Signs of Abuse

“Perpetrators of abuse often make their victims believe that they are somehow responsible for their own abuse. Such misplaced notions shift the blame of the abuse from the abuser to the abusee.”

Dr. Mallika Nawal

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What is Gender Based Violence?

The UNHCR defines gender based violence as “harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender.” These acts of violence target individuals who identify as a specific gender and it is used as a means of asserting control over this gender group. This can refer to physical and/or sexual violence, and can often be life-threatening.

The World Health Organization states that approximately 1 out of every 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence.

Who Are Survivors of Gender Based Violence?

Any woman experiencing abuse that is physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, financial, or any other type of abuse. There is not one single defining characteristic of a woman who is experiencing or has experienced violence. Abuse can happen to someone regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender, economic status, physical/mental/cognitive abilities, etc. However, there are certain populations who are at an increased risk of experiencing gender based violence, such as Indigenous women, transgendered women and women of colour.

What is important to remember is that there is never any justified reason for someone to experience violence against them and that all persons deserve to live a life free from abuse.

Who Are Abusers?

Similarly, anyone can be an abuser. There is no single character description of an abuser. However, most acts of gender based violence in Canada are perpetrated by men. Abusers can come from any economic, social, or cultural background. Abusers are people who engage in any type of abusive act towards another, regardless of whether or not this abuse is visible to others. Individuals may perpetrators of violence against women regardless of social roles, professions, reputations, or community involvement.

Abusers are not always spouses, but may be other family members, friends, work colleagues, caregivers, or anyone else.

Signs of Abuse

We will cover some of the many signs of abuse here. However, this is not a complete list and every woman’s experience of abuse varies. Nonetheless, abusers have the same goal: to obtain power and control over the other woman. By using various methods of manipulation and isolation, they are able to groom the victim. This makes future acts of abuse and violence easier for the perpetrator, leading to escalation and life-threatening acts of violence.

There are Additional Resources provided at the end of this article for more information on what abuse can look like.

Physical Abuse

Hitting (with hands or weapons), kicking, pushing, strangling, throwing objects, denying access to medical attention, and anything else that physically injuries or harms someone.

This also includes violent acts towards children, family members, or pets as a means of control.

Sexual Abuse

Any unwanted sexual touch or advancement, forced sex or sexual activities, the withholding of sex, using sex to dehumanize the woman and treating the woman like a sexual object, and using sex as a manipulating strategy. This may also include coercive tactics (ex. instilling fear, deceptive intoxication, or emotional manipulation of any sort).

Reproductive abuse includes intentionally (and potentially discreetly) disregarding the agreed upon use of birth control.

Controlling Behaviours

Threats, monitoring location or digital activity, making joint decisions independently (ex. controlling all finances, selling the house), aggressive outbursts, and direct orders.

This may also include micromanaging all aspects of the person’s life. For example, what they wear, who they can see, when they can go to work, etc.

Extreme Jealousy/Possessiveness

The abuser may be constantly accusatory, insist on going everywhere with the person, or excessively demanding of their time.

Attacks on Self Esteem

Some examples include name calling (even as a “joke”), public embarrassment, direct or indirect insults, and belittling hobbies, interests, or successes.


Uses humiliation or manipulation to make the victim doubt their own experiences and thoughts. Particularly used to downplay abusive acts to make the victim feel as though they are overreacting and oversensitive.

If you are experiencing any of these acts of abuse, or want to know more about the help available to you, please contact our Crisis Support Team.

Local: 705-327-7319

Toll Free: 1-888-285-6958

Text Message: 705-345-1302


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Additional Resources

Everyday Health: 5 Lesser-Known Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship

HealthLine: How to Recognize thee Signs of Mental and Emotional Abuse

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Signs of Abuse

National Network to End Domestic Violence: Forms of Abuse

Statistics Canada: Experiences of violent victimization and unwanted sexual behaviours among gay, lesbian, bisexual and other sexual minority people, and the transgender population, in Canada, 2018

Statistics Canada: Intimate partner violence: Experiences of First Nations, Métis and Inuit women in Canada, 2018Government of Canada: Fact sheet: Intimate partner violence

UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency: Gender Based Violence

World Health Organization: Violence Against Women