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Domestic Violence Defined - is this you or someone you love?

Updated: Oct 24, 2023


Photo by Jane Powell

*Reader warning: speaking from the heart (please fuck off, Depp vs Heard zealots)


Although some of us understand what people mean when they speak of domestic violence, you may be surprised at how frequent bigotry is. Misguided mindsets that force themselves upon the definition of domestic violence in the court of public opinion have always bothered me. To be a victim, do you have to be physically attacked - a possible statistic in the rate of annual deaths by shooting or strangulation? Is "rape" rape if it occurs within the 'sanctity of marriage'? Is lack of control over one's finances about abuse or 'help'? What is "emotional abuse" anyway ... sounds flakey, is it honestly a thing? And the worst of it: "Abuse ... really? ... I mean, he seems so nice!" or "That's just her, you know ... she's going through stuff."


So, let's start with an official definition of domestic abuse, according to The United Nations:


Domestic abuse, also called "domestic violence" or "intimate partner violence", can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. It can occur within a range of relationships including couples who are married, living together or dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

Breaking this down ...


Emotional/psychological abuse

  • Undermining someone's self-worth through constant criticism

  • Trying to control someone's actions, thoughts, or/and finances

  • Gaslighting: trying to re-write someone's experience; trying to convince them something that happened didn't really happen

  • Isolating someone from friends and family

  • Withholding love/attention as a form of punishment

  • Silent treatment as a form of punishment

  • Blaming someone for your unhealthy/abusive behaviour (no accountability)

  • Pressuring someone into sex or sexual acts they don't feel comfortable with

  • Love bombing: showering someone with gifts and/or attention, then using it to manipulate them


Sexual abuse

  • Pressuring someone into sex or sexual acts they don't feel comfortable with via threat of withholding love or attention (direct and assumed threats)

  • Rape. When someone says "no" it's NO, whether you're married or not!


Financial abuse

  • Controlling someone's finances to gain power over them

  • Intercepting someone's income, or pressuring them to give you control over it

  • Using someone's money without asking

  • Withholding shared money from a partner (ex: a parent who works full-time withholds access to finances from the other parent who does not work or works part-time and stays home with their children)


Physical Abuse

  • Any form of unwanted physical touch, whether it's grabbing, hitting, throwing, pinning, or making physical threats against a partner

  • Hurting someone physically, with intention - whether it's with one's hands or an object or neglect that results in physical harm


In support of everyone living in survival mode due to an abusive partner, I'll be posting info on domestic abuse throughout the month of October (on FB and on my blog https://www.janepowell.org/blog )


Some things that people in abusive relationships wish others understood (quoted from RebelThriver):


1. It's pretty easy to convince yourself it's not abuse, especially if it isn't physical.

2. It may seem strange to outsiders, but it's easy to become attached to your abuser. It's called trauma bonding.

3. It is incredibly hard to walk away.

4. In the midst of abuse, it can be hard to recognize it or understand it while it's happening.

5. Outside support is welcomed and appreciated, even if it doesn't seem like it. Remember that abusers will try to isolate their victims from friends and family.

6. Just because you can't see signs of abuse doesn't mean that it's not happening. Not all wounds are visible.

7. You cannot assume to know an abuser. Even the nicest laid back people can be abusive AF - they just hide it well. *Quoted from RebelThriver


If you think that you or someone you know is being abused, call (in Canada):


BC: VictimLinkBC: 1-800-563-0808 AB: Family Violence Information Line: 1-780-310-1818 SK: Mobile Crisis 24/7 Helpline: 306-757-0127 MB: Domestic Abuse Crisis Line: 1-877-977-0007 ON: Victim 24/7 Support Line: 1-888-579-2888 QC: SOS violence conjugale 24/7: 1-800-363-9010 (bilingual service available) NB: Chimo Helpline: 1-800-667-5005 PEI: Island Help Line: 1-800-218-2885 NS: Neighbours, Friends and Families (Abuse and Violence Support Line): 1-855-225-0220 NL: NL Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre 24/7 Support and Information Line: 1-800-726-2743 Nunavut: Kamatsiaqut Nunavut Helpline: 1-800-265-3333 NWT: NWT Help Line: 1-800-661-0844 YK: VictimLinkBC: 1-800-563-0808


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