What is Domestic Violence?

“Domestic Violence” refers to abusive behavior in an intimate, kinship, or dependent relationship and is also known as spousal abuse, family violence, and partner assault.

Abusive behavior is not limited to physical violence and is rarely an isolated, random event. It is a relentless terror that also strikes against the emotional, financial, sexual, verbal and spiritual zones of life.

At the heart of domestic violence is the issue of ‘power’ and control. Using one or a combination of tactics, the perpetrator asserts authority and creates debilitating fear as a means of controlling, intimidating, coercing, and dominating the survivor.

Types of Abuse

PHYSICAL: Any unwanted physical force, touch, or contact

  • Pushing, grabbing, strangling, pulling hair
  • Slapping, punching, kicking, choking, pinching
  • Burning, biting, scratching, stabbing, cutting
  • Restraining you physically, confinement, twisting limbs
  • Use of weapons or objects to harm or injure

Emotional / Psychological / Verbal


Emotional abuse involves a broad spectrum of behaviours and tactics targeting the self-confidence, independence, and perception of a person without the use of any direct physical violence. It is a psychological terror that is the most pervasive and destructive form of abuse for it can occur independent of or accompany the other forms of abuse.

  • Communicating to a person that he or she is useless or inferior; devaluing his/her thoughts and feelings
  • Insulting, ridiculing, mocking, humiliating, name calling, imitating and infantilizing
  • Stalking; destruction of a person’s valued property, possessions, and pets; attacks on and/or insults against family, friends, loved ones
  • Physical confinement; restricting social contact with friends, family, and others
  • Failing to provide care in a sensitive and responsive manner; being detached and uninvolved


Interfering with an individual’s financial independence through partial to complete control of the person’s finances.

  • Denies access to cash, bank accounts, employment income, inheritance
  • Not given a say in how money is spent
  • Using credit cards without permission
  • Information to one’s own financial records, investments, assets, and debts are withheld or denied
  • Controls where and when one should work


Any form of unwanted and non-consensual sexual activity, touch, contact or behaviour.

  • Rape
  • Coerced performance and participation in disliked sexual acts
  • Sexual name calling, treatment as a sex object
  • Ridiculing and insulting the body and/or body parts
  • Forced pregnancies or abortions
  • Inappropriate touching, violations of personal space
  • Forced to watch pornography
  • Harassment for sex or withholding/refusal of sex


Violating an individual’s right to choose and exercise one’s own religious belief.

  • Degrading or attacking religious beliefs
  • Prohibited from practicing one’s faith
  • Barred from attending the religious setting of choice
  • Forced compliance to a faith or religious tradition
  • Manipulative use of scripture against him or her
  • Bringing up past sins
  • Saying that God does not care/love him or her

Safety Planning

(Adapted from Creating a Safety Plan, The Peel Committee Against Woman Abuse.)
It is important to know that although the survivor does not have control over the batterer’s violence, it is possible and absolutely necessary to increase their safety. The overwhelming experience of violence is reduced when safety plans are established and well-rehearsed in advance of further violence. This is even truer when the survivor is supported by friends, family, co-workers, and community members in the planning and implementation of safety action steps.

Photocopy the following items and store in a safe place, away from the originals. If possible, hide the originals someplace else.

  • Passports, birth certificates, and immigration papers for all family members
  • School and vaccination records
  • Driver’s license and registration
  • Medications, prescriptions, medical records for all family members
  • Welfare identification
  • Work permits
  • Divorce papers, custody documentation, court orders, restraining orders, marriage certificate
  • Lease/rental agreement, house deed, mortgage payment book
  • Bank books
  • Insurance papers
  • Address/telephone book
  • Picture of spouse/partner
  • Health cards for yourself and family members
  • All cards you normally use (e.g. credit card, SIN card, bank card)

Try to keep the wallet and purse handy, and containing the following:

  • Car/house/office keys
  • Check book, bank books/statements, bank cards
  • Driver’s license, registration, insurance
  • Social insurance cards
  • Health cards
  • Credit cards
  • Address/telephone book
  • Picture of spouse/partner
  • Emergency money (in cash) hidden away

Keep the following items handy, so you can grab them quickly:

  • Emergency suitcase with immediate needs
  • Special toys, comforts for children
  • Jewelry
  • Small saleable objects
  • Items of special sentimental value
  • A list of others items you would like to take if you get a chance to come back to your home later
  • Daily medications

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