REDUCING THE STIGMA
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence, family violence or intimate partner violence is a range of behaviours by which one person in a domestic situation (a home, a cohabiting couple) asserts power and control over another. This can include:
1. Physical violence
2. Sexual violence
3. Emotional abuse – belittling, name-calling
4. ‘Gaslighting’ – making a partner believe that they are imagining or over-exaggerating the abuse
5. Economic abuse – withholding money, stalking and/or
6. Online abuse
Why Don’t People Leave Their Abusers?
This is one of the most common questions asked of victims of domestic violence, and the one that causes the greatest suffering, as it is used to invalidate a victim’s experience and deny them support or justice in the legal system. While some people leave their abusive partners the second that they become abusive, many don’t, and there are a number of reasons for this:
Fear: Abusers can threaten further abuse or even threaten to harm themselves if their victim leaves.
Doubt: Some victims refuse to believe that their relationship is abusive, and can even believe that they ‘bought it on themselves’ or that by acting differently they can fix the relationship.
Love: Abusive relationships don’t start that way, and years of good times can sometimes pass between incidents of abuse. As impossible as it sounds, people who are abused can genuinely love their abusers.
Social Response: Being open about abuse can often mean losing support from the abuser’s friends and family and potentially facing harassment.
Isolation: Abusers often keep their victims isolated in some way from sources of support, whether that’s by limiting who they can meet socially, restricting their internet access or even physically imprisoning them.
Money: Victims might lack the resources to get away and start their lives in another area, away from their abuser. For this reason, many abusers control their victim’s access to money.
Who Experiences Domestic Violence?
Everyone. Literally every type of person, relationship or family structure can experience domestic violence: straight or gay, young or old, rich or poor, with or without children. Women with disabilities, indigenous women and LGBTQ people are more likely to experience domestic violence.
Can Men Experience Domestic Violence?
Absolutely. According to Statistics Canada, 4% of men and women report having been abused by a former or current partner.
How Common is Domestic Violence?
According to a 2014 General Social Survey, of 19.2 million Canadians surveyed, 760,000 reported having been physically or sexually abused by a partner during the past five years. This is down significantly from when the survey was last taken in 2004 which is a validation of the work we are doing each and every day.
Do I Have to Report Domestic Violence to The Police?
No, but you should strongly consider it. People in certain professions are legally required to report domestic abuse if they know or suspect it is happening, including the police and nurses. We can refer you to the police and legal advice.
How Can I Spot A Potentially Abusive Partner?
Anyone can be abusive, and some relationships go years before a partner crosses the line. However, there are some signs that things may be about to go bad- all of which are signs of a toxic relationship that need to be worked on:
Moving Too Fast: Potentially abusive partners may want to move in with you or get engaged a lot quicker than is normal as a way of consolidating their hold on you.
‘Crazy Ex’: They may be reluctant to discuss their former partners, dismissing them as ‘crazy’ or even describing their behaviour as abusive. They won’t be on good terms with their former partners.
Jealousy: They will excuse jealous behaviour as a sign of ‘true’ love.
Blame-shifting: The abuser won’t take responsibility for problems in the relationship.
Verbal Abuse: What could begin as seemingly harmless jokes about your appearance can escalate into personal attacks.
What Are Some Signs of Domestic Violence in Others?
You can look for:
1. Signs of physical injury like bruises and scars that they are reluctant to explain.
2. Signs of emotional distress.
3. Suddenly withdrawing from social activities.
4. Having to lie to their partner about seeing you.
5. Restricted transportation – perhaps they always drove themselves but are now being dropped off and picked up by their partner.
How Can I Support A Friend or Family Member Who Is Being Abused?
There are a number of ways:
1. Believe them. Don’t question everything they say – people’s memories are fallible, especially when they are under stress, so don’t assume that just because they may get some details wrong that they are lying. See the I Believe You campaign for more information on why belief is important.
2. Give them the name, website or phone number for a shelter like the Capella Centre.
3. Provide them with a way of overcoming isolation: give them access to your phone or computer to research their options.
4. If they aren’t ready to contact a domestic violence program or shelter, work with them on a safety plan.
5. Respect their confidentiality: never disclose what they tell you to anyone unless it is to call the police when they are at immediate risk of harm.
Is there anything else that you’d like to know about the complex world of domestic abuse and family violence?
Fill in the form below and we’d be happy to answer your questions.