In some discussions, battering is used as a synonym for all abuse. This is a throwback to a time when only a beating that left marks was recognized as abuse. Some authorities like to use the term still to describe all abuse, because it evokes the true position and suffering of the survivor in all abusive relationships.

Any  touch designed to punish or limit is battering. Sometimes battering is disguised as unwanted tickling, or pinching. Battering is not necessary to make a relationship abusive, but in most abusive relationships the memory or threat of battering, however infrequent, is the ever-possible backup that makes less obviously coercive means of control effective. In other words, battering is a punishment for non-compliance, or an 'enforcement' action.

Battering can also provide a tension release for the batterer and become reinforced that way. When battery occurs after a build up of tension, it tends to develop into a 'cycle of abuse' or a 'cycle of violence.'