Follow TV Tropes


Abuse Discretion Shot

Go To

When fiction touches up on the topic of abuse, there is a likely chance that the act will not be entirely shown. This is often because abuse is considered to be a rather heavy topic, and can be unsuitable for the age rating of the work. Alternatively, some works may not see a reason to explicitly show abuse onscreen when they can simply hint at it and give the same effect. Nothing Is Scarier can be a major factor in this.

Sometimes, the entire act of abuse will be offscreen, but sometimes it involves cutting to something else (such as another person's reaction), showing it in shadows/silhouettes, and/or just hearing the sounds (such as the scream/cry of the victim, or sounds of punches/hits landing). This also commonly takes the form of abuse only being mentioned.

This is very common when trying to show that a character Would Hurt a Child — while the buildup to the situation is shown, it is rare to see the actual abuse occur onscreen.

Abuse of any kind can be subject to this trope, but this trope is most common in cases of abuse that involve any kind of physical harm, including Parental Neglect and Corporal Punishment. Torture that is shown offscreen can also count as this trope, considering torture is a type of abuse; offscreen bullying can also count for similar reasons. Emotional, verbal, psychological, and other kinds of non-physical abuse can also be subject to a discretion shot. However, since forms of non-physical abuse are generally harder to imply without someone flat-out mentioning that it happened and are not always considered as intense as physical abuse, they are more likely to be shown onscreen instead.

Sometimes, this will also be the result of Bowdlerization. Works that were made in time periods or countries where abuse was considered more acceptable to show onscreen, especially in cases of Corporal Punishment, may remove or obscure scenes showing abuse in rereleases or foreign dubs/exports.

Occasionally, this trope may be subverted by revealing that the incident was taken out of context, and no abuse actually happened at all.

When adding examples, please note that this trope is for cases in which abuse is not explicitly shown — as in, deliberate mistreatment of an (often vulnerable) individual, especially if repeated. Violence that is shied away from but without the context of abuse is more suited to tropes such as Gory Discretion Shot or Battle Discretion Shot. Most examples will be cases of Domestic Abuse, child abuse, Elder Abuse, or animal abuse, but it is possible for anyone to be a victim or perpetrator of abuse.

Usually, the offscreen abuse is still treated seriously. This trope is relatively uncommon in cases where abuse is Played for Laughs (such as Hilariously Abusive Childhood) since the humor will often be in how over-the-top the abuse is shown to be, to the point where it loops back around to being funny. However, sometimes the discretion shot in Black Comedy or otherwise less serious cases of abuse will be used to show Nothing Is Funnier, and/or to avoid showing abuse as the disturbing topic that it really is.

Supertrope to Rape Discretion Shot; examples of sexual abuse can overlap with this trope. Compare Censored Child Death, Scream Discretion Shot, Villainy Discretion Shot, Shadow Discretion Shot, Battle Discretion Shot, and Gory Discretion Shot.


    open/close all folders 

  • PSAs from Futures Without Violence:
    • "Neighbors" depicts a couple hearing a man beat up his girlfriend/wife in the apartment upstairs, but not doing anything to stop it. They debate going up there but ultimately decide to go to sleep.
    • In another PSA, a man physically and verbally abuses his wife offscreen after berating her for getting pizza for dinner — all while their young son listens on from the top of the staircase.
  • In the Women and Men Against Child Abuse PSA "Baby Monitor", a woman is seen cleaning and she hears a young girl cheerfully greeting her father before he rapes her offscreen as she begs him to stop, much to the woman's horror. We only get to hear it from a baby monitor, as does the woman.
  • A 2015 Super Bowl commercial, based on a real-life incident, shows a woman dialing 911 and placing an order for a pizza. The dispatcher realizes that she's currently trapped with someone abusing her and can't call for help, so they have a coded conversation to get her to safety. The call is played over images of a house with signs of a violent fight on display, including a destroyed photograph on the ground and the imprint of a fist in the wall.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Banana Fish: Early on in the series, a cop forces Ash to watch child pornography video featuring himself, but fortunately the audience is spared having to see or hear any of the details. As this history is a recurring part of the plot, pretty much every instance of his sexual abuse as a child is discretely shown primarily in character reactions instead.
  • Black Lagoon:
    • The abuse endured by Hansel and Gretel, including having to star in child porn and snuff movies, isn't exactly described but reactions by various characters show it to have been pretty bad.
    • Similarly, there's only a few plans of Revy being abused by her father or raped by NYPD cops, and they don't directly show the abuse itself.
  • Digimon:
    • During a flashback in the Digimon Adventure episode "My Sister's Keeper", when Tai causes his little sister Kari to become hospitalized due to taking her out to play when she was ill, a slapping sound is heard as the scene transitions from Kari lying unconscious on the playground to Tai holding his reddened cheek and his mom with her raised hand, tearfully and angrily shouting, "What were you thinking?!" (This is averted in the original Japanese version, however, where the slap is shown onscreen.)
    • Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning, avoids showing the brunt of it, but it becomes quite clear what's happening when the young Lui is shown shirtless, revealing bruises all over his body.
  • Elfen Lied: In episode 5, when Mayu's perverted stepfather tells her to get naked and bend over, we don't get to see what he does next, but it is quite obvious what he will do.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Precia is never shown whipping Fate onscreen (though the lead-up and immediate aftermath are). Instead, the scene focuses on Fate's familiar Arf, who is curled up into a Troubled Fetal Position over her inability to stop it while she's subjected to Fate's screams of pain.
  • My Hero Academia: While it's made clear early on that Endeavor is physically abusing his family, he is never shown at the moment when he is hitting his children. Instead, we are mostly shown the aftermath of those moments, such as Touya struggling on the floor, or Natsuo and Fuyumi huddled together listening in to the screaming.
  • Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: the abuse Nadia endured in the circus from her Repulsive Ringmaster is shown only briefly in episode 25, and then, Nadia is "only" threatened with a bullwhip being cracked on the ground.

    Comic Books 
  • In Runaways, the first panel with Chase Stein in it is the one where he's getting punched in the face by his father, but this is the last time we actually see him being abused. Similarly, when Klara, another abuse survivor joins the team, we only see her abuser in a single panel, with the artist preferring to show her ordeal via the ever-growing collection of bruises on her face when she talks to Karolina and Molly.
  • In Brad Luggsworth’s backstory in For Better or for Worse, his father’s abuse of him and his mother isn’t shown until Brad comes home to find police and paramedics arresting his father and treating his injured mother. His horrified reaction to her bruised and bloody face is disturbing for a family friendly comic strip.

    Fan Works 
  • The Secret:
    • William's physical abuse of Kate is mostly implied rather than explicitly depicted. Their children overhear them arguing and when Kate walks into the room she has a bruise on her face. When they have another argument and things become increasingly heated, it shifts to their son Billy's perspective as he's hiding in his room; he hears his mother screaming and banging sounds. We're later told that William killed Kate after cracking her head on the floor, with their daughter Emma having to clean the bloodstain.
    • When Frederick beats and rapes Emma after forcing her to marry him, the violence itself is skipped over to focus on the aftermath, with an injured and traumatized Emma plotting her escape.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Book of Henry: The two times the Carpenter family witnesses the abuse that the Wicked Stepfather performs to their young neighbor, they see him enter the kid's bedroom very forcefully through one of their house windows and then we cut to the Carpenters' shocked reactions at what is going on.
  • Clockwise: When a policeman arresting Pat lists the charges against her, he finishes with "assaulting a police officer"; this assault is not seen, and a nearby officer is seen with a black eye.
  • Deadpool (2016): Lampshaded and played for Black Comedy, as almost everything is in that film. When Deadpool finds the minor bad guy he calls "Agent Smith," he reaches out and gently pushes the camera lens to look in a different direction before starting to torture "Smith" for the information he wants.
    Smith: This is not going to end well for me, is it...?
    Deadpool: This is not going to end well for you, no. [glances at camera] You might want to look away for this. [pushes the camera to the side, after which we hear Smith screaming and see onlookers reacting in horror]
  • Forrest Gump: Jenny's childhood abuse by her father is never shown, but she is seen running out the back door, hiding in a cornfield, and asking Forrest to help her pray that God will turn her into a bird so she can fly away, while the man continually screams in anger for her to get back in the house. Forrest describes him as "a very loving man," implying that, in his innocence, he doesn't know signs of sexual abuse when he sees them.
  • The Godfather: Carlo beating Connie is not shown in the film, only the aftermath is shown and the beat down Carlo receives from Sonny in response.
  • The Help: After Mae Mobley uses one of the commodes in Hilly's yard without understanding why this is inappropriate to do, her mother Elizabeth Leefolt becomes angry and spanks her. Before she is shown striking her, however, the camera cuts to Aibileen's disturbed reaction and the sound of Mae Mobley crying/screaming.
  • House Party (1990): Played for dark laughs at the end of the first movie: Right as Kid is caught by his dad, the screen immediately cuts to the credits; the ensuing belt-whipping (along with Mr. Harris' monologue and Kid's over-the-top shrieks) is heard entirely off-screen.
  • Several households in Sleepers are described as being abusive, with fathers abusing their wives and their children, with abuse only being described by the narrator and some characters.
  • Rock N Rolla: In a flashback to Johnny Quid's childhood, his stepfather Lennie Cole is shown entering his bedroom and slapping him for playing and singing to loud music, telling him how much he hates him, and ordering him to keep the music down out of gratitude for Lennie sending him to boarding school in a month to get him out of his hair. As soon as his stepdad leaves the room, Johnny defiantly starts playing the music again, whereupon Lennie walks back into the room and starts taking his belt off. The flashback ends before we see Lennie start actually whipping his stepson.

  • Alfie's Home: When Alfie's uncle Pete molests him for the first time after they start to bond, we don't get to see anything graphic because a blanket is covering them both, we only see their facial expressions.
  • The Butcher Boy: While staying at a boarding house, Francie Brady learns more about his dead parents as he interrogated a landlady. His father was abused as a child in an Orphanage of Fear and grew up and married Mrs. Brady and mistreats her during their honeymoon. The abuses aren't shown, but are told by the landlady.
  • In The Diamond Girls, as Dixie is leaving Mary's house she hears Mary's mother calling to her, then a harsh slapping sound and Mary crying. Initially, Dixie isn't sure what to make of it, especially as she's only ten herself, reasoning that she didn't see Mary's mother hit her and that maybe Mary simply tripped. However, as Mary begins opening up to Dixie more, it becomes evident she is being abused and the slap is only the tip of the iceberg.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Dursleys, along with Dudley's friends, aren't directly shown abusing Harry but their actions are alluded to.
    • Likewise, Ariana Dumbledore's abuse isn't directly described but the major effects making her the Woobie of Mass Destruction points to something very bad.
  • Lola Rose:
    • When Jayni initially describes her father Jay's physical abuse of her mother Nikki, she doesn't do so in detail; she recalls Jay saying he was going to "teach [Nikki] a lesson she'd never forget", then says that after her father stormed out she tried to call an ambulance, only for Nikki to shake her head no (she couldn't talk because her face was swollen). This alone makes it clear how serious the beating was.
    • It's subverted later, when Jayni's father hits her for the first time, then beats her mother for defending her. It's kept brief, though this being the first time Jay's abuse is described in detail on-page, it makes the moment even more shocking (especially for a book aimed at children).
  • The Temp: When the title character is involved in a plot to discredit an enemy by planting child pornography on his computer, she does not describe the images themselves, but her own reaction to them, such as her eyes turning to soup plates.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: "A Christmas Carol", when Kazran Sardick is watching an old home movie he'd recorded, he comes upon a scene where his father was scolding him for trying to make a film of the alien world's fish that swim in the fog. We see the elder Sardick raise his hand to his son, and we then see Kazran wince as he sees his younger self struck on the screen, but the audience only hears the strike and the younger Kazran's cry of pain, but are not shown the actual strike.
  • In Fawlty Towers "Waldorf Salad", a particularly nasty-sounding blow is dealt by Sybil to Basil in the kitchen, out of sight of the audience; soon afterwards, Basil holds a cloth to his head. This is mostly averted through the series, with the slaps between Basil, Sybil and Manuel mostly being shown.
  • Good Times: The infamous scene of Penny getting burned with an iron by her mother as she pleads with her not to do it. They cut away but her next scene does have her arm bandaged up.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In "A Vile Hunger for Your Hammering Heart", some of Lestat de Lioncourt's brutal pummeling of his boyfriend Louis de Pointe du Lac occurs off-screen, although the many injuries that the latter sustains are disturbing.
  • Judge John Deed: When Mrs Cooper discovers an image of child porn on John's computer, the image is seen loading slowly, with a window blind in the background, and a head of dark hair just becoming visible, before she looks away.
  • Law & Order:
    • A first-season episode had a husband and wife who were horribly abusive to their children. The two detectives broke into their apartment just in time to stop the woman from "teaching" her three-year-old son to stay away from fire by forcibly burning his hand on a hot stove.
    • A much later episode involves a scene where the assistant D.A. went to the apartment of a murder suspect's father in search of a necklace that the murder victim had been wearing. Turned out the suspect had used it to pay her father for a new coat, and he promptly gave it to his girlfriend of the moment. When the D.A. said she needed the necklace, the man went into the bedroom — off-camera — and returned with the necklace. The offscreen dialogue and sound effects left no doubt as to how he got the necklace from the girlfriend, but no abuse was shown.
    • Detective Mike Logan mentions in an episode that he had been a victim of abuse by his mother, but doesn't give any details.
  • Moon Knight (2022): While Marc and Steven are going through their memories in episode 5, they come across one of their mother Wendy suddenly coming into Marc's room and hitting him with a belt. Before either of them (or the audience) can see the beating happen, though, Marc leads Steven away while telling him "You don't want to see that."
  • Poirot: In the adaptation of Appointment with Death, in the flashbacks to Lady Boynton ordering the nanny to beat one of her adopted children, Leslie, we only see the cane and the terrified expressions of the other children, and hear Leslie screaming and crying; we also see Lady Boynton listening in remorselessly. The fact we don't see Leslie also helps conceal the plot twist that Leslie was actually a young boy rather than a girl as one of the adult children misremembered; one of the male cast is revealed to be a grown-up Leslie out for revenge against Lady Boynton.
  • The Punisher (2017): Billy's orphanage is not fully shown, but points to a very brutal childhood.
  • Despite the fact that he was sexually abused throughout the seven years he was held captive, the Mini Series "I Know My First Name Is Steven", based on the kidnapping of Steven Stayner never depicts nor describes a single incident note , managing to get away with simply hinting at or implying it. Even when he testifies at his abductor's trial, the scene ends just as his testimony would have become more graphic.

  • Alec Benjamin's song "Must Have Been the Wind" describes the singer hearing something troubling between the couple in the apartment upstairs, namely a shattering glass and a woman crying. When he checks on the woman she insists she didn't hear anything and it must have been the wind. She's clearly covering for her partner's abuse and the singer knows it, but he doesn't press the issue; he instead tells her she can come round any time and talk about what he heard when she's ready.
  • The Police: The song "Don't Stand So Close To Me" is about an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and an underage schoolgirl, but never actually says what happens between them. The first two verses are about the growing attraction between the two; the second verse ends "Wet bus stop, she's waiting, his car is warm and dry". Then the song cuts to the chorus. The third verse deals with the aftermath of the encounter.
  • Tracy Chapman's haunting "Behind the Wall" is about a neighbor having to listen to the loud voices of an ugly and abusive domestic situation going on next door and knowing that she can't do anything about it because "the police always come late if they come at all", and even when they come, they say they can't intervene with what's going on. The song ends with a horrible silence following the screaming one night, followed by an ambulance coming to the building, implying that the worst has happened.

    Video Games 
  • Detroit: Become Human: Todd hurls a fair amount of verbal and physical abuse at his daughter Alice early in the story, but the latter type is never explicitly shown. During the chapter "Stormy Night", he launches into a heated rant that culminates in him slapping Alice, at which the camera briefly cuts away to show Kara's reaction before returning to Alice clutching her cheek. Not long afterwards, if he reaches Alice's bedroom before Kara he'll barge in, belt in hand, and start beating her with it. Since Todd closes the door behind him and stops to confront Kara as soon as she enters the bedroom, little of the actual beating gets shown.
  • In the Japanese version of Earthbound 1994, at the beginning of the game after returning to Pokey's house after seeing the meteor, Pokey's dad decides to discipline him and Picky for sneaking out at night. He takes them upstairs and off-screen, and a smacking sound is heard. If you talk to Pokey before leaving the house, he'll say his butt really hurts. This is bowdlerized in the North American release, where Pokey is simply said to have been grounded instead, and the slap is replaced with the sound of arguing.
  • In Persona 5 Strikers, Akira Konoe's Lock Keeper manifests as his abusive father. The memory the Phantom Thieves witness has him hitting Konoe violently, but child Konoe is not shown onscreen. Judging by the Thieves' reactions, it wasn't pretty.

    Web Animation 
  • Spooky Month: In a series that doesn't shy away from slapstick and characters getting hurt, Roy's uncle abusing him is only briefly implied by Roy himself, and his uncle's one scene of him predatorily creeping on Skid and Pump is stopped before he's able to actually do anything to the two.

  • The Fantasy Book Club: You never actually see Fiona's father hurting her, only the injuries left after the fact. Later averted, as there is a panel of him choking her in a flashback.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In the episode "The Abusive Terrestrial", Roger starts playing with a boy named Henry after Steve appears to outgrow him. This relationship becomes abusive, with Henry becoming controlling and violent. In one scene, he gets mad at Roger. Roger backs up into a garden shed, while Henry follows him. In the next scene, Roger has a black eye.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In "The Storm", when Zuko speaks out of turn during a war conference, he gets challenged to a firebending duel to defend his honor. Upon realizing the opponent was his father, he refuses to fight, only for his father to insist he be disciplined. Though the camera cuts to the audience as Ozai burns his son, Zuko's pain is heard, and the resulting scar remains throughout the series.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: At the end of "Mad Love", when Harley runs to greet an angry Joker, he slaps her. The camera pans away as he raises his arm, cuts to Batman flinching, then shows Harley falling to the floor.
  • Family Guy: One Cutaway Gag is called "Horton Hears Domestic Violence in the Apartment Next to His but Doesn't Call 911." Horton remains indifferently fixated on reading his newspaper while hearing a couple's argument turn violent in a nearby apartment. He casually comments that there's probably two sides to it.
  • The Loud House: A downplayed example happens in "One of the Boys", considering that nothing that happens is too intense for the show's age rating. The moment Luke shoves Lincoln's head in the toilet isn't explicitly seen, instead taking cues from background noise and how Lincoln appears in the aftermath, with a wet face and hair.
  • South Park: In "Jared Has Aides", Cartman pretends to be Butters to cover for him when he sneaks out while grounded. Unfortunately for Butters, Cartman hurls profane insults at them while doing it. The episode ends with his parents violently beating him, with only the sounds of his parents screaming at and hitting him while Butters whimpers being heard from outside his house.


Video Example(s):


I Wouldn't Do That Just Yet...

"'Cause your ass is mine!"<br></br>After managing to avoid his dad's wrath during a night of partying and arrests, Kid sneaks into his house seemingly unnoticed... only to see his dad waiting for him, belt in hand. The ensuing ass-whupping occurs offscreen during the credits roll.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / CaughtComingHomeLate

Media sources: