Domestic Violence

A guide to domestic violence.

What is domestic violence:

Domestic ViolenceDomestic violence is when one person uses his or her power to control another person. Although both women and men can be victims of domestic violence, the overwhelming majority of this violence involves men abusing women.

Abuse can occur in an intimate relationship, if you are married, common-law or dating; between opposite-sex and same-sex partners.

Abuse does not happen because the abuser is stressed or addicted to drugs or alcohol. It is an intentional action on the part of the abuser to control the actions of the victim. The violence is used to intimidate, humiliate or frighten victims or to make him or her feel powerless.

Typically domestic violence starts out as one type of abuse (emotional or psychological abuse) and changes into another form (stalking and physical violence) as the abuser feels a greater need to control the victim. Domestic violence many include a single act of abuse or acts that may appear minor or trivial when viewed in isolation but collectively form a pattern that amounts to abuse.

We all have a right to be free from domestic violence and we all have a shared responsibility to make that happen. This website is designed to give you practical information to help you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence. It tells you what to look for, how to respond and who to call for help.

Emotional & Psychological Abuse

Emotional and psychological abuse includes a wide range of actions and behaviors intended to hurt, demean, criticize, humiliate, threaten and / or control another personal though inducement of fear, anxiety, confusion and dependence.


  • ongoing and intense criticism
  • name calling and other forms of verbal abuse designed to hurt, embarrass and humiliate
  • threats to harm self
  • threats and violence towards others, including family members, friends and co-workers
  • threats and violence towards pets and personal property
  • threats associated with immigration status, marital status and custody and access
  • reckless and dangerous behaviour, such as running red lights and dangerous driving
  • inappropriate and excessive expression of jealousy and possessiveness
  • excessive interest in and control over daily activities
  • imposed isolation

Financial Control and Abuse

Financial control and abuse includes a wide range of behaviors designed to reinforce the power and control of the offender, increase the victim’s dependence and decrease the options for independent decision-making available to the victim.


  • withholding, restricting and controlling money required for the necessities of life and / or comfort and well being of the victim, dependents and / or family
  • disproportionate and irresponsible spending in relation to the offender’s personal needs, wants and interests to the detriment of the victim and / or family
  • withholding information about the financial resources of the couple / family and / or household financial matters
  • denying access to bank accounts and financial records
  • coercion to sign financial documents

Physical Violence

Physical violence includes a wide range of violent, hurtful and aggressive behaviors.


  • hitting
  • punching
  • slapping
  • kicking
  • shoving
  • pushing
  • dragging
  • pulling hair
  • restraining
  • confining
  • binding
  • spitting
  • biting
  • choking
  • burning with fire
  • burn with acid and other chemicals
  • using objects and weapons to injure or maim
  • murder

​Sexual Violence

Sexual violence occurs when the abuser uses sex to control the partner and to fulfill his or her own needs alone.


  • any unwanted or forced sexual contact with partner or others
  • withholding sexual, physical or intimate contact
  • exposure to and / or forced participation in pornography
  • refusal to use protection to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
  • sexually humiliating and demeaning comments, jokes or accusations

Stalking and Criminal Harassment

Stalking occurs when someone maintains unwanted contact between an offender(stalker) and his/her victim. Stalking is not about love it’s about power, control and intimidation. Stalking is a step towards increased violence, not just an obsession. If this is happening to you please reach for help.


  • repeated phone calls, messages, or email’s that annoy or threaten you
  • threats
  • sending you things you don’t want
  • following you or your children,family or friends
  • taking your mail
  • trying to get private information about you from other people
  • entering your home uninvited
  • vandalism
  • harming pets

You are not responsible for your stalker’s behavior. You cannot predict or control what will trigger a violent episode. It is time to create a safe plan for you and your family.

The Cycle of Violence

Do you know about the cycle of violence? The cycle of violence can be broken into 4 phases: Incident, Make Up, Calm, Tension Building.

  • An INCIDENT occurs. Any type of abuse occurs (physical, sexual, emotional etc).
  • The abuser then tries to MAKE UP. Abuser apologies, promises it will never happen again, may blame the victim for causing the abuse, may deny abuse took place or say it was not as bad as the victim claims.
  • CALM happens. Abuser may give gifts to victim, promises made during ‘make-up’ may be met, victim feels hope that the abuse is over.
  • Then at some point unknown to the victim and abuser the TENSION BUILDING begins. Abuser starts to get angry, victim feels like they are ‘walking on egg shells’, victim feels the need to keep the abuser calm, abuse begins as the tension becomes too much.
  • Cycle begins again.

Warning Signs

An important first step to self-protection is to recognize the warning signs of abuse. If a man has four or more of the following signs, beware!

  • Are often jealous and possessive.
  • Become hostile or aggressive when their partners say ‘no’.
  • Express anger physically and violently.
  • Demand their partners constant attention.
  • Have negative opinions of women.
  • Act macho and boast about their physical abilities.
  • Are unconcerned with other people’s feelings or values.
  • Have a short temper.
  • Ignore personal space boundaries.
  • Want control over their partners’ lives.
  • Believe strongly in traditional male and female roles.
  • Accuse their partners of being uptight.
  • Put others down.
  • Ignore, or talk over women.
  • Insist on being alone with their partner all the time.
  • Blame others for their problems.
  • Ask very personal questions when they first meet a potential partner.
  • Drink or use drugs heavily.
  • Have reputations for being a player.
  • Force sexual activity.
  • Threaten or sulk if they don’t get their way.
  • Refuse to accept sexual limits.
  • Insist on making all the decisions.

Develop a Safety Plan

Think about each of these questions and have a plan in place. Be prepared to act on them to keep you and your children safe. Think about where you would go and how to get there if you had to leave quickly.

  • Know your exact address, including lot and concession number if in a rural area.
  • Teach your children how to use the phone and how to call 911.
  • Create a safety code with your children so they know when to call for help.
  • Plan possible escape routes out of the house, teach your children and practice.
  • Open a bank account in your own name and arrange that no bank statements or other calls be made to you. Save as much as you can, from groceries perhaps.
  • Keep in a safe place (outside the home) items you might need if you had to leave quickly. These items might include:
  • a favourite toy for each child
  • keys to house, car and office
  • a list of important telephone numbers (shelter, police, help lines, family members)
  • copies of important documents (marriage license, birth certificates, health card/insurance, numbers, medication, bank account and social insurance numbers)

You may consider letting a neighbor that you trust know about the abuse. This could be a place the children go when the abuse starts. Develop a visual code or some other code (turning on a light, closing a curtain) to let them know when you need help.

Three Types of Relationships

Healthy is…
  • Trusting your partner to spend time with attractive others.
  • Listening to each other.
  • Knowing it’s okay to disagree.
  • Making decisions together and valuing both opinions.
  • Supporting each other’s dreams and decisions.
  • Feeling okay doing things separately.
  • Considering the other’s feelings before you say or do things.
  • Accepting the other for who they are – not wishing they would change.
  • Letting the other be first sometimes.
  • Respecting each other’s cultures.
Unhealthy is…
  • Believing one sex has more rights than the other.
  • Getting easily angered.
  • Using the silent treatment.
  • Yelling when you are angry.
  • Manipulating to get what you want.
  • Not valuing or listening to the other’s opinions.
  • Minimizing things that are important to the other.
  • Not keeping the other’s secrets.
  • Being kinder when you’re alone than with friends.
Abusive is…
  • Controlling the other’s activities and relationships.
  • Putting the other down.
  • Forcing sexual touching or intercourse.
  • Intimidating by threatening, hitting or destroying property.
  • Forcing alcohol or drugs.
  • Putting down family or friends.
  • Being extremely jealous or possessive.
  • Fearing a violent reaction from the other.
  • Blaming you for their violence.

Why Do Women Return to Violent Relationships?

This is one of the most common questions asked by the average person who doesn’t understand domestic abuse. It’s become a hot button with advocates, because it implies blame to the victim instead of the perpetrator. One valid response is to challenge the question itself:

“The question is not, ‘why doesn’t she just leave,” we correct gently. “The question is, ‘why doesn’t he just stop hitting her?”
We need to get this straight. The blame here lies squarely on the abuser, not the victim. However, challenging the question only goes so far. A battered woman will return to her abuser eight or nine times before she leaves for good. And people ask, “Why.”

The fact that this question has persisted is an example of how poorly society understands the cycle of violence and the needs of battered women. Once you see a battered woman as an actual human being, the reasons she returns to her abuser are logical and straightforward.

Let’s look at a battered woman with typical problems. A crisis centre or Hotline tells her they can place her in a safe home, so she leaves her abuser. She brings her two children (in 70% of domestic violence cases if a man is beating his wife, he is also beating his children). After a few days in the safe house, the crisis centre tells her that their funding only pays for three or four days residence.

“So what do I do now?” she asks. The crisis centre gives her a list of battered women’s shelters. There’s only one problem. All of the shelters are full.

She has no place to go. Her family abandoned her when she married the guy. Her friends can’t afford to take her in, or are afraid to do so because her husband is so violent. She has no money and no resources, because everything is in her husband’s name. She ends up living in her car.

The first or second night they spend in the car, she takes a serious look at her problems.

  • She’s homeless.
  • One of her children has a fairly serious medical condition, like asthma or allergies. But the insurance is in her husband’s name, so medical care is not available.
  • They’re hungry, and she has no idea where she will get their next meal.
  • Since they’re homeless, she risks losing custody of her children to her husband. And if he gets sole custody she won’t be able to defend them.
  • She has been a wife and mother for years, so her education is either incomplete or obsolete. She has no job prospects or job training and is looking at a life in poverty, working for McDonald’s.
  • Her husband beats her.

Notice that domestic violence is the sixth problem on her list. And as she sits in her car, watching the windows fog up, on alert for danger, listening to her children try to sleep, she is forced to face facts. If she returns to her abuser, five out of her six problems will be solved.

Abusers create these situations deliberately. They work to force their victims to stay with them by destroying all other options. And domestic violence will end only when society addresses all of the problems facing a battered woman.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship here are some important messages…

  • It is NOT your fault.
  • You do not deserve to be abused.
  • You are not responsible for your partner’s behaviour.
  • You cannot control the violence. Children who live with abuse, live in fear.
  • You can take responsibility for your safety and the safety of your children.
  • Whether or not you decide to leave your partner, you need to remember that your safety is the most important thing.
  • You need to think about developing a safety plan to protect you and your children.

Where Can I Go That Is Safe?

  • To a shelter – like Interval House
  • To the police or OPP
  • To another town or city