What is abuse?

Graphic of Duluth model Power and control wheel of violence
Power and control wheel  http://www.theduluthmodel.org/training/wheels.html

This information can help you better identify and navigate through the realities of your experience.

What is woman abuse?

Abuse and violence against women is gender-based, meaning that it is violence specifically targeted at women – it can take many shapes and can happen to anyone; regardless of race, socio-economic class, or culture and does not exclude same sex relationships. Abuse is about power and control not just physical strength. In fact, it can be a combination of all forms of violence and may not always be so obvious.  Abuse can be:

    • Physical, such as; hitting, pushing, biting, choking, pulling hair, using hands or objects as weapons. Destroying your personal possessions or breaking things around you. Threats of physical violence against yourself, your children, family or pet.
    • Sexual, such as; intimidation, use of physical force or threats to perform unwanted sexual activities (sex, oral sex, taking pictures/videos and sex with other people),  forcing pregnancy, abortion or sterilization, intentionally infecting a partner with a sexually transmitted infection or HIV.
    • Emotional and Verbal, such as; threats of physical harm against you or loved ones, threatening to self-harm or suicide, harassment, stalking, accusations, forced to commit degrading acts, name-calling or humiliating comments about your body or behaviour, isolation from loved ones or social life and being forced to stay at home, threats to “out” a same-sex partner to family, friends or co-workers, threats to deport you or confiscate any legal documentation that may affect your status.
    • Financial, such as; withholding money for food and necessities, stealing or holding money from a partner. Picking and choosing what you are “allowed” to buy or how to spend money and assets.
    • Spiritual, such as; using religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate, dominate or control

This list is not necessarily inclusive and your experiences may look different; however, any situation that is harmful to you and undermines your self-worth can be considered abusive. Abuse is about power and control over you by another person, this may be a partner in marriage or a dating relationship, family member(s), boss or co-worker, a doctor or service provider. If you are experiencing any form of violence, please understand it is not your fault. Any relationship where there is a power imbalance or you are isolated because you are a woman, it is never your fault. There are people who care about you and want to help, please read on to find out more about places you can go to find support.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation also has excellent information about violence. http://www.canadianwomen.org/facts-about-violence

What should I do if I think I am being abused?

If you think you are being abused, please understand that it is not your fault and your situation doesn’t have to be permanent:

  1. Make sure both you and your children are safe. (Read forward for more information on safety planning)
  2. Gather as much information as you can:
    • If you are considering leaving, contact a women’s shelters or support line where you can speak with a counsellor about your situation. The counsellor can support you emotionally and tell you about community recourses and services you may need.
    • Learning about the law. Even if you are not thinking about leaving your partner, it does not hurt to learn about the various legal systems you may need to deal with if you do. You can talk to the women’s shelter about the best place in your community to get legal information.
    • Getting some support and/or counselling for your children. Even if your partner is violent toward you [and not toward your children], being exposed to their violence will have an impact on the kids. Many women’s shelters run groups for children exposed to violence.
    • Talk to friends and family that you trust about what is happening. People who will believe and support you.
  3. Don’t feel pressured. People might be telling you different things, make a decision that’s right for you, where your safety and well-being is a priority.

Taken from the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence against Women and Children and Ontario Women’s Justice Network. (2007), Legal Information for Women Experiencing Violence.

Can I leave the country with my children if I am fleeing abuse?

If you are fleeing an abusive spouse with your children it is always a good idea to file for custody of your children as soon as possible. In the meantime leaving the country could cause complications. For more information on family law and child custody, visit http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/

Will I be deported if I leave my abusive sponsor?

If you have permanent resident status you cannot lose that status because you have decided to leave an abusive sponsor. However, if you do not yet have permanent resident status making the decision to leave may affect immigration status. You have options and rights, consult a legal aid clinic or a lawyer to discuss your options and to know your rights.

You can take the first step.  Take courage.  Call us. 

Credit for the Duluth model wheel:  Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, 202 East Superior Street, Duluth Minnesota, 55801   218-722-7281  www.duluth-model.org