Abuse Is Wrong In Any Culture: for First Nations and Métis people

What is abuse?

"...all the women in my family have been abused, some way or another, whether it was mentally, spiritually, or physically. I've always felt it was normal to be in that kind of relationship. That it was just the way it was. Somewhere in my mind, I knew it wasn't. It wasn't normal at all."

(from Strengthening the Circle to End Violence Against Aboriginal Women, The Summit III to End Violence Against Aboriginal Women—Final Report, published by the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, June 2009).

  • When someone hurts you deliberately—not accidentally—it's abuse.
  • Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or financial.
  • Abuse happens the first time you are hit, kicked, shoved around or threatened with violence, and every time it happens again.
  • Abuse and violence in families happens in all cultures and in all nations.

Many types of abuse are also crimes.

One woman said,

"I almost got killed last year. He tried to choke me to death, but I managed to get away."

(from Aboriginal Women and Family Violence, Canada, National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008).

She was describing a crime.

Physical abuse happens when someone uses force to hurt your body. Some examples of physical abuse include:

  • strangling or choking
  • pushing or shoving
  • punching or hitting
  • burning
  • kicking
  • pulling hair
  • locking you in a room or holding you against your will.

All forms of physical abuse are crimes.

Sexual abuse is any sexual touching or sexual activity that you don't want. Being kissed, fondled or forced to have sexual intercourse (even with your spouse) if you don't want it is sexual abuse. Being ignored when you say "Stop" is also abuse.

It is also sexual abuse to have sexual intercourse with:

  • your child, grandchild, brother or sister; or
  • a child who is legally too young to agree, such as when they are under 16 (unless the two people are close in age), or under 18 where the partner is in a position of power (such as a teacher, minister or recreational supervisor).

It is also sexual abuse to exploit a child under 18 through pornography or prostitution, including situations where sex is traded for drugs, alcohol, nice clothes, etc.

All forms of sexual abuse are crimes.

"I let him hit me so he doesn't kill one of the kids."

(from Aboriginal Women and Family Violence, Canada, National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008).

Emotional abuse is also sometimes called psychological abuse. This happens when someone damages your self-worth, or tries to control, frighten or isolate you. It often leads to anxiety, depression and feelings of helplessness.

Some emotional abuse may also be a crime, including:

  • threatening to kill or harm you, or someone you know or love;
  • breaking or destroying your things, hurting your pets or threatening to hurt them;
  • following you around, watching you, and causing you to fear for your safety or for the safety of someone close to you (this is called criminal harassment or stalking).

"... they put you down and then they tell you they love you."

(from Aboriginal Women and Family Violence, Canada, National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008).

Other types of emotional abuse may not be crimes, but they still hurt. Sometimes emotional abuse may be followed by physical or sexual violence if it isn't stopped. No one should insult you and put you down, yell at you and tell you that you are useless or humiliate you in front of others, such as your family or friends.

In healthy relationships, partners discuss things. They may try to influence what the other person does or how they handle certain situations, but they will not try to control you. For example, no one should make fun of your beliefs or try to stop you from spending time on activities that interest you or with friends who are important to you. (Of course, if you are a child, your parents have a duty to care for you and they have an obligation to make sure you are safe and not hanging out with friends or participating in activities that are a serious threat to you.)

Emotional abuse can take many forms. Intimidation and control are two common forms but so is manipulation. For example, some abusers will threaten to kill themselves when their partner tries to leave. This kind of manipulation is a form of abuse.

"Physical violence is bad and it hurts on impact, but verbal abuse stays and it destroys."

(from Aboriginal Women and Family Violence, Canada, National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008).

Do not ignore emotional abuse. It leaves deep and lasting scars.

Financial abuse happens when someone uses money to try to control you. They try to make sure you don't have the money to leave them or stand up to them. Sometimes they make it difficult for you to work, or if you are already working, they make it hard for you to keep your job.

Some financial abuse may be a crime, such as:

  • taking your pay or pension cheque or faking your signature to cash your cheque;
  • stealing from you;
  • not providing necessary food, shelter, clothing or medical attention to you, your children under 16 years of age or another dependent family member.

Other financial abuse may not be a crime, but is still harmful, and it's wrong for anyone to:

  • pressure you to share your home, your car or your bank account;
  • put all the bills in your name so you become responsible for them;
  • refuse to let you keep any of the family money for yourself.

One of the most important things about abuse is that it is often a pattern of behaviour meant to gain power over you by:

  • making you feel afraid, confused, guilty, ashamed or uncertain about what will happen next;
  • stopping you from leaving when you don't want to stay;
  • not letting you speak or express yourself, telling you to keep quiet.

"First I went to his mom's house. She said I was a bad wife and I deserved to get beat. ... All my relatives tell me to keep quiet 'cause it's "family business.""

(from Aboriginal Women and Family Violence, Canada, National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008).

Abuse is never okay because you said something or did something "wrong", or because someone "lost control" of themselves, or was drunk or "high". If someone tries to tell you that "you asked for it," they're wrong.

Adults are responsible for their own words and actions. Abuse is a choice-a bad choice-and often a crime.

"You ain't crazy
How could you have known
He'd kill a lifetime
And break all your bones
Irene
High heels on a gravel road
My lovely Irene
I love you Irene
Why didn't you walk away
You should have just walked away."

From "Angel Street (Lovely Irene)" reproduced with the permission of Lucie Idlout

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