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How do I know I'm in an abusive situation?

Question
How do I know I'm in an abusive situation?

Glossary

Clear language definitions to common legal terms. 

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Reviewed: 
May, 2016
Answer

Partner abuse happens when your partner tries to control you, or make you afraid of them. Abuse can happen in any relationship. Partner abuse is also called domestic violence or family violence.

Kinds of abuse

Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or financial.

For example, physical abuse happens when your partner:

  • hits, punches, slaps, chokes, burns, or pushes you
  • forces you to do things you don't want to do, such as using drugs or alcohol

For example, sexual abuse happens when your partner:

  • forces, threatens, or manipulates you into sexual acts you don't want to do
  • uses force, weapons, or objects in sexual acts without your consent
  • involves other people in sexual acts without your consent

For example, emotional or psychological abuse happens when your partner:

  • insults, bullies, humiliates, threatens, blames, shames, or puts you down
  • controls your activities
  • stops you from contacting your friends and family
  • controls your religious beliefs and activities
  • threatens to commit suicide
  • threatens to hurt or kill you, a loved one, or a pet
  • threatens to take your children away
  • uses your religious or cultural beliefs to manipulate or control you
  • stalks or follows you
  • invades your privacy by trying to monitor your emails or texts or listening to your phone conversations

For examples, financial abuse happens when your partner:

  • steals your money
  • controls your finances or refuses to share money
  • prevents you from working or going to school
  • causes you to lose your job by making you miss work, for example

Neglect is also abuse. Your partner neglects you if they do not provide what you need to survive, such as food, clothing, medical care, or shelter.

The pattern of abuse

Partner abuse usually happens in a pattern. This is sometimes called a "cycle of violence". There might be times where there is no abuse and you feel happy with your partner. At other times, you might feel tense and nervous around your partner. Usually, this tension leads to some kind of abusive event, like your partner hitting you or yelling at you.

After this happens, things might settle down. Your partner might promise never to be abusive again. They might try to make you forget what happened by being nice to you or buying you a gift. Even if things get better for awhile, the abuse will usually start again.

Even if you don't want to end the relationship, it's important to take steps to help keep you and your children safe.

Learn more about this topic
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Public Health Agency of Canada
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
Act to End Violence Against Women
Ontario Women's Justice Network (OWJN)

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