What is Abuse?

Abuse is the improper use of power to the detriment of another. There are various forms of abuse. No abuse is to be minimized and non physical abuse can be as devastating as physical abuse. Abuse is, but not limited to, the following:

Physical – can involve hitting, choking, kicking, punching, biting, shoving and throwing objects, stopping a person from leaving the situation, breaking things, threatening something of value. Threatening with a weapon.

Emotional & Verbal – can involve threats, degradation, humiliation, insulting, constantly criticizing and blaming. Controlling family activities and isolation.

Sexual – can involve sexual exposure, humiliation and any unwanted touching, forcing unwanted sexual activity, forcing sexual acts that are uncomfortable or hurt. Injuring sexual parts of the body. Accusations of having or wanting sex with others. This type of abuse is often accompanied by threats of actual violence.

Spiritual – can involve withholding or forcing religious beliefs or using them for manipulation and control.

Psychological – can be controlling and limiting where someone can go, who they see, opening mail or other private papers, following, watching, repeated phoning or emailing.

Cultural – can involve threats of deportation or withholding of passports.

Financial – can involve stealing, controlling, withholding of money necessary for food and medical attention. Denying access to household or personal financial resources. Not permitting employment, or causing job loss. Running up debts in another persons name.

Abuse that is Against the Law

Certain types of abuse are against the law. These are crimes. Assault and other criminal harassment are examples of crimes.

Assault – is the most common type of crime an abuser is charged with. Assault can be physical or sexual. Physical assault is when a person hits or hurts someone, or threatens to and the person believes this will happen. Sexual assault is anything that happens without consent, including unwanted kissing, sexual touching, or forced intercourse (rape).

Criminal Harassment – (stalking) is when someone forces unwanted and continuing attention. It is a pattern of threats and actions that causes fear. It is against the law for someone to repeatedly contact by phone or email, follow or threaten, or destroy another person’s property.

The Cycle of Violence

Incidents of assault appear to follow a pattern. This pattern is established in three stages:

  • A tension building phase, anger and frustration grow.
  • Tensions build to a peak and explode and the assault takes place.
  • The abuser feels guilt and promises not to repeat the abusive actions. He/she may be particularly attentive, even in a honeymoon phase until the cycle begins to repeat itself.

There is a tendency for the abuse to increase in frequency and severity over time. The rate with which this increases varies tremendously, from escalating in days to a number of years.

Why the Cycle May Continue

There are many reasons why someone stays with an abusive partner. You may be staying for one or more of these reasons:

  • You feel you are financially dependent on the abuser, especially if you suffer from a disability.
  • Fear for your children’s safety.
  • Afraid of losing your home.
  • You think that no one will believe the abuse happened.
  • You have no social supports because you are isolated from your family and friends.
  • You do not know about your legal rights or support services that can help you.
  • Afraid of losing your immigration status.
  • You have difficulty speaking English and think you will not be understood.
  • You feel isolated and pressured to stay because of problems with language, racism, family or community pressures, or because you are a newcomer to Canada.


  • 1 in 4 women is abused by a partner.
  • 40% of domestic abuse occurs when the woman is first pregnant.
  • Women are 13 times more likely to be assaulted in their intimate relationship than by strangers.
  • Every year, of all female homicide victims in Canada, 52% are killed by their partner.
  • Victims of domestic abuse are rich or poor, urban or rural, educated or uneducated, and from all cultural backgrounds.
  • Women are beaten an average of 35 times before reporting to police, they return to an abusive situation on average 6 times before leaving permanently.
  • Victims of domestic abuse suffer higher rates of anxiety, depression, sleep disorder, and inability to cope.
  • 80% of abusers do not seek help unless forced by intervention.

Safety Planning

  • Call 911 if you are not safe.
  • Plan for a safe place to go to in an emergency.
  • Tell someone you trust that you think you are in danger.
  • Remember you are not alone.
  • Keep a diary of important dates, times, events, and details pertaining to any assaults.
  • Familiarize yourself with community resources that can help you.
  • Have a code word to use with your children, family, and friends to let them know if you need assistance.
  • If you leave take something meaningful and personal for yourself and your children to help with the transitional period.
  • It is extremely common for abuse to escalate when/if an abusive partner discovers that you are seeking assistance. It is important that you keep information and plans concealed for your own safety.

For more information on creating individual safety plans contact Ishtar’s Crisis Line 24/7 at:

Keep the following in a safe place or with someone you trust:

  • Emergency phone numbers
  • Emergency money
  • Extra clothing, personal items
  • Medication
  • Driver’s licence
  • Chequebooks and credit cards
  • Bank book and recent statements
  • MSP numbers for self and children
  • Social insurance numbers for self and children
  • Birth certificates for self and children
  • Original marriage certificate or record of common-law relationship
  • Custody orders for children
  • Any current protection orders for self or children
  • Immigrant papers for self and children
  • Passports for self and children
  • Recent income tax returns
  • Lease, rental agreement, or house deed
  • House, car, and safety deposit box keys
  • Recent photo of offender

24 Hours / 7 Days

Ishtar Transition House
Tel: 604-530-9442

Libra Transition House
Tel: 604-857-5797

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