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Are You a Victim of Abuse?

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Domestic Violence
and Children

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What is Abuse

Abuse is an attempt to control the behaviour of another person. It is a misuse of power which uses the bonds of intimacy, trust and dependency to make the victim vulnerable. The abuser is purposefully using verbal, non verbal or physical means to gain control over the other person. In most cases the abuser is not abusive or violent to others outside the family or home.

  • Abusers are able to control their behavior—they do it all the time.
  • Abusers pick and choose whom to abuse. They don’t insult, threaten, or 
assault everyone in their life who gives them grief. Usually, they save their 
abuse for the people closest to them, the ones they claim to love.
  • Abusers carefully choose when and where to abuse. They control themselves until no one else is around to see their abusive behavior. They may act like everything is fine in public, but lash out instantly as soon as you’re alone.
  • Abusers are able to stop their abusive behavior when it benefits them. Most abusers are not out of control. In fact, they’re able to immediately stop their abusive behavior when it’s to their advantage to do so (for example, when the police show up or their boss calls).
  • Violent abusers usually direct their blows where they won’t show. Rather than acting out in a mindless rage, many physically violent abusers carefully aim their kicks and punches where the bruises and marks won’t show. 

The United Nations (Commission on the Status of Women, 1993) defines violence against women as:

“...any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty whether occurring in public or private life.” 

One out of every four Canadian women will suffer some type of abuse during her lifetime and every year, one in 10 Canadian women is physically battered by her partner. Domestic violence and abuse occurs in all socio-economic groups and cultural/religious backgrounds and it affects women of all ages. 

Domestic assault is a crime.

  • We know that abuse against women is an epidemic.
  • Women and children are being killed. In the province of Ontario alone, on 
average 40 women and children are murdered each year.
  • Every minute of every day a woman is harmed, maimed or injured
  • All businesses, corporations and service agencies are touched by violence 
against women. It does not stay behind closed doors.

Types of Abuse include...
A woman can be abused in different ways. Following are just some examples:

Physical abuse

  • Slapping, biting or pulling her hair
  • Destroying her property
  • Abusing her loved ones
  • “Caring” for her in an abusive way. This can include things like giving her too 
much medication or keeping her confined.
  • Using a weapon or other objects to threaten, hurt or kill her. 

Psychological or emotional abuse 

  • Threatening to take the children away from her
  • Threatening to put her in an institution
  • Threatening to tell friends, family and her employer that she is a lesbian
  • Threatening to commit suicide
  • Threatening to withdraw immigration sponsorship, or have her deported
  • Stalking or harassing her. 


  • Controlling her time, what she does, how she dresses and wears her hair
  • Putting limits on who she can visit or talk to on the phone  
  • Keeping her away from friends and relatives. This is also called “isolation.”
  • Not respecting her privacy
  • Denying sex, affection or personal care. 

Verbal abuse

  • Putting her down and calling her names all the time
  • Describing her as stupid, crazy or irrational
  • Accusing her of cheating
  • Attacking her self-esteem in other ways. 

Sexual abuse

  • Touching or acting sexual in any way that she doesn’t want
  • Forcing or pressuring her into sexual acts
  • Forcing her to be a prostitute
  • Not letting her have information and education about sexuality
  • Forcing her to get pregnant, have an abortion, or have an operation so she 
can’t have children.
  • Infecting her with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. 

Neglect and isolation

  • Not letting a woman see a doctor or dentist
  • Taking away TTY, hearing aids or a guide dog
  • Locking a woman in the house without a phone
  • Not allowing her to take courses in ESL (English as a Second Language). 

Financial abuse or exploitation

  • Controlling how she spends money, where she works and what property she buys
  • Spending all family income including her money or savings
  • Using credit cards without her permission; destroying her credit rating
  • Forcing her to turn over her benefit payments to the abuser. 

Spiritual abuse

  • Putting down or attacking a woman’s spiritual beliefs
  • Not allowing her to attend the church, synagogue or temple of her choice
  • Forcing her to join or stay in a cult. 

What Prevents Her From Leaving? 

The Barriers to Leaving 

For people outside of an abusive relationship it can be difficult to understand why a women can’t leave. 
It is important to remember that extreme emotional abuse is always present in domestic violence. An abused women, on average, will leave their partner 6-8 times.
The reasons for returning or staying in the relationship vary from case to case.
Some of these include:

Situational Factors

  • Economic dependence. How can she support herself and the children?
  • Fear of greater physical danger to herself and her children if they try to 
  • Fear of being hunted down and suffering a worse beating than before.
  • Survival. Fear that her partner will follow her and kill her if she leaves, often 
based on real threats by her partner.
  • Fear of emotional damage to the children.
  • Fear of losing custody of the children, often based on her partner’s remarks.
  • Lack of alternative housing; she has nowhere else to go.
  • Lack of job skills; she might not be able to get a job.
  • Social isolation resulting in lack of support from family and friends.
  • Social isolation resulting in lack of information about her alternatives.
  • Lack of understanding from family, friends, police, ministers, etc.
  • Negative responses from community, police, courts, social workers, etc.
  • Fear of involvement in the court process; possible previous bad experiences
  • Fear of the unknown. “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”
  • Fear and ambivalence over making formidable life changes.
  • “Acceptable violence”. The violence escalates slowly over time. Living with 
constant abuse numbs the victim so that she is unable to recognize that she 
is involved in a set pattern of abuse.
  • Ties to the community. The children would have to leave their school, she would have to leave all her friends and neighbors behind, etc. For some women it would be like living in the Witness Protection program–she could never have any contact with her old life.
  • Ties to her home and belongings.
  • Family pressure; because Mom always said, “I told you it wouldn’t work out.” or “You made your bed, now you sleep in it.”
  • Fear of her abuser doing something to get her (report her to welfare, call her 
workplace, etc.)
  • Unable to use resources because of how they are provided (language 
problems, disability, homophobia, etc.)
  • Time needed to plan and prepare to leave. 

Emotional Factors  

  • Insecurity about being alone, on her own; she’s afraid she can’t cope with home and children by herself.
  • Loyalty. “He’s sick; if he had a broken leg or cancer–I would stay. This is no different.”
  • Pity. He’s worse off than she is; she feels sorry for him.
  • Wanting to help. “If I stay I can help him get better.”
  • Fear that he will commit suicide if she leaves (often he’s told her this).
  • Denial. “It’s really not that bad. Other people have it worse.”
  • Love. Often, the abuser is quite loving and lovable when he is not being 
  • Love, especially during the “honeymoon” stage; she remembers what he 
used to be like.
  • Guilt. She believes–and her partner and the other significant others are quick 
to agree–that their problems are her fault.
  • Shame and humiliation in front of the community. “I don’t want anyone 
else to know.”
  • Unfounded optimism that the abuser will change.
  • Unfounded optimism that things will get better, despite all evidence to the 
  • Learned helplessness. Trying every possible method to change something 
in our environment, but with no success, so that we eventually expect to fail. Feeling helpless is a logical response to constant resistance to our efforts. This can be seen with prisoners of war, people taken hostage, people living in poverty who cannot get work, etc.
  • False hope. “He’s starting to do things I’ve been asking for.” (counseling, anger management, things she sees as a chance of improvement.)
  • Guilt. She believes that the violence is caused through some inadequacy of her own (she is often told this); feels as though she deserves it for failing.
  • Responsibility. She feels as though she only needs to meet some set of vague expectations in order to earn the abuser’s approval.
  • Insecurity over her potential independence and lack of emotional support.
  • Guilt about the failure of the marriage/relationship.
  • Demolished self-esteem. “I thought I was too (fat, stupid, ugly, whatever he’s called her) to leave.”
  • Lack of emotional support–she feels like she’s doing this on her own, and it’s just too much.
  • Simple exhaustion. She’s just too tired and worn out from the abuse to leave. 

Personal Beliefs

  • Parenting, needing a partner for the kids. “An abusive father is better than none at all.”
  • Religious and extended family pressure to keep the family together no matter what.
  • Duty. “I swore to stay married till death do us part.”
  • Responsibility. It is up to her to work things out and save the relationship.
  • Belief in the dream of growing up and living happily ever after.
  • Identity. Woman are raised to feel they need a partner–even an abusive 
one–in order to be complete or accepted by society.
  • Belief that marriage is forever.
  • Belief that violence is the way all partners relate (often this woman has come 
from a violent childhood).
  • Religious and cultural beliefs.

Cycle of Violence
Phase One: Tension Building State

He attacks her verbally with insults, put-downs and accusations. Minor battering incidents occur. She tries to calm him, trying to anticipate his every whim. As tension builds, she becomes more passive, he becomes more oppressive. She blames herself for not being able to control the situation. Nothing she tries works and a feeling of hopelessness begins to grow within her. The tension becomes unbearable.

Phase Two: Acute Battering Incident

Tensions that build up in Phase One erupt in violence. The incident is usually triggered by an external event or by the internal state of the man, rather then by the woman's behaviour. It is during this stage that the woman is most likely to be sexually assaulted, physically injured, or killed.

Phase Three: Honeymoon Stage

After the acute battering incident, the man becomes extremely loving, kind and contrite. He tells her that it happened because he had a bad day at work or had too much to drink. He begs forgiveness and promises it will never happen again. He tells her that he still loves her and needs her more than ever. For a time he becomes the perfect husband, father, lover, friend. As their relationship deteriorates, his loving behaviour is increasingly important to her. For a time he seems like the man she fell in love with. The "Honeymoon" stage also causes the woman to doubt the abuse ever took place, or if it did, to think that she caused it. The purpose is to invalidate the memory of the abuse.
Guilt also holds her. They both believe she is responsible for his future welfare, or, if she leaves, for breaking up the home. However, if she stays, it is not long before the loving behaviour gives way to small battering incidents, and a new cycle of violence begins.

Over time, the cycle of violence shifts. Honeymoon periods become shorter; denial, tension and violence increase. Eventually the couple only experiences affection and tenderness during a honeymoon stage, after a beating. The absence of other closeness in their lives makes them increasingly desperate and hopeful during the honeymoon phase, especially as the time period becomes shorter and the violence increases. The cycle becomes a trap—there is hope during the quiet periods that it will end, but it doesn't end.

Power and Control
Understanding Power and Control

Abuse is when there is a pattern of one person trying to gain power and/or control over how another person thinks, feels, acts, sees themselves and the world around them.

One of the most recognizable forms of abuse is physical, as physical violence may leave marks and people can easily identify and see its impact. Physical violence is more “in your face”. Physical abuse is any action that physically hurts or threatens to hurt someone, including sexual assault. There are many ways of having power and control over someone and they may be less easy to recognize as they may start out as or be more subtle. Instead of using physical abuse or sexual violence, many abusers may use verbal, financial, spiritual, psychological or emotional forms of power and control over the other person.

Remember, no form of abuse stands alone. They are interconnected. You cannot be physically abused without feeling the emotional impacts. Someone threatening to take your money is both a form of financial abuse, intimidation and threats. Someone calling you names in front of your family so you are too embarrassed to spend time around them is isolation and emotional/verbal abuse.

No form of abuse is worse than another. They all work to hurt who we believe we are, who we are and how we express this to the world.


Myth-Domestic violence is a new social problem
Fact-Wife assault is Not new. In Canada, it wasn’t until 1968, when the Federal Divorce Act was passed, that physical and mental cruelty became grounds for divorce

Myth-Domestic Violence is not a widespread problem
Fact-In a recent study, 1 in 5 Canadian men living with a women admitted to using violence against her

Myth-Alcohol causes men to assault their partners
Fact-Alcohol can make it easier for a man to be violent. However, the real cause of a wife assault is the batterer’s desire for power and control over his partner. Batterer’s often use alcohol as an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for their violent behaviour.

Myth-Men are abused by their partners as often as women are
Fact-More than 92% of charges related to spousal assault in Ontario are laid against men. Most charges laid against women are counter-charges laid by assaultive partners or stem from acts of self defense

Myth-Women often provoke assaults and deserve what they get
Fact-No women ever deserves to be beaten. Assaulted women report a wide range of incidents that trigger violence. For example: “I fried his eggs the wrong way,” “I didn’t turn down the radio enough,” or “I went out with my friends without asking his permission.” Abusive men often claim their partner provoked an assault to avoid responsibility for power and control over his partner.

Domestic Violence and Children
The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

In homes where domestic violence occurs, children are at a high risk for suffering physical abuse themselves. Regardless of whether children are physically abused, the emotional effects of witnessing domestic violence are very similar to the psychological trauma of being a victim of child abuse.

  • Children in homes where domestic violence occurs may “indirectly” receive injuries. They may be hurt when household items are thrown or weapons are used. Infants may be injured if being held by the mother when the batterer strikes out.
  • Older children may be hurt while trying to protect their mother
  • Children in homes where domestic violence occurs may experience cognitive or language problems, developmental delay, stress-related physical ailments (such as headaches, ulcers and rashes), hearing and speech problems
  • Many children in homes where domestic violence occurs have difficulties in school, including problems with concentration, poor academic performance, difficulty with peer interactions and more absences from school.
  • Boys who witness domestic violence are more likely to batter their female partners as adult boys than boys raised in nonviolent homes. There is no evidence, however, that girls who witness their mothers’ abuse have a higher risk of being battered as adults.
  • Taking responsibility for the abuse
  • Constant anxiety (that another beating will occur) and stress related disorders
  • Guilt for not being able to stop the abuse or for loving the abuser
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Social isolation and difficulty interacting with peers and adults
  • Low self-esteem
  • Younger children do not understand the meaning of the abuse they observe and tend to believe that they “must have done something wrong.” Self blame can precipitate feelings of guilt, worry and anxiety.
  • Children may become withdrawn, non-verbal, and exhibit regressed behaviours such as clinging and whining. Eating and sleeping difficulty, concentration problems, generalized anxiety and physical complaints (i.e. headaches) are all common.
  • Unlike younger children, the pre-adolescent child typically has greater ability to externalize negative emotions. In addition to symptoms commonly seen with childhood anxiety (sleep problems, eating disturbances, nightmares), victims in this age group may show a loss of interest in social activities, low self-concept, withdrawal or avoidance of peer relations, rebelliousness and oppositional-defiant behaviour in the school setting. It is also common to observe temper tantrums, irritability, frequent fighting at school or between siblings, lashing out at objects, treating pets cruelly or abusively, threatening peers or siblings with violence and attempts to gain attention though hitting, kicking or choking peers and/or family members. Girls are more likely to exhibit withdrawal and run the risk of being “missed” as a child in need of support.
  • Adolescents are at a risk of academic failure, school drop-out, delinquency, substance abuse and difficulties in their own relationships.

Community Partners

OPP: 1-888-310-1122

Temiskaming Child & Family Services

Timiskaming Health Unit
Temiskaming Shores: 1-866-747-4305
Kirkland Lake: 1-866-967-9355
Englehart: 1-877-544-2221

District of Temiskaming Social Services Administration Board
Temiskaming Shores: 1-705-647-7447
Kirkland Lake: 1-705-567-9366


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