Understanding Abuse

Partner assault includes any physical violence, threats of violence or criminal harassment between two persons, who have been involved in a current or prior intimate relationship, including heterosexual and same sex relationships, whether or not they cohabitated or that the relationship received legal sanction as a marriage. The parties do not need to be living together and the assault can happen in or outside the home. This doesn’t include parent/child or relatives in conflict.

Although both women and men can be victims of partner assault, the overwhelming majority of this type of violence involves men abusing women.

Criminal code offences include, but are not limited to, homicide, assault, sexual assault, threatening death or bodily harm, forcible confinement, harassment/ stalking, abduction, break and enter and property-related offences. A criminal offence can vary from threatening physical violence to an assault or be as serious as a homicide.

These crimes often display a repeating pattern of assaultive and/or controlling behaviours. It can also include threats to harm children, other family members and pets or destroy property. The violence is used to disempower victims by intimidating, humiliating and frightening them.

Partner assault can be a single act of violence. It can also include a number of acts that may appear minor in nature, but collectively form a pattern that amounts to abuse.

Partner assault can be reported by phone or in person at the police station.

Cycle of Abuse 

Cycle of Abuse

Phase One: Tension Building

Difficulties are observed within the couple and tension builds without any resolution to the conflicts. These conflicts increase, as does the stress level. The abuser starts to blame his partner for his violent behaviour. The verbal abuse he inflicts intensifies as he becomes less sensitive to the victim’s personal integrity. He starts to gain more and more power over his partner, and in his eyes, she is perceived as an object of disdain. The victim then becomes very nervous and withdraws herself from the others because she is afraid (like walking on egg shells).

Phase Two: Abuse

The abuse becomes more frequent and more intense at this stage because the abuser feels as though he has justification to increase the control he imposes over his partner. Usually, the cases of physical abuse are almost always accompanied by psychological abuse, and often with sexual abuse as well. The abuser uses many excuses to justify his behaviour: dinner was overcooked; the kids are being too loud etc. As the abuse and the control continue, the victim begins to feel more and more deprived and demolished.

Phase Three: Honeymoon (manipulation stage)

The abuser realizes the consequences to his violent behaviour and is conscious that he might lose his partner. He does all in his power to win over his partner; he becomes affectionate, generous etc. He promises her to get help to settle his jealousy, anger problems alcoholism etc. He claims he isn’t responsible for his abusive behavior; the abusers do have a tendency to minimize the abuse or the seriousness of the abuse. Some claim to regret the abuse and others show no emotion. They will find any excuse to justify their behaviour; they often imply that their partner was the one who provoked them. This stage gets shorter and shorter as the cycle starts again and it can even disappear after some time. The victim begins to perceive all of the episodes of abuse as independent incidents and sometimes even considers herself as responsible for her partner’s violent behaviour.

Phase Four: Forgiveness

The women often still have hope that these episodes of abuse will not happen again and that their partners regret their actions. In many cases, this vicious cycle continues since they consider these episodes of abuse as events that are independent from one another.

(Abuse Shatters Lives - Report on Domestic Violence 2nd Edition, 2011)

Power and Control Wheel

Power and Control Wheel


Equality Wheel

Equality Wheel

Warning Signs

If the person you love or live with does these things, it’s time to get help:

  • Keeps track of what you are doing all the time and criticizes you for little things.
  • Constantly accuses you of being unfaithful.
  • Prevents you or discourages you from seeing friends or family, or going to work or school.
  • Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs.
  • Is excessively jealous but says “it’s out of love”.
  • Controls all the money you spend.
  • Humiliates you in front of others.
  • Destroys your property or things that you care about.
  • Threatens to hurt you or the children or pets, or does cause hurt (by hitting, punching, slapping, kicking or biting).
  • Uses or threatens to use a weapon against you.
  • Forces you to have sex against your will.
  • Blames you for his violent outburst.
  • Threatens to kill himself if you leave.

Understanding abuse

If you recognize some of these warning signs, it may be time to take action:

  • He puts her down
  • He does all the talking and dominates the conversation
  • He checks up on her all the time, even at work
  • He tries to suggest he is the victim and acts depressed
  • He tries to keep her away from her friends and family
  • He acts as if he owns her
  • He lies to make himself look good or exaggerates his good qualities
  • He acts like he is superior and of more value that others in his home
  • She is apologetic and makes excuses for his behaviour or she becomes aggressive and angry
  • She seems nervous to talk in his presence
  • She seems to be sick more often and misses work
  • She tries to cover up her bruises
  • She makes last minute excuses in order to cancel her plans with others
  • She seems sad, lonely, withdrawn and is afraid
  • She uses more drugs or alcohol to cope

For more information please refer to this website: http://www.neighboursfriendsandfamilies.ca/    

Barrier to leaving an abusive relationship

A woman who is being abused must make many and sometimes often very difficult decisions about how best to protect herself, her children and others who are important in her life. She must determine when and where it is safe to tell someone she is being abused. She must decide when and where to seek support, and how best to use whatever services and supports are available to her to increase her safety and improve her situation.

Meanwhile, her options for obtaining support to end the abuse are frequently limited by her personal and social circumstances. Most women who are experiencing abuse also experience discrimination, racism, poverty and social/ geographic isolation which creates additional barriers. Women often have to deal not only with the consequences of being abused but also with the effects of their marginalized position in society, and the reality of limited services. 

Some of the barriers that a woman may encounter include but are not limited to:

  • Feeling sorry for him - Feeling pity or thinking/believing she could help him.
  • Children - “They need a father”, or “he is a good father and provider.”
  • Nowhere to go - She does not know about the shelter or cannot get to it.
  • No money - Economics play a crucial role; with no skills, no job or no money, it is often impossible for a woman to support herself and her children.
  • Hope - Frequently the “remorseful” abuser begs forgiveness for his violent behaviour and promises never to do it again. A woman stays or returns hoping that he will change. She may stay until she tries every way she knows to change him.
  • Fear of abuse - “If I leave, he’ll really kill me.”
  • Imposed isolation - This makes the abused woman emotionally/ financially dependent on the abuser. She does not know if she can make it by herself. The fear of the unknown.
  • Starting over - Not feeling strong or capable enough to pick up and leave and have to begin anew.
  • Good times - “He’s not all bad,” or “when he’s sober and non-violent, he’s a wonderful man.”
  • Society/ Shame - Tradition has women playing passive and subservient roles in our society, whereas men are dominant and aggressive. Women are often blamed for the violence they experience - “Why doesn’t she just leave?”
  • Stigma of divorce - Especially as far as the woman is viewed.
  • Religion - Quite often, a woman’s religious beliefs keep her trapped in a violent relationship.
  • Love - Sometimes a woman confuses love with emotional or financial need.
  • Separation is a harder alternative - Much of the “system” works against the woman attempting to leave (lack of financial resources, housing and support)
  • Dynamics of alcohol/ drug abuse families - The woman often feels trapped in the web of these dynamics and requires information and treatment on the effects on her and her children.
  • Learned helplessness - Research has shown that anyone whose body has been violated loses their self-esteem and confidence thus feeling helpless and powerless.