Definitions

Definitions

Violence and abuse are best understood as a pattern of behaviour intended to establish power and maintain control over family, household members, intimate partners, colleagues or groups. The roots of all forms of violence and abuse are found in the many types of inequality which continue to exist and grow in our society.

Violence and abuse may occur only once, it can involve various tactics of subtle manipulation or it may occur frequently while escalating over a period of months or years. No matter the form, violence, and abuse profoundly affect individual health and well-being.

Physical Abuse

Sexual Abuse

Emotional Abuse

Psychological Abuse

Spiritual Abuse

Cultural Abuse

Verbal Abuse

Financial Abuse

Neglect

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse involves a person using physical force against you, which causes discomfort or injury. Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Pushing or shoving
  • Slapping
  • Kicking
  • Scratching or biting
  • Choking or strangling
  • Throwing things
  • Physically restraining you (such as pinning you against a wall, floor, bed, etc.)
  • Reckless driving
  • Assault with a weapon or other object;
  • Threats with a weapon or object;
  • Murder

Medication abuse

  • Inappropriate use of medication, including:
  • withholding medication;
  • Not complying with prescription instructions; and,
  • Over- or under-medication.

Restraints abuse

  • Forcible confinement;
  • Excessive, unwarranted or unnecessary use of physical restraints;
  • Forcing a person to remain in bed;
  • Unwarranted use of medication to control a person (also called “chemical restraint”); and,
  • Tying the person to a bed or chair.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when someone forces you to take part in sexual activity when you do not want to. Sexual abuse includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Touching in a sexual manner without consent (i.e., kissing, grabbing, fondling);
  • Forced sexual intercourse;
  • Forcing a person to perform sexual acts that may be degrading or painful;
  • Beating sexual parts of the body;
  • Forcing a person to view pornographic material; forcing participation in pornographic filming;
  • Using a weapon to force compliance;
  • Exhibitionism (exposure of sexual parts of body to others);
  • Making unwelcome sexual comments or jokes; leering behaviour;
  • Withholding sexual affection;
  • Denial of a person’s sexuality or privacy (watching);
  • Denial of sexual information and education;
  • Humiliating, criticizing or trying to control a person’s sexuality;
  • Forced prostitution;
  • Unfounded allegations of promiscuity and/or infidelity; and,
  • Purposefully exposing the person to sexually transmitted infections.

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Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse occurs when someone says or does something to make you feel stupid or worthless in order to establish control. Emotional abuse includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Name calling;
  • Constant criticism;
  • Blaming all relationship problems on the person;
  • Using silent treatment;
  • Humiliating or belittling you in front of others;
  • Not allowing the person to have contact with family and friends;
  • Destroying possessions;
  • Jealousy;
  • Humiliating or making fun of the person;
  • Intimidating the person; causing fear to gain control;
  • Threatening to commit suicide if the person does not cooperate; and
  • Threatening to abandon the person.

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Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse occurs when someone uses threats and causes fear in you in order for them to gain control. Psychological abuse includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Threatening to harm the person or her or his family if she or he leaves;
  • Threatening to commit suicide;
  • Threats of violence;
  • Threats of abandonment
  • Stalking/criminal harassment;
  • Destruction of personal property;
  • Verbal aggression;
  • Socially isolating the person;
  • Not allowing access to a telephone or social media;
  • Not allowing a competent person to make independent decisions;
  • Inappropriately controlling the person’s activities;
  • Treating a person like a child or a servant;
  • Withholding companionship or affection as a form of manipulation;
  • Threatening to have the person deported (if they are an immigrant).

Use of undue pressure to:

  • Sign legal documents;
  • Not seek legal assistance or advice;
  • Move out of the home;
  • Make or change a legal will or beneficiary;
  • Make or change an advance health care directive;
  • Give money or other possessions to relatives or other caregivers; and,
  • Do things the person doesn’t want to do.

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Spiritual Abuse

Spiritual abuse (also known as religious abuse) occurs when someone uses your religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate, dominate, or control you. Spiritual abuse includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Tries to prevent/denies access to religious services, practices and leaders;
  • Attacks and ridicules religious beliefs, traditions and values;
  • Forcing a person to raise her/his children in another religion or spiritual choice; and
  • Uses religious or spiritual beliefs to control, manipulate or exploit another person.

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Cultural Abuse

Cultural abuse occurs when someone causes you harm as a result of practices that are part of her or his culture, religion or tradition. Cultural abuse includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Committing “honour” or other crimes against women in some parts of the world, where women especially may be physically harmed, shunned, maimed or killed for;
  • Lynching or stoning;
  • Banishment;
  • Abandonment of an older person at a hospital by family;
  • Not allowing someone to leave a relationship or get a divorce;
  • Female circumcision;
  • Marriage-rape;
  • Bride kidnapping;
  • Sex trafficking/slavery; and,
  • Murder.

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Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse occurs when someone uses language, whether spoken or written, to cause you harm. Verbal abuse includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Recalling a person’s past mistakes with intent to make the person upset;
  • Expressing negative expectations;
  • Expressing distrust;
  • Threatening violence against a person or her or his family members;
  • Yelling;
  • Lying;
  • Name-calling;
  • Insulting, swearing;
  • Withholding important information;
  • Unreasonably ordering around;
  • Talking unkindly about death to a person; and,
  • Telling a person she or he is worthless, or nothing but trouble.

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Financial Abuse

Financial abuse occurs when someone controls your financial resources without your consent. Financial abuse includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Not allowing the person to participate in educational programs;
  • Forcing the person to work outside the home;
  • Refusing to let the person work outside the home or attend school;
  • Controlling the person’s choice of occupation;
  • Illegally or improperly using a person’s money, assets or property;
  • Acts of fraud; pulling off a scam against a person;
  • Taking funds from the person without permission for one’s own use;
  • Misusing funds through lies, trickery, controlling or withholding money;
  • Not allowing access to bank accounts, savings, or other income;
  • Giving an allowance and then requiring justification for all money spent;
  • Persuading the person to buy a product or give away money;
  • Selling the house, furnishings or other possessions without permission;
  • Forging a signature on pension cheques or legal documents;
  • Misusing a power of attorney, an enduring power of attorney or legal guardianship;
  • Not paying bills;
  • Opening mail without permission;
  • Living in a person’s home without paying fairly for expenses; and,
  • Destroying personal property.

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Neglect

Neglect occurs when someone has the responsibility to provide care or assistance for you but does not. Neglect includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Failing to meet the needs of a person who is unable to meet those needs alone;
  • Abandonment in a public setting; and,
  • Not remaining with a person who needs help.

Physical neglect

Disregarding the necessities of daily living, including failing to provide adequate or necessary:

  • Nutrition or fluids;
  • Shelter;
  • Clean clothes and linens;
  • Social companionship; and,
  • Failing to turn a bed-ridden person frequently to prevent stiffness and bed-sores

Medical neglect

  • Ignoring special dietary requirements;
  • Not providing needed medications;
  • Not calling a physician; not reporting or taking action on a medical condition, injury or problem; and,
  • Not being aware of the possible negative effects of medications.

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An abusive relationship can include any aspects of the behaviours listed above. If you or anyone you know is experiencing abuse and wondering what to do next, click here to be redirected to our resource page.

Definitions from this page are partially retrieved from the Violence Prevention Initiative website.