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Violence & Abuse

Family violence takes place in many forms. You may be a victim although you are not aware of it. Abuse not only involves physical, like kicking, punching and beating, but it also involves such things as:

Continual insults:
Being spoken to in a degrading manner, name-calling, being told that you can't do anything, or that you are stupid, or that you're unattractive, etc.

Threats and intimidation:
This includes threats or implied threats such as handling or displaying weapons during arguments, or even possessing weapons. This also includes destroying property or reckless driving.

Forced isolation:
Not being able to have your own friends or do the things you want to do such as going to school or getting a job. This may be achieved by withholding money or being denied the use of a vehicle.

Forced sex - upon yourself - without your consent - being raped.

Family Violence is NOT traditional. You and your children have the right to live in a situation that is free of violence!

Table of Contents

  1. 10 Myths About Relationships
  2. A Definition Of Battering
  3. Why Doesn't She Leave?
  4. Why Do Batterers Abuse Women?
  5. Effects Of Battering On The Children
  6. The Law
  7. Mutual Battering
  8. Dating Violence
  9. Elder Abuse
  10. Verbal Abuse
  11. Emotional Abuse
  12. Psychological Abuse
  13. Physical Abuse
  14. Sexual Abuse
  15. Sexual Abuse Of Children
  16. References

10 Myths About Relationships »


Women enjoy being hit.


No one enjoys being physically hurt.


Very few women are abused.


One in eight women in Canada will be assaulted by their partner this year. Seven out of ten women will be assaulted by their partner in Canada


It only happens in poor, uneducated families.


Relationship violence happens in rich families, poor families, middle class families, educated families and uneducated families. Poor and uneducated families are more likely to be involved with social service programs and therefore it is more likely to come to the attention of the authorities, but that gap is closing as society becomes more aware.


Religion will prevent family violence.


Violence is just as likely to occur in religious homes, particularly in homes where the man is perceived as "head of the household." Violence is often not reported because the woman turns to the church and prays for help. This may help give her the strength to endure the abuse, but it will not stop her partner from being abusive.


Women make men become violent.


Violence is a choice. No matter what the woman is doing, if the man uses violence to respond, then he is responsible for having made that choice. There are always non-violent ways to respond to every situation.


Drinking causes relationship violence.


If drinking caused violence then every time people drank, they would become violent. People who become violent when they drink are people who have thoughts, feelings and beliefs that promote violence and these thoughts, feelings and beliefs exist whether they are drunk or sober. Alcohol simply makes it easier to act on them.


The kids need a father, even if he is abusive.


Children who are raised in violent homes are more likely to be abused or abusive to others when they grow up. They are also more likely to have substance abuse problems, unhappy relationships, low self-esteem, and engage in criminal behaviours. Children raised in non-abusive single parent homes are less likely to have these roblems as adults.


Women in violent relationships are crazy.


Women in abusive relationships have frequently been told that are to blame for all the family problems. They may feel controlled, afraid, helpless and isolated and those feeling can lead to depression, anxiety and a variety of physical complaints and illnesses. They frequently feel crazy, but they are simply responding normally to an abnormal situation.


If it were that bad, she would leave.


Women stay for a variety of reasons:

  • They love the man and hope he will change.
  • When the man is not abusive, he is very charming.
  • The man has threatened to hurt her or kill her if she leaves.
  • The man has threatened to take or hurt the children if she leaves.
  • The man has threatened to kill himself if she leaves.
  • She believes he is a good father and does not want to take the kids away from him.
  • She is dependent on him financially.
  • She is too embarrassed to tell anyone what is happening.
  • She has no training to get a job.
  • She believes to be a 'good wife' she has to try to keep things together.
  • He has scared away or offended all her friends and family so she has no supports.
  • She believes to be a 'good mother' she needs to keep her family together.


Women are as violent as men.


Women are 20 times more likely to be physically abused by a man than a man by a woman is. Men will sometimes say "she hit me first" but usually the woman gets hurt far more seriously than the man does. Men do not generally feel physically afraid of women. Women are physically afraid of men. If a man and a woman cross paths on a lonely street, it is the woman who will be afraid, not the man and it is the woman who is likely to be assaulted, not the man.

A Definition Of Battering »

Battering can be described by several different terms. It is known as wife assault, spousal assault, woman abuse and violence against women in relationships. Wife battering is the most common form of woman abuse and not restricted to heterosexual marriages. It also occurs in lesbian/gay relationships, common-law and dating relationships, acts of prostitution and care-giving situations of older women.

Battering is not simply physical violence, and it is not just a conflict between two people. It is, rather, a systematic pattern of domination and control. Batterers gain control over their intimate partners, through a range of abusive acts, which may include psychological, sexual and physical abuse. The intent is to control women through isolation, pain and fear. Battered women often report that emotional abuse does far more damage than the physical abuse. A great deal of battering is hidden from the outside world.

Some common tactics of battering are:

  • Using isolation and jealousy
  • Minimizing and denying abuse
  • Using physical force and threats
  • Blaming the woman for the abuse
  • Using children to make the mother feel guilty or fearful
  • Destruction of property or pets
  • Using male privilege
  • Economic abuse

A 1993 Statistics Canada Study on Woman Abuse found:

  • 36% of ever-married women in B.C. have experienced violence in a current or previous marriage (the national average is 29%).
  • 21% of women abused by a current or previous spouse were assaulted while pregnant.
  • 1 in 5 women assaulted by a former partner were assaulted during or after they separated from their partner. In one-third of the cases, the violence increased at time of separation.
  • 43% of all wife assaults result in medical attention.

Why doesn't she leave?»

First of all, many women do leave. Battered women are not passive victims who merely accept the abuse. They are constantly working to stop the violence, and to protect their children from its direct or indirect effects. Sometimes battered women deny or minimize psychological impact of the abuse.

The fact that a battered woman stays with an abuser may reflect the fact that our society has not made it clear that battering is unacceptable, and has not provided sufficient support for the victims of violence to be able to leave.

A woman often stays because, at least in the early stages of the battering, she sincerely hopes that her partner will change, and that the battering will stop.

When it becomes clear that this is not going to happen, she may well try to leave or get help. Her partner may threaten her with even more violence or other hurtful actions if she leaves - and she knows that her partner is capable of carrying out these threats. Many batterers threaten to get a court order for custody of the children if she leaves.

In addition, women who try to leave face many practical obstacles, such as:

Lack of support and practical help

Some women have no source of support. Family and friends may not want to get involved or it may not be safe for them to do so. Many women feel a sense of shame about the battering and fear a loss of connection to extended family and community if they leave. Many health, justice and social services agencies are unprepared to give advocacy and appropriate support to women who have been battered, and often re-victimize women by blaming them or giving them inappropriate direction.

Lack of information

A woman becomes isolated by her partner's controlling behaviour. She may be unaware of her options or unable to access resources in her community. A battered woman may have nowhere to go, have no source of income or transportation to escape the abuser.

Limited protection options

The justice system cannot guarantee protection for women, and court protection orders are frequently broken. Some communities do not have counselling services or a safe house for battered women. Batterers frequently continue to stalk, harass and assault women after they have left the relationship. The danger and abuse often don't end when a woman leaves. There is often considerable danger when a batterer is give access to the children by a court order. For many battered women, the choice is either to stay with the abuser and try to avoid being battered, or leave him and face a life of poverty and uncertainty for herself and her children.

Social and cultural isolation

Social and cultural isolation also occur and is called double isolation. Women who are lesbian, aboriginal, of different colour, immigrants, prostitutes, disabled, older or younger, and who are battered, face double barriers because of discrimination and prejudice.

Teen-aged wives, ages 15-19, are murdered approximately three times more often than wives of older age groups.

Why Do Batterers Abuse Women?»

There are many theories about the psychological causes of battering, ranging from alcohol abuse, stress, poor anger management, and an abusive childhood. However, a more accurate picture of the causes of battering needs to include the social conditions that permit and even encourage violence against women. Such conditions include traditional sex roles that teach men to dominate and women to submit.

Another social condition that promotes battering is our society's use of hierarchies, which is the belief that every group, family or relationship should have one person in charge, and that person has the right to use force to ensure their power and control over others.

Batterers often abuse women because:

  • They choose to do so in the same way they choose not to assault their boss when they are angry.
  • It works. They get what they want (in the short term). It is a release of tension and submissive behaviour from others.
  • They get away with it. If there are no negative consequences then the message is that violence is acceptable.

Effects Of Battering On The Children »

Witnessing battering is a form of child abuse. A Toronto study found that in families with children, a child was present and witnessed the assault of his or her mother in 68% of incidents. Research has also demonstrated that children are directly abused in one out of every three families where the mother is assaulted.

Children who witness violence often experience interrupted development, eating and sleeping problems, and failure to thrive. The children also suffer more injuries or accidents, restlessness, shaking, stuttering, aggression, withdrawal, school problems and suicide.

Sometimes a battered woman will remain in the relationship because of her concern for her children. She may believe, as many in society still do, that "children need a father" regardless of his behaviour.

Sometimes a father will bribe or threaten the children to convince the mother to return.

Some women who face a custody battle may be trapped between a legal system that says a father has the right to see his children, as well as her children's reluctance to visit him because they are afraid.

The Law»

Violence against a woman in a relationship is a crime. The batterer may be charged under various sections of the Criminal Code, which addresses assault, threats, criminal harassment such as stalking, sexual assault and intimidation.

Since 1984, the policy of the Provincial Attorney General's department has been to direct police officers to arrest the batterer if it appears that he may assault his partner again, or if the woman is injured, or there is other evidence of a crime.

The responsibility for charging the batterer rests not with his partner, but with the police and the Crown Counsel.

If the police are not called at the time of the assault, a woman has the right to report this assault at a later date. However, the sooner an assault is reported, the more favourable the outcome can be for a woman's protection. The assault report will be passed to Crown Counsel who will then make the decision of whether or not to lay charges.

If there is not enough evidence to support a charge, but the woman is afraid for the safety, she may apply for a peace bond through the Criminal Court. A support worker or advocate for the woman who is from a local transition house, a women's centre or Legal Services office may be able to help the battered woman with using and understanding the justice system, including how to complain about a service she has used.

Mutual Battering »

Sometimes women are accused of being "just as violent" as their batterers. However, spousal homicide rates show that women are killed by their partners at a rate three times higher than that of women who kill men, and women who have been separated from their partners are murdered eight times more frequently by ex-husbands than separated men are killed by ex- wives.

Generally, the claim of "mutual battering" is a method of denying what is really taking place. A close look at the history and patterns of a violent relationship will most often show that the abuser has superior physical strength and skills for assault as well a superior social class. By contrast, his partner will be the one to adapt her behaviour and lifestyle preferences to please the abuser, and will be the one who has suffered the more extensive physical and emotional damage.

Both partners may be violent, but studies have shown that men are violent in response to women resisting their control or trying to leave, and women are violent when their lives or their children's lives are in danger.

Dating Violence»

A study conducted in Toronto secondary schools found that 1/5 of the young women who responded were experiencing abuse in their relationships. Young women often form relationships with young men within the friendship groups, so they find it difficult to break away from their abusive partner. Their boyfriend has easy access to them at school, work and social activities.

Quitting school, moving away or seeking refuge within a women's shelter are seldom viable options. Legal solutions are just as difficult. Courts that might charge and jail an adult male for violence often deal with a teenaged man lightly or not at all. Solutions for young women must acknowledge their situation and experiences.

Elder Abuse»

Elder abuse is abuse or neglect by anyone (spouse, family member or caregiver) on whom the elder relies. Elder abuse takes similar forms to wife abuse with additional concerns related to the older person's stage of the life cycle.

Physical frailty, possible decreasing levels of mental competency as well as exploitation of the elder's financial position are factors to consider.

Verbal Abuse»

There are many ways people verbally abuse others. However, when verbal abuse occurs, it will make good communication impossible, and relationships cannot survive without communication. In her book "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" (B. Evans Inc. 1992), Patricia Evans describes a number of types of verbal abuse:

Refusing to listen to her and refusing to share his own feelings.
"There's nothing to talk about."
"What do you want me to say?"

arguing against any thoughts or beliefs, she has.
Woman: "It looks like rain."
Man: "Don't be crazy. It won't rain."

Denying any thoughts or beliefs she has.
"You can't take a joke."
"You're not happy unless you're complaining."

Verbal abuse disguised as jokes:
Hurtful putdowns or threats said as If it was a joke.
"What can you expect from a woman?"
"You'd better not look at any other guys."

Blocking or Diverting:
Refusing to communicate, deciding what can be discussed, switching topics, or withholding information.
"You heard me."
"I shouldn't have to repeat it."
"Get off my back!"
"Who asked you?"
"You're always trying to start something."

Accusing and blaming:
Woman: "I feel closed off from you."
Man: "That's your fault. Quit bitching."

Judging and Criticizing:
"The trouble with you is..."
"That was a stupid thing to do."
"You should have done it this way."
"That's typical."
"You never stick to anything."

Saying what you have done or said is insignificant. It can be very subtle.
Woman: "I finished painting the entire house."
Man: "Isn't it nice to have something to do?"

Dampening enthusiasm and interest
"It's over your head."
"You wouldn't understand."
"You'll never make it."
"Who are you trying to impress?"

Manipulation by bringing up fears of loss or pain.
"Do what I want or I'll find someone else."
"If you do that I'll kill you."

Name Calling:
"You're a bitch."
"What a fat, lazy cow."

Saying something did not occur. Sometimes the person actually forgets and other times he knows he said or did it but is denying it.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"I didn't say I would do that."

Telling someone what to do instead of asking respectfully.
"Get in here and clean this up."
"You're not going anywhere."
"You're not wearing that."

Woman: "I finally got this machine to work."
Man: "Well aren't you just a little genius."

Emotional Abuse»

Emotional abuse takes many forms. They hurt, they frighten, they destroy people's spirits, they severely damage mental and physical health. It involves a systematic destruction of the woman's self-esteem, security, and independence. The strategies are intended to control the woman and isolate her. Men who use the strategies usually feel Insecure and jealous.

However, there are some men who use emotional abuse to be intentionally cruel or because they believe "I am the man. I have the right." Some examples of emotional abuse are:

  • Threatening to take the children, if she leaves.
  • Threatening to kill one-self, if she leaves.
  • Wanting to know where she is, what she does, who she talks to, etc.
  • Humiliating her. Using sarcasm, putting her down, intimidating her, swearing at her.
  • Criticizing her and her family.
  • Double standard rules for example, he can go out when he feels like it but she can't.
  • Getting angry when she spends time with friends and family.
  • Trying to prevent her from working.
  • Preventing her from going to school, or improving herself in any way.
  • Refusing to share parenting responsibility.
  • Playing mind games such as "I didn't do it" when you know you did.
  • Threatening to leave her.
  • Withholding money.Giving her all the money then making her feel bad when it is not enough.
  • Making a scene in front of friends.
  • Listening in on her phone calls.
  • Refusing to let her have keys to the door so she can't get in and out without you.
  • Stealing from her purse
  • Following her around.
  • Threatening her friends or her family members.
  • Refusing to go to social engagements at the last minute.
  • Using her children to keep tabs on her.
  • Refusing care for the children.
  • Depriving her of sleep.
  • Lying and breaking promises.
  • Having affairs.
  • Saying things like: "if you love me you would..."

This is not how we treat the people we love. This is nothow we treat anyone.

Psychological Abuse»

Psychological abuse can take many forms as well, but they have in common the intent to control the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of the other person. Some forms of psychological abuse are intimidation, threats and emotional abuse.


Intimidation is inducing fear in another person in order to get what you want. Intimidation tactics are indirect and if questioned an abusive man would likely deny his partner was in any danger or that he was trying to scare her. Some examples of intimidation tactics are:
  • Standing over her during an argument
  • Crowding her into a space where escape is difficult
  • Yelling and screaming
  • Talking softly with clenched teeth
  • Walking around looking as if you are about to blow up
  • Staring and giving angry looks
  • Slamming the doors
  • Throwing things around, punching, kicking or destroying things in the house
  • Destroying her property or things she gave you
  • Hurting her pets
  • Driving fast when you are arguing in the car
  • Ripping the phone out of the wall

Combining these behaviours with an occasional act of physical violence keeps the woman constantly intimidated and creates an environment where she feels paralyzed by fear. She will receive the message "do what I want or tell you or you might get hurt." This cruelty will destroy her self-esteem and likely her mental and physical health and will ultimately destroy the relationship.

Direct Threats

Direct threats are frequently, but not always, verbal and have the same intent as intimidation. Some examples of direct threats are:
  • Verbally threatening to physically harm her
  • Verbally threaten to kill her
  • Pointing a gun or a knife at her
  • Raising your fist
  • Picking up an object and gesturing as If you will throw it at her

Physical Abuse»

Physical abuse is the most obvious form of abuse to identify. It is physical contact intended to Intimidate and control the other person. It can also include any behaviour that results in physical harm to the other person. Legally, any unwanted physical contact is considered physical assault. Some examples are:

  • Grabbing
  • Pushing and shoving
  • Pinching
  • Poking
  • Hitting and slapping
  • Scratching
  • Twisting arms, wrist, legs and neck etc.
  • Punching
  • Kicking and biting
  • Pulling hair
  • Choking
  • Sitting on her or restraining her in any way
  • Hitting with an object
  • Throwing things at her
  • Shoving her up against something
  • Burning
  • Stabbing
  • Shooting
  • Tipping furniture her/she is sitting or lying on so he/she will fall

Some men who are abusive will say "I'm not as bad as the other guys. I only pushed her to get her out of my way." These men tend to look at violence on a continuum from minor to serious. There are three problems with this thinking:

  • It can take very little to kill or seriously injure someone. Even a push can be lethal if she falls and hits her head or breaks her neck.
  • The first time it may only be a push. Next time a little more force may be admitted. Once this line has been crossed and it has been decided that it is okay to use physical force to deal with a situation, it will be easier to do it again.
  • No matter how much physical damage is caused by the assault, if the person you assaulted is your wife or girlfriend she will no longer know how far you will go, she will not longer feel safe in her own home and you will have destroyed trust in the relationship.

Violence always gets worse.


Sexual Abuse»

Everyone has the right to say NO to any sexual behaviour - good or bad - and NO MEANS NO. Any coercion is sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is when you threaten, or hurt or control another person in a sexual way. Below are some of the examples of ways and means men sexually abuse their partners:

  • Get angry, threaten her or became violent if she refuses to have sex
  • Refuse to talk to her if she won't have sex
  • Refuse to hug her or sleep in the same bed with her if she won't have sex
  • Comment on her sexual behaviour in public
  • Call her frigid because she does not want sex as often as he does
  • Force her to have sex when she is ill
  • Force her to have sex too soon after surgery or delivery of a baby
  • Blame her if sex is not satisfying
  • Use sexual terms to put her down
  • Compare her body to other women's bodies
  • Compare her sexually to previous girlfriends
  • Bring pornographic material that she finds offensive into her home
  • Accuse her of having affairs or coming on to other men
  • Flaunt affairs in front of her or openly come on to other women
  • Call her a slut or a whore
  • Make her the brunt of sexual jokes. Ridicule her sexuality
  • Masturbate in front of her and force her to watch if she doesn't want sex
  • Masturbate aggressively to shake the bed so she can't sleep and feels guilty
  • Ignore her need for satisfaction
  • Make her feel cheap and dirty if she wants sex
  • Make her beg for sex
  • Tell her "it is your fault - you turn me on so you have to deal with it"
  • Use previous arguments to control what she wears and how she looks
  • Tell her she is not sexually attractive when she does not do what (he) want
  • Wake her up for sex, even though he knows she wants to sleep
  • Do Sexual things to her when she is passed out or asleep
  • Coerce her into doing things she does not enjoy
  • Tell her it is her duty as a wife
  • Threaten to leave her if she does not have sex when and how he wants it
  • Initiate sex after violence. (She only gives in to avoid violence again)
  • Grab breasts or genitals whenever he feels like it as if they were his
  • Embarrass her by touching her breasts or genitalsAccuse her of enjoying past sexual abuse - Saying it was her fault

Healthy and passionate sex is something two people share not something one person does to the other. Abuse destroys passion.

Sexual Abuse Of Children »

Sexual abuse of children is the most horrendous of all crimes. It destroys their spirit. This horrendous crime can be the catalyst that makes it easy for the children to abuse later in life because their self-esteem has been destroyed.

If you have made any of the statements or similar comments printed under sexual abuse to your partner and/or to your children, you are being viciously sexually abusive.

The sexual abuse of children is enshrouded in secrecy and denial. Secrecy is imposed by the perpetrator with a variety of intimidations that range from the subtle to the viciously sadistic.

The silence obtained from the child is so deeply internalized that the victim reaches adulthood with the secret of her/his violations intact. If the child does disclose the abuse while it is occurring, he or she is often ignored disbelieved, vilified, or further abused rather than validated and supported. This kind of abuse leaves devastating wounds.

Sexual desire can often be a problem in relationships where there are power and control issues, or when it is an authoritarian relationship. Partners are not interested in having sex if they are treated like a child or if they are abused in any way.

Men and women are socialized differently with respect to sex. Women are more likely to associate sex with emotional intimacy, whereas men more often describe it as straight pleasure or tension relief.

Regardless of the definition of sex, children should never be the scapegoat for sex.

Many women indicate men want to have sex after an abusive fight. For men this is a way to make amends. It helps them feel safe because if she is willing to have sex then she must forgive the abuse. Women submit to sex at this time not because they forgive or want sex, but because they fear the argument starting up again and want it to settle down. They are afraid to say no in fear that the men will get angry again. This results in the women feeling even more degraded. After a fight is not the time to approach your partner or any children for sex.

If your need for sex is more important than respecting your partner or your children, then you are being sexually abusive. If the need for sex is more important than the enjoyment for sex, then it is imperative that professional help is pursued.

Only you can stop that behaviour.


  • Statistics Canada Violence Against Women Survey November 22, 1993.
  • Barry Leighton. Spousal Abuse in Metropolitan Toronto: Research Report on the Response of the Criminal Justice System. Ottawa, Solicitor General of Canada, p.40.
  • Peter Jaffe, David Wolfe David, and Susan Kay Wilson. Children of Battered Women. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, 1990, p.22.
  • Deborah Sinclair, Understanding Wife Assault: A Training Guide for Counsellors and Advocates. Toronto, Ontario Government Bookstore, 1985. pp 88-90.
  • Canadian Centre for justice Statistics Juristat Service Bulletin. Vol. 14, No.8, March 1994, p.1 and p.8.
  • Ola W. Barnett and Alyce D. LaViolette. It Could Happen to Anyone. Newbury Park, Sage, 1993. p.125.
  • Guidelines adapted from Susan Schechter. Guidelines for Mental Health Practitioners in Domestic Violence Cases. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1987

Books and Reports

  • Assault: Violence Against Women In Relationships. Pamphlet at the Justice Institute of B.C., and at the Legal Services B.C. 1993.
  • Legal Processes for Battered Women: Manual for Intermediaries. A book by Leslie Baker attainable at Legal Services Society, 1990.
  • In Our Best Interest: A Process for Personal and Social Change. A Minnesota Program Development. Phone Number: 1-218 722-2781.
  • Battered But Not Beaten: Preventing Wife Battering in Canada. A book by Linda McLeod at the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women. 1987.
  • Let's Work Together to Stop Family Violence: Cross Cultural Training Manual. A manual by Ted Nelson and Sara Bhola, Calgary. 1990.
  • One Hit Leads to Another. A 15 minute Video. A family violence film and Video Collection, National Film Board. Produced by Victoria Women's Transition House. 1990.

Available At Helping Spirit Lodge Society

  • Violence Against Women in Relationships. File folder by VINA, Burnaby Community Protocol.
  • Responding to family violence. An article in File folder by Home Support Canada.
  • Family Violence, Perspectives on Treatment. Research and policy by Ronald Roesch, Donald Dutton and Vincent F. Sacco.
  • Intervening with Battered Women. Evaluating the feminist model. Maryse Rinfret-Raynor, Ann Paquet-Deehy, Ginette Larouche and Solong Contin.
  • Statistics Canada has 2OO2 Updated results on Battered Women; the National trends; Transitions House Surveys; Spousal Abuse after Divorce etc. At
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