Abuse is Wrong

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You may order a copy by sending an email at fcyinfofea@justice.gc.ca or by telephone at 1-888-373-2222 (toll-free) / 613-946-2222 (NCR).

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data

Main entry under title: Abuse is Wrong

Issued also in French under title: La maltraitance est inacceptable

This is a Public Education and Information project produced under the Family Violence Initiative of the Department of Justice.

Published by authority of the Minister of Justice and
Attorney General of Canada

by the
Department of Justice Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada,
represented by the Minister of Justice and
Attorney General of Canada, 2009-03-31
Printed in Canada
ISBN 978-1-100-11771-3
Catalogue No. J2-351/2009E-PDF

Cover Artwork by Wavertree Communications Design.

You may photocopy this booklet without permission of the Department of Justice Canada, provided that the material is accurately reproduced and acknowledgement of the source work is included. Written permission of the Department is required for the use of the material for any other format.

Table of Contents

About this booklet

This booklet is for anyone who is suffering from abuse in a relationship or in a family. If you know anyone who is being abused, this booklet may be useful to them. They may need support. Let them know that they are not alone.

Anyone—man or woman, adult or child—who is suffering from abuse or who is acting in a violent way is encouraged to get help.

To the reader

If you are being abused in a relationship or in a family, you may feel alone. You may have trouble talking with people about the abuse. You may be afraid for yourself or your children.

You may need to know more about Canadian law, your rights, and the kind of help that is available to you. This booklet is a starting place to answer your questions and to provide information about other resources.

NOTE: Words marked by an asterisk* are defined in Words used in this booklet.

What is abuse?

Abuse is behaviour used to intimidate, isolate, dominate or control another person. It may be a pattern of behaviour or it may be a single incident. Abusive behaviour might involve acts or words or even neglect.

Abuse happens when someone hurts or mistreats you.

Abuse can happen to anyone: someone in a family or someone in a dating relationship, a spouse or former spouse, a partner in an intimate relationship or former partner, a child, young person, or older person.

The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial. You may experience more than one type of abuse.

Examples of physical abuse are:

  • hitting
  • pushing
  • burning
  • pinching
  • punching
  • shooting
  • slapping
  • kicking
  • stabbing or cutting

These types of physical abuse are examples of assault.* Assault is a crime in Canada.

In an emergency

Call 9-1-1 or your local police.

Run outside so other people can see you unless you think you will be safer inside.

Scream — let the neighbours hear so that they will call the police.

Sexual touching or sexual activity is abuse if you do not consent or if you are too young to consent.

This is also a crime in Canada, even in a dating, partner, spousal or family relationship.

emotional or psychological abuse might include:

  • criminal harassment* (stalking)
  • making threats to harm you
  • breaking your things, hurting your pets or threatening to do so
  • isolating you from friends and family

Some examples of financial abuse are:

  • taking your pay cheque or money without permission
  • withholding money so that you cannot pay for things you or your children need, such as food, shelter or medical treatment
  • making you sign documents to sell your house or to change your will

These are crimes in Canada.

Criminal harassment (stalking) is a crime. The following actions might be examples of criminal harassment if they cause you to fear for your safety or the safety of a loved one:

  • watching you or tracking where you go
  • leaving threatening messages
  • making threats to you, your children, family, pets or friends
  • calling you over and over again, and perhaps hanging up when you answer
  • constantly sending you e-mail messages
  • sending gifts you do not want

Bullying is a form of abuse that can happen in a relationship or in a family. It may be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, financial, or a combination. Some forms of bullying may be crimes. Some examples of bullying may be:

  • hitting, kicking, pushing or shoving
  • taking your money and other possessions
  • making threats or acting in an intimidating way
  • constantly teasing you or calling you names
  • spreading hurtful rumours
  • ignoring you and making you feel left out

There are other forms of abuse that may not be crimes, but even so, they are hurtful and they might lead to criminal forms of abuse. Some examples are:

  • humiliating you or making you feel worthless
  • insulting, ignoring or neglecting you
  • constantly yelling at you
  • calling you names
  • not letting you have money that you need
  • ridiculing your religious or spiritual beliefs or preventing you from practising your religion
  • deciding what you can and can’t do, where you can go, what you can wear, and who you can be with
  • forcing you to marry someone you don’t want to marry

Help is available

There are people who can help you if you are being abused.

If you are being abused, call a health centre, community organization or shelter. Find out what help they can offer. Ask them where else you should call or go for help.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 or your local police. They will take steps to protect you and your children or other dependents. The police can also help you get a peace bond*.

You can also get

  • advice and counselling
  • help to decide whether you want to stay or leave
  • legal help* that may be free of charge

If you decide to leave, you can get

Where can you get more information?

  • shelters
  • the police
  • the Crown attorney’s* office
  • hospitals
  • multicultural associations
  • community centres or women’s centres
  • telephone crisis lines
  • public legal education and information associations
  • lawyer referral services
  • legal aid offices
  • a doctor or public health nurse
  • a social worker*
NOTE: For additional information, see the Community Resource List.

You are not alone

Abuse happens in all kinds of families. It happens to Canadian citizens, immigrants and refugees. It happens to women and men with or without children, people who are rich or poor, professionals, stay-at-home parents, young and old. It happens to individuals of all backgrounds, religions, races, cultures, ethnic origins and sexual orientations. Abuse also can happen at any stage of a relationship.

Help is available to those who are being abused.

Abuse in a family

Witnessing abuse in a family or being abused can have serious physical, psychological and emotional consequences, possibly leading to repeated patterns of violent behaviour. Sometimes parents act abusively toward their children and sometimes adolescent children act abusively toward their parents or toward other family members. Even brothers and sisters may act abusively toward each other.

Young people facing abuse

It is very hard for children to suffer abuse or to see or hear a parent, sibling or other family member being abused. If you are a young person and you are being abused, or if you are witnessing the abuse of a brother, sister, parent or other family member, you might feel scared, embarrassed or confused. Abuse can affect your behaviour, physical and mental health, self-esteem, and performance in school. It may also affect the way you socialize with others.

You may be frustrated and want to take it out on other people. You may be acting out in a violent way or you may be bullying someone at school, or perhaps you are being bullied. No matter what the situation, it is wrong to hurt anyone. Tell someone you trust about the abuse. If you are acting violently toward anyone else, get help before the situation gets worse so you can stop the cycle of violence.

If you are a young person and you are being abused or you are acting out in a violent way, you can call the Kids’ Helpline free of charge. You don’t have to tell them your name: 1-800-668-6868.

You can also find out more at the Family Violence Youth Site: http://familyviolencehurts.gc.ca

Intimate partner abuse

Abuse by your boyfriend, girlfriend, intimate partner or spouse can destroy your self-esteem and ability to trust people. It can also have serious physical, emotional and psychological effects, making it hard to function at home, at work or in social settings. If you are being abused, it is not your fault. The person being abusive may be male or female; the person being abused may be male or female.

Violence and abuse have no place in an intimate relationship.

Older adult abuse

Sometimes adult daughters or sons who take care of their parents or grandparents act abusively. No matter the family relationship or the circumstances, abusive behaviour is wrong.

If you are an older adult and you are being abused, it might have happened before in your relationship. It could be happening now if you are dependent and you are not able to defend yourself. Maybe the person who is acting abusively toward you is your spouse, partner, child or other close family member. It could be the person taking care of you. Maybe you feel you should protect that person, but the abusive behaviour might get worse if you don’t get help. You can still love a person and not like the way they are behaving.

It is not your fault. Ask for help. Talk to someone you trust, such as another family member or friend, your doctor, nurse or social worker*. Remember that you are not alone and no one, not even a son or daughter or other close family member, has the right to treat you badly. For more information, please go to: http://www.seniors.gc.ca

If you are being abused, it is not your fault

Talking about abuse can be difficult. You might feel ashamed or afraid that your family and friends will not believe you. Some people may even try to convince you that what is happening is normal in a relationship, or they may be threatening you to keep quiet. You may be afraid of being rejected by your community if you leave. But remember—nothing you do gives anyone the right to abuse you. There is no excuse for abuse.

Many people have found that there is a cycle of abuse. The tension builds for a while until the person acts violently. After the “explosion” or violence, there is a period of calm or quiet. The person who behaved abusively may say they are sorry and promise it will not happen again. However, in time, the tension builds and the person may become violent again.

Others describe an ever-increasing spiral of abuse where the severity of the violence becomes worse over time and the violent outbursts occur more and more often.

cycle of abuse: calm period, tension buid-up, abusive behaviour, apology and excuses, calm period
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