Yes, it certainly can. Often, verbal or other types of non-physical abuse are not considered abuse. However, consider this brief definition: Domestic or intimate partner violence/abuse is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors by an adult — male or female — including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion used against current or former intimate partners.
Domestic abuse can take many forms and they all should be taken seriously. Here are some examples of abuse that are not necessarily physical:
Verbal abuse involves belittling, demeaning, or threatening speech that is meant to manipulate or coerce one’s partner or spouse. Verbal abuse often carries the threat of physical violence, but not always.
Sexual abuse includes coerced sex through threats or intimidation or through physical force, forcing unwanted sexual acts, forcing sex in front of others, and forcing sex with others. But it can also be accomplished by withholding sex and intimacy as a means of control.
Psychological abuse can involve isolation from others (including family and friends), excessive jealousy, control of activities, verbal aggression, intimidation through destruction of property, harassment or stalking, threats of violence, constant belittling and humiliation, threats of physical violence or harm, creating a situation of total economic dependency, and financial enslavement.
While there are no simple fixes, there are several things parents can do to help their kids deal with abusive relationships. These ideas might help.
Take the time to talk with your teenager about abuse — what it is and how to deal with it. Let them know that they are far too valuable to accept abuse. It is never acceptable for anyone to manhandle or verbally abuse them. Then take the time to help them identify abusive behaviors and patterns to be avoided.
Abusers often try to isolate and control their partners. This is one of the first warning signs that your son or daughter may be in an abusive relationship. If you suspect abuse, lovingly encourage your child to surround themselves with friends and family members — this is a time to press into relationships, not recoil from them. Encourage them to get active in church, volunteer with organizations, and expand their interests.
Don’t accept the excuses your son or daughter makes for their partner’s abusive behavior. There is no excuse for abuse of any kind. Yelling, pushing, possessiveness, insults, and intimidation are signs of control. Remind your child that they have the power to end this relationship now. Everyone deserves to be respected because everyone is precious in the eyes of God.
(Adapted from Live Right Now)
 Psalm 139:17–18
The reasons women stay in abusive relationships are varied and complicated. If we are going help those who suffer in domestic abuse situations, we must first recognize that these women need someone who will listen to their story, not re-victimize them with questions and innuendos. Sometimes we do more harm than good when we say things like:
- Why doesn’t she just leave?
- Why would anybody in their right mind stay with him?
- She must like the abuse; she keeps going back!
A woman who is being abused may leave several times in her mind and actually attempt to move out more than five times before she is finally successful. Often it is dangerous for a woman to leave an abusive relationship, but there are also many other reasons that she doesn’t just walk or run away.
Sometimes women stay because they are afraid. She fears:
- Greater physical danger to herself and her children if she tries to leave.
- Being hunted down and suffering a worse beating than before.
- Negative responses or lack of understanding from family, friends, police, ministers, counselors, courts, etc.
Sometimes women stay because they do not have the resources to leave. They do not have:
- Employment or a source of income.
- Knowledge of shelters, advocacy groups, or support.
- Spiritual strength, wisdom, discernment, or a loving community.
Sometimes women stay because they believe things will get better if they just try harder. They think:
- “I need to keep the family together no matter what. Kids need a father.”
- “I swore to stay married till death do us part. I promised to stay with him in sickness and in health, for better or worse. I can’t just leave him because he has a problem.”
- “I can help him get better if we stay. No one understands him like I do.”
- “It’s really not that bad. Other people have it worse.”
- “I am the cause of the violence and it’s all my fault.” She may feel as though she deserves the abuse.
And sometimes she stays, as strange as it sounds, because she loves her abuser.
- Often the abuser is quite loving and lovable when he is not being abusive.
- He really does make her feel good and he knows what she likes.
She remembers what he used to be like, especially during the makeup phase.
(adapted from Live Right Now)
Don’t stand by and watch your friend suffer abuse. Yes, this is classified as abuse, and we need to recognize it as such. Anything a person says in an attempt to belittle and control another person is abusive. Your first job is to help your friend understand that love is not supposed to behave this way, and they should not consider dating anyone who hurts them or thinks so little of them.
The Bible says, “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” An abusive and belittling partner is bad company. Not only is an abusive partner bad company, they are poisonous to your friend’s self-esteem.
If the first step is seeing this type of abuse for what it is, the second step will likely be helping your friend see and embrace that they deserve better than the treatment they are getting.
More than likely your friend will tell you that their partner is not like this all the time. And they probably aren’t. But abusers almost always try to isolate and manipulate their victims. You friend may be fooled by her boyfriend’s charm and attention, but if he has already demonstrated an abusive pattern of behavior, it will only get worse if she continues to allow it.
Helping in these kinds of situations is never easy, but as a good friend you can and should gently and lovingly let her know that she is not alone and that she does not have to take this kind of treatment. She is worth more than that to you and to God.
(adapted from Live Right Now)
 1 Corinthians 15:33 esv