Violence Prevention East
Domestic Violence
Woman/spousal abuse is the physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse of a person by his/her intimate partner whether they are married, common-law, or dating, current or former relationships; or same or opposite sex couples. Spousal violence against women exists in all communities and cuts across all socio-economic, ethno-cultural and religious lines. While men can be victims, research indicates the overwhelming majority are women.
  • 1 in 4 women experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 5 is serious enough to involve physical injury.
  • 1 in 6 currently married women report violence by their spouses.
  • 1/2 of previously married women report violence by a partner.
  • 3/4 of women who experience violence by a past partner endure repeated assaults, 41% on more than 10 occasions.
  • Between 1974 and 1992, a married woman in Canada was nine times more likely to be killed by her spouse than by a stranger.
  • An average of 100 Canadian women a year are murdered by their male partners.
Types of Abuse
Physical Abuse: the non-accidental, willful infliction of physical pain or injury such as slapping, kicking, punching, burning, choking, stabbing and/or shooting.

Sexual Abuse: any form of sexual activity with a person without the consent of that person. Sexual abuse may include unwanted sexual touching, sexual relations without voluntary consent, or the forcing or coercing of degrading, humiliating, or painful sexual acts.

Psychological/Emotional/Verbal Abuse: behaviour intended to control, humiliate, intimidate, instill fear or diminish a person's sense of self worth. This includes persistent verbal aggression, forcing the victim to do degrading things such as eating cigarette butts or licking the floor, forced confinement, isolation, degradation, threats, or deliberately doing things to frighten the victim such as speeding through traffic or playing with weapons. Threats to harm or kill the children, other family members, pets or prized possessions is also abuse. Abusers may also threaten to remove, hide, or prevent access to children.

Economic Abuse/Financial Exploitation: exerting control of the victim's financial resources without consent, withholding the resources necessary for basic physical necessities such as food, clothing, children's diapers, adequate housing, personal care and medication.
Power and Control
The core of abusive behavior and violence stems from issues of power and control. The abuser is likely to use a number of tactics to gain and maintain the power and control in the relationship, making it very difficult for the victim to leave an abusive situation.

Click Here to view the Power and Control wheel which outlines various tactics that abusers often use to maintain power and control over their victim.
The Cycle of Violence
Tension-Building Phase

  • Victim becomes more withdrawn - pushes away family, friends and children
  • Victim knows what is coming
  • Abuser sees withdrawal as a rejection
  • Victim tries to keep the abuser happy
  • Increased possessiveness by abuser in hopes of keeping the victim captive
  • Minor incidents of battering occur
  • Increased levels of psychological and emotional abuse
  • Victim is in denial and rationalizes they have done something wrong to provoke the violence and deserve it
  • Victim believes they are the one who should change

Explosive Episode Phase

  • Tension discharges through violent assault
  • Almost always occurs in home where no one (other than children) will witness or stop assault
  • Victim is basically powerless to do anything other than flee or hide
  • Sometimes victim will provoke violence - senses it's inevitable and wants to get it over with
  • Victim tends to be isolated - embarrassed, in shock or too badly hurt to leave
  • Abuser will not allow victim to leave
  • Victim feels shame - I allowed someone to do this to me

Honeymoon Phase

  • Calm and loving period
  • Abuser promises to change and never hurt victim again
  • Abuser tries to make victim feel guilty and responsible for the violence
  • The abuser does and says things the victim wishes they would do all the time
  • The abuser believes they have re-established control, but may not be sorry for what they've done to the victim
  • Both victim and abuser often rationalize and minimize severity of incident
  • Many victims leave at the beginning stage - if victim leaves, abuser won't be willing to let him/her go and will begin a campaign to get him/her back - often using children as a tool or threat
  • This state represents the victim's idealistic view of how marriage or a relationship should be and victim can't resist giving it "one more try"
Why Women Stay...
  1. Fear for herself and others: Many women fear that the abuse will get worse if they leave. They fear that their partner will carry out threats he has made, such as hurting the children or other family members.
  2. Hope: Many women still love their partner and hope that he will change. Their partner may promise to change and the relationship may in fact get better for a time, so they believe they have good reasons to hope.
  3. The children: Women often feel they would be hurting their children by depriving them of a father's presence and the things his income may provide for them.
  4. Lack of energy: Abused women are drained by constant stress. They may also be periodically incapacitated by injuries or live with chronic pain from a history of injuries. As a result they often feel immobilized, barely able to cope with the day-to-day demands of children, work and household management.
  5. Low self-esteem: Abused women have low self-esteem and little self-confidence. They don't think they are important enough for their safety to matter. They don't believe any man better than their partner would ever love them.
  6. Financial reasons: Some women feel they won't be able to support themselves or their family. They may not have the skills or the confidence needed to seek and obtain employment. They may have to leave with nothing more than their clothes if their partner controls all the finances. For many women there is a stigma associated with social assistance and they rightly fear the difficulty of supporting their children.
  7. Advice from others: Family and friends often pressure women to stay and make the marriage work. Counselors may recommend better communication skills, while doctors may prescribe tranquilizers to help with the stress. Such friends and helping professionals have failed to perceive the abuse as a problem that the woman can solve. Others may not even acknowledge that abuse is taking place.
  8. Sanctity of marriage: Women may stay in the marriage as a result of strongly held religious and/or cultural beliefs. They believe it is the woman's responsibility to make the marriage successful.
  9. Fear of the unknown: Battered women are afraid of what is "out there".
  10. Emotional dependency: The victim may feel she can't exist without her partner. He may be the only adult person with whom she has any emotional relationship at all, so breaking up would mean total isolation.
  11. Minimization and denial: Minimization and denial of the violence is a survival tactic. Women have to put the abuse out of their minds in order to care for the children, go to work, manage the household, etc. Minimization of the violence helps the woman continue to function, but it also makes it easier for her to stay because she is deceiving herself about the seriousness of her situation.
  12. Good times: Except in a few cases, there are usually good aspects to the relationship. Women stay for the positive qualities their partners have and for the "honeymoon" periods when they are not battering.
  13. No place to go: They may not have friends or family to turn to, or they may fear that by turning to them they could put them in danger. They may be unaware of women's shelters in their area.
Indicators of Abuse
  • Fingertip bruises
  • Bruises that don't seem congruent with explanation
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Injuries in various stages of healing
  • Grip marks
  • Slow movement as if very sore
  • Extreme worry/concern/stress
  • Injuries to scalp
  • Medication abuse
  • Wearing heavy makeup
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts (especially in Summer)
  • Always needing 'permission' from partner before engaging in an activity
  • Always rushing home from work
  • Partner calling or visiting numerous times a day
  • Unexplained absences from work
  • Public ridicule by partner
How to Help Someone Who is Being Abused
Educate yourself on the issue of domestic violence
  • Domestic violence is a serious crime, not a private family matter
  • There is no typical abuser or victim of abuse
  • Call a local women's shelter for more information
Introduce the topic of domestic violence
  • Listen if she is willing to talk
  • Share what you know about the issue and any reading material you may have
Offer support
  • Do not victim-blame or minimize the abuse
  • State that no one deserves to be abused or beaten
  • Offer encouragement and point out strengths
Don't give up
  • Leaving an abusive partner is not as easy as packing and walking out the door. Leaving an abusive partner is dangerous; many women have to flee in fear of their lives.
  • It is important to keep your own self-agenda out of the way when offering support to another individual.
  • We each must have the right to make our own decisions based on what we feel is right or best at the time for ourselves. This isn't easy to do, but it is a must.

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