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?

All domestic violence lawyers said that 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
    • Digital, such as controlling who your Facebook friends are, writing degrading messages about you in public spaces online, having control of your passwords, having access your phone to monitor who you are texting and calling. (Source: Women’s Shelters Canada)

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 are experiencing abuse, it is important to know:

  1. Abuse is wrong.
  2. Abuse is not your fault.
  3. You deserve to be free from abuse.

Preparing to leave an abusive relationship, or trying to change an abusive situation, may be overwhelming. Sometimes it is helpful just to understand what options are available. You may want to discuss your challenges with someone that you trust, such as a friend, lawyer, or doctor. Keep in mind that a professional, such as a doctor, may be obligated to contact a children’s aid society if he or she believes your children are in danger. Remember that talking to someone about your problems does not mean you have to involve the police or leave your partner if you do not want to.

Information Resources

  • Our Centre is NOT a shelter. A women’s shelter is a place of safety that provides emergency housing for women who experience abuse. You can contact a women’s shelter to get more information on how to approach your situation. Go to sheltersafe.ca, or call Central Shelter Intake (416-338-4766) to find shelters in your area.
  • You can also call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline 1-866-863-0511/TTY 1-866-863-7868 for information on services and resources in your community.
  • Learn about your rights and legal processes, such as reporting to the police, immigration laws, and child custody, from the Community Legal Education Ontario’s legal rights handbook: https://www.cleo.on.ca/en/publications/handbook

Making a Safety Plan

  • A safety plan is a list of manageable actions that will help you protect yourself against future abuse. Your safety plan will also help you if you need to leave a dangerous situation quickly. (Read forward for more information on safety planning)

Source: Ontario Women’s Justice Network

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.

How can you help a woman who is being abused?

Your most important job is to listen. While your first instinct may be to take action, resist that urge. Give your support by showing concern, listening and being there when needed. Don’t offer specific advice about leaving but instead be a link to resources in the community. It must be the victim’s decision to leave. The most dangerous time for a woman is when she has made the decision to leave the abusive relationship. There is nothing simple about her situation. Resist judgement. If you are confident that there is an explicit threat to cause physical harm or if you are witnessing the violence directly, do call the police. (Source: Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters)


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