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Relationship abuse can be referred to by many names, including: domestic violence, woman abuse, gender-based violence, partner assault, economic abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, academic abuse, psychological abuse, bullying, etc.


Relationship abuse is a pattern of abusive and coercive behaviours used to maintain power and control over a former or current intimate partner. Abuse can be emotional, financial, sexual or physical and can include threats, isolation, and intimidation. It is not due to anger problems, drinking or drugs (although these issues may make the abuse worse). Abuse is a conscious decision by a person to control another person’s thoughts, feelings and actions. The abuser can be a husband, common-law partner, boyfriend, brother, father or intimate partner in the case of an LGBTQI+ relationship. For sexual assault, it could be a stranger. The abuser could also be a caregiver or your adult child.


  • Physical
  • Sexual, which may include rape
  • Psychological / emotional
  • Financial
  1.  Physical assault or the threat of physical assault is against the law. It can range from pushing to using weapons. No assault is mild. Even if the assault appears minor, take it seriously. It may be the beginning of a pattern of assault that becomes more serious and happens more often.

  2.  Sexual assault or the threat of sexual assault is also against the law, whether your husband, partner or a stranger does it. It can include forcing you to have sex when you don’t want to or making you do sexual acts that you don’t like. You may agree to have sex because you are afraid. You may agree to have sex when you don’t want to because you are in a relationship. This is still sexual assault.

  3.  Psychological and emotional abuse is used to make you afraid and to control you. Some examples are: cutting off your contact with friends and stopping you from making new friends, controlling your activities, not letting you go to school or get a job, telling you that you caused the violence, threatening to hurt someone or something that is special to you putting down your accomplishments, and insulting you ie. “you’re stupid. “If you are lesbian, it could be threats to “out” you, or tell your family or employer you are a lesbian.

    **If your partner sponsored you to come to Canada, this kind of abuse could include threats to have you deported.

  4.   Financial abuse involves controlling money. Your partner may not let you know how much money you have, or not let you have any money of your own. You may have to turn over your paycheck or social assistance money. You may not even be able to buy food and clothing for yourself and your children. For older people, financial abuse may include taking your pension cheque, or pressuring you to co-sign a loan for a large amount of money.

Whatever tactics are used, abuse affects your health and well-being. It can cause serious psychological and emotional problems. You may often feel afraid, anxious, or depressed. You may find it hard to make decisions or to believe anything can change. If you have children, it may make you respond in ways you wouldn’t normally to those children and may inhibit effective parenting.

It is not unusual to deny to your friends and family, and even to yourself, that you are being abused. You may feel the abuse is your fault, or that you caused an attack.

Keep in mind that the abuser wants you to feel this way.

No matter what you do, the abuser is the one who chose to abuse you. It is not your fault.

Remember, you are not alone. You don’t need to think about everything at once. A good first step is to get information. Give us a call or contact another agency in your area if you are dealing with these issues and would like support.