Types of Abuse

Abuse tactics have been categorized in a variety of different ways. Persons who experience abuse may not separate their experiences into distinct categories. Not all tactics of domestic abuse are criminal; however, they can often be used as corroborating evidence.

A list of behaviours often demonstrated by abusers and abusive persons is given below. All of these forms of abuse come from the abuser’s desire for power and control.


Physical Abuse

Physical abuse encompasses any occurrence in which physical force is used as leverage against someone, be it actual or threatened. 


Emotional / Psychological Abuse

Any act that provokes fear, diminishes a person’s dignity or sense of self-worth, and/or intentionally inflicts psychological trauma as a means of exerting power and control over the person. 


Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse is the use of negative comments which are unwelcome, embarrassing, offensive, threatening and/or degrading to a person, gender, or group to which a person associates with. 


Sexual Abuse

By definition, sexual abuse is not a Criminal Code offence. It is a generic term which encompasses both criminal offences and other forms of abuse that are not criminal offences. Sexual Abuse includes any unwanted or forced sexual activity including touching, intercourse, and/or the possibility of exposure to sexually transmitted infections by denying the use of protection during intercourse, withholding sex, demeaning one’s gender through jokes, and sexual accusations. 


Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is any type of sexual activity in which one of the partners does not consent, consents by force, or by threat of force. Sexual violence consists of degrading treatment or discrimination based on one’s sex or sexual orientation, or using force, threats, or coercion to obtain sex or perform sexual acts. Women, children and men can be sexually violated. In every instance it is about power and control, an expression of hostility and assertion of power; it is NOT about sex. Most often the abuser is known to the victim. 


Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act done by one person to another. This can range from unwanted touching of a sexual nature to rape. There are many types of sexual assault that appear in the Criminal Code. They include descriptions of a variety of acts (for example, the use of a weapon, causing bodily harm and making threats) as well as the types of relationships within which sexual contact is or may be a criminal offence (for example, where one person is in a position of authority over the other or where there is a relationship of dependency by one person towards the other). The penalties for committing these different types of sexual offences vary from one to the other.


Neglect and Isolation

Any behaviour resulting in the isolation and alienation of a person from friends or family. 


Financial Abuse or Exploitation

Financial abuse is any behaviour that reduces or eliminates a person’s financial independence and/or ability to make financial decisions. This abuse can be seen as a continuum with one end having the abuser in control of all financial decisions (for example, withholding money, not allowing the victim to work, etc.), and the other end making the victim responsible for all finances while creating a huge debt, committing fraud, not contributing to family costs, and so forth.


Spiritual Abuse

Any tactics that exert power and control over someone’s spirituality and religious orientation. 


Stalking and Harassment

Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. This includes behaviour that, in some cases, is against the law and is known as “criminal harassment.”

[Refer to “What Should I do if I’m being Stalked / Harassed”]


How Do I Get Help?

Many victims do not realize that:

  • They have been abused
  • Domestic violence is a crime
  • Violence is not an intrinsic part of any culture
  • No one has the right to abuse anyone
  • Help is available for both victims and abusers


If you suspect that you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, contact a local community support center, shelter or the police. There are many support groups out there who wish to help you put an end to domestic violence.

[Refer to Resources Section]