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What is abuse?

Abuse is an attempt to control the behaviors of another person. It is a misuse of power, which uses the bonds of intimacy, trust and dependency to make the victim vulnerable.

The Types of Abuse

Physical: hitting, punching, beating, slapping, shoving, pulling hair, use of weapons, spitting on you, biting, mutilation, burning, murder.

Sexual: any forced sexual contact ranging from unwanted touching to sexual forced acts, harassment.

Verbal: threats, insults, name-calling, unjust blaming and accusing, swearing, shouting, and accusing you of cheating.

Psychological/Emotional: withholding love, sympathy or understanding, inadequate physical or emotional care, isolation (keeping you away from friends and family), intimidation, extreme jealousy, destroying property, threatening to commit suicide, and threatening to take children away.

Financial: stealing, withholding money and/or denying access to employment opportunities, preventing access to household financial information

Spiritual: belittling a person’s spiritual beliefs or preventing them from attending the church, synagogue or temple of their choice

Digital Abuse: Digital dating abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. This can include being forced to share passwords, having your private emails and messages combed through, being tracked via GPS, having ghost apps downloaded to monitor what you do and who you talk to online, threats via social media apps, and all verbal, emotional, psychological abuse perpetrated online.

Reproductive Coercion: a form of power and control where one partner strips the other of the ability to control their own reproductive system. It can be difficult to identify reproductive coercion because other forms of abuse are often occurring simultaneously, but it would include acts such as being forced to keep or terminate a pregnancy, sabotaging birth control methods (ie: damaging condoms, replacing birth control pills with placebos, lying about a vasectomy or tubal ligation), purposefully transmitting Sexually Transmitted Infections, Stealthing (removal of condom during intercourse without partners knowledge/consent)

The United Nations (Commission on the Status of Women, 1993) defines violence against women as:

“…any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty whether occurring in public or private life.”

One out of every four Canadian women will suffer some type of abuse during her lifetime and every year, one in 10 Canadian women are physically battered by their partners. Domestic violence and abuse occurs in all socio-economic groups and cultural/religious backgrounds and it affects women of all ages.

Each year, Statistics Canada releases a document called Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile. Find it at statcan


The Cycle of Abuse

Domestic Violence (also called wife abuse, family violence and partner assault) is rarely a one-time occurrence. It usually takes place as part of a cycle that includes the following phases…

Tension-building stage: Insults and other verbal attacks; minor abusive situations; victim tries to be compliant, “walks on eggshells,” and feels helpless; atmosphere becomes increasingly more oppressive.

Violent episode: Built-up tensions erupt into incidents ranging from severe verbal/emotional abuse to physical/sexual assault and can last from a few minutes to a few days, depending on the relationship. It is during this time that a woman is most likely to be seriously injured or killed by her partner.

Honeymoon stage: Following a violent episode the abuser is usually contrite and attentive; the victim once again recognizes the person she first fell in love with and may be inclined to believe their partner’s promises to change.

Unless there is some form of intervention, the cycle usually repeats itself with the violent episodes escalating in frequency and intensity.

Take the relationship test

  1. In your relationship, have you ever experienced verbal abuse, including put-downs or threats?
  2. Have you suffered physical violence such as hitting, pushing, pulling hair, forced sexual contact?
  3. Has your partner threatened to leave you if you don’t do as they ask?
  4. Does your partner try to isolate you from family and friends?
  5. Is your partner bossy; do they try to control who you see and what you do?
  6. Does your partner use guilt trips to get their own way?
  7. Do you have to explain your whereabouts?
  8. Does your partner have a bad temper and a history of violence? Do they brag about mistreating others?
  9. Does your partner blame you when they treat you badly?
  10. Does your partner have a history of bad relationships?
  11. Does your partner believe that their sex (male or female) should be in control of their partner and family?
  12. Does your partner treat you “like dirt” or humiliate you in front of friends and family?
  13. Are you afraid of your partner? Do you worry about how they will react to what you say or do?
  14. Does your partner abuse alcohol or drugs?
  15. Have your friends or family warned you about your partner or told you they were worried about your safety?
If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions, your relationship may be abusive. Don’t ignore or minimize these warning signs. Get help now. You can call Maison Baldwin House’s 24-hour Crisis Line at 613-938-2958 or 1-800-267-1744