,
particularly with a child, is sexual abuse; I might be more inclined to
call it emotional abuse, but it can in fact be abuse.
Sexual contact between two relatives is incest and is a form of sexual
abuse in some cases, such as a parent and its child.
Emotional/verbal abuse is somewhat harder to define, but a simplistic
definition would include name-calling, put-downs, and the like.
Consistently telling someone that they are worthless is emotional abuse,
for example. Telling someone they are not worthy of love is emotional
abuse. Withholding of affection is also emotional abuse. Manipulation
of someone so that they do precisely what the manipulator wants is
emotional abuse. ("If you loved me, you'd do x." "If you don't do this,
you are worthless.")
Ritualistic abuse, usually for religious reasons, is said by many not to
exist; however, the author fully believes that it does. Ritualistic
abuse is physical, sexual, or emotional abuse used in the context of a
religious rite, such as raping someone as part of the rite.
Religious abuse is not just ritualistic abuse, but also such things as
using religious tenets to excuse physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
Excusing one's physical abuse because the abuse victim is "evil", for
instance, would in this author's opinion be religious abuse as well as
Financial abuse is controlling, through whatever means, someone's
financial resources, including money for food, clothing, shelter,
luxuries, and the like. It is often accompanied by some other form of
abuse; for instance, forcing someone to sign their check over to the
perpetrator by beating that person.