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Can you believe that 1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime? That's 736 million girls and women who have gone through physical or sexual violence either with a partner or through a non-partner.

Violence is behavior in which any person takes advantage of their status, relationships, or any source of their power. However, gender-based violence refers to harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. It's rooted in gender inequality.

Gender-based violence and abuse can be of many types, but it has two main forms: overt and covert. Recognizing their signs is the first step to ending gender-based violence in your community.

Overt Violence and Abuse

Flaticon Icon Overt violence and abuse are the most recognizable forms of gender-based violence.

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Physical violence means that a person is exerting control over another person through the use of physical force. Examples of physical violence include hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, restraining, choking, and brandishing or using any weapon.

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Sexual violence is any sexual act or attempt to obtain a sexual act by violence or coercion, act to traffic a person, or act directed against a person's sexuality, regardless of the relationship to the victim.

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Online abuse includes monitoring someone's social media profiles and emails, sending threats or violent images, text, video, or voice messages via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other platforms. It can also include sharing personal photos or videos without somone's permission, controlling behavior, or making someone share or do something they're uncomfortable with.

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Verbal abuse is using words or behaviors to manipulate, intimidate, or maintain power and control over someone. These include insults, humiliation, ridicule, and silent treatment.

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Financial abuse happens when someone's access to money is restricted — this could be money for food, clothing, taking care of kids, or mobility. They could have no access to their personal bank accounts or their source of income could be controlled.

Covert Abuse

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Not all abuse is easy to detect. Some of it is hard to describe and confront.

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Psychological abuse can include someone regularly embarrassing you in public or in front of family, friends, support workers, or people you work with. It can also include calling you names, or threatening to harm you, your pets, children, or other people who are important to you.

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Spiritual (or religious) violence occurs when someone uses a person's spiritual beliefs to manipulate, dominate or control the person. You may be experiencing religious or spiritual abuse if a religious leader has used scripture or beliefs to humiliate or embarrass you, coerced you into giving money or other resources that you didn't want to give, or forced you to be intimate when you didn't want to.

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Emotional abuse is a way to control another person by using emotions to criticize, embarrass, shame, blame, isolate, or otherwise manipulate another person. In general, a relationship is emotionally abusive when there is a consistent pattern of abusive words and bullying behaviors that wear down a person's self-esteem and undermine their mental health.

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Cultural abuse happens when a victim's cultural identity is used to inflict suffering, or as a means of control. It could be that cultural practices are belittled or undermined. It could show up as stopping a person from visiting a cultural space or being part of their cultural community or openly practicing their cultural belief. It could also be pushing someone to transgress their spiritual or cultural obligations or prohibitions.


Haleema is a 17-year-old woman married to 44-year-old Karim. He doesn't let her work nor support her kid's need for food and education. He limits her interactions with others and won't let her visit family. What kinds of abuse is Haleema experiencing?

Why Does Gender-Based Violence Happen?

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Gender-based violence is especially common in societies where there are strong gender norms, or restrictive expectations and behaviors. For instance, males are expected to be aggressive, powerful, unemotional, controlling, and dominant. When males act in aggression, it is often socially accepted and often encouraged.

Gender-based violence also results from gender inequality in relationships, especially where women are economically dependent on men, and societies consider women and children are considered possessions or objects to be controlled by men.

The stress, depression, and anxiety that results from unemployment or poverty can also trigger gender-based violence. It's important for both men and women to manage and maintain their mental health.

Take Action

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What should you do if you think you or someone you know is experiencing gender-based violence?


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This Byte has been authored by


Saba Khalid

Founder & CEO at Aurat Raaj