Understanding Abuse


Any act that imposes our will in a way that denies a person’s dignity, safety (emotional or physical) or self-worth.

Domestic Abuse Statistics

  • Ninety percent of all domestic violence victims are women.
  • One in two Canadian women (51%) experiences at least one incident of violence after the age of 16.
  • One in three B.C. women is assaulted by her husband or partner.
  • Abuse often escalates after separation and divorce.
  • About 20% of women who experience abuse are assaulted during pregnancy. Domestic violence rises dramatically during pregnancy.
  •  In Canada, 184 women were murdered (60% by their intimate partner) in 2021, a 27% increase from 2019. This is one woman killed every 2 days. Globally, it is estimated that every 11 seconds a woman dies at the hands of their loved one (over 47,000 women died in 2020).
  • More than half of women who experience violence are assaulted by men who are known to them (64%).
  • The abusers are most often spouses, boyfriends, dates and neighbour’s.
  • Only 14% of all incidents of violence are reported to police.
  • Many women who experience abuse and violence – one in five – do not go to anybody for help or support not even friends or family.
  • Children witness abuse in 40% of violent relationships.
  • Approximately 86% of women have reported emotional side effects including anger, fear, guilt, shame, depression and loss of self-esteem.

What is Domestic Violence?

Violence against women in intimate partnership relationships is designed

  • to exercise and maintain domination and control in the relationship by the abusive partner.
  • to enhance or reinforce the every day advantages enjoyed by the abusive partner.
  • to defend or maintain all privileges of the abusive partner that the woman is not allowed to have.

As targets of domestic violence, many women live in a private World punctuated by harmful, violent, traumatic and or catastrophic events, some of which are predictable and others unpredictable – tailored by her intimate partner. These events include threats and humiliation, stalking, surveillance, coercion, and physical or psychological violence.

Whether that violence is identified as “the imposition of needed discipline“, as a philosophy of family governance“, or as “an act of assertion of entitled masculinity“, women can be kept in their culturally and socially designated ‘place’.

 as well as threatened with or actually experience a loss of their social attachments. for many victims/survivors the abusive intimate partner often appears to be omnipotent and omniscient.

The United Nations defines domestic violence as “any act of gender based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.”

What, then should you do to protect yourself from having a relationship turn abusive?

  1. Make it clear to him as soon as possible which behaviours or attitudes are unacceptable and cannot continue.
  2. If it happens again, stop seeing him for a substantial period of time.
  3. If it happens 3 or more times, chances are great that he has an abuse problem and you need to leave the relationship.

When Is It Clearly An Abusive Relationship?

The defining point of an abusive relationship is when the man starts to exercise power over you in a way that causes harm to you and creates a privileged status for him.

He retaliates against you for complaining about his behaviour

He tells you that your objections to his mistreatment are your own problem

He gives apologies that sound insincere or angry, and he demands that you accept them

He blames you for the impact of his behaviour

It’s never the right time, or the right way, to bring things up

He undermines your progress in life

He denies what he did

He justifies his hurtful or frightening acts or says that you “made him do it.”

He touches you in anger or puts you in fear in other ways

He coerces you into having sex or sexually assaults you

His controlling, disrespectful, or degrading behaviour is a pattern

You show signs of being abused

Material adapted from Lundy Bancroft’s “Why does he do that?

More Warning Signs

He speaks disrespectfully about his former partners

When you hear that another woman considers him abusive, always find a way to get her side of the story

He is disrespectful toward you

He does favours for you that you don’t want or puts on such a show of generosity that it makes you uncomfortable

He is controlling

He is possessive

Nothing is ever his fault

He is self-centred

He abuses drugs or alcohol

He pressures you for sex

He gets serious too quickly about the relationship

He intimidates you when he’s angry

He has double standards

He has negative attitudes toward women

He treats you differently around other people

He appears to be attracted to vulnerability