Maplegate House
women

WHAT IS ABUSE?

Abuse takes many forms. No one type of abuse is worse than another type. All abuse has a negative impact on women.
Many women feel that, since they don’t fit the stereotype, they are not experiencing abuse. It can take many forms, including cultural, emotional, intellectual, financial, pets & property, psychological, physical, sexual, spiritual, social abuse, and using children.

Women who have experienced abuse have noted that emotional and verbal abuse is extremely difficult and painful, with long-term effects. Emotional abuse tends to be difficult to identify and name. In addition it tends to be pervasive in our society and is seen to be more “acceptable” than other types of abuse. Many people think that physical abuse is the worst type and some believe it is the only type of abuse, despite the experience that women have had.

An excellent resource to help you to know if you are abused is:

When Love Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Understanding Abuse in Relationships” by Jill Cory & Karen McAndless-Davis ©2008

 

Types of Abuse

Psychological/Mental Abuse
Any act intended to undermine your well-being.

  • telling me I’m crazy
  • giving me the silent treatment
  • manipulating me
  • playing mind games
  • wearing down my instincts
  • watching every move I make
  • intimidating or threatening me and claiming he’s ‘just joking’
  • putting on a good show to win others to his side
  • giving me glaring looks
  • making me prove things to him
  • demanding perfection
  • stalking
  • distorting reality
  • bringing up the past to deflect the issue at hand
  • using information against me
  • re-writing history

Physical/ Threat of Physical Abuse
Any unwanted physical contact or threat of physical contact

  • making threatening gestures
  • driving recklessly
  • throwing things at me or near me
  • restraining me
  • grabbing or shaking
  • threatening to kill me
  • using weapons to threaten me or children
  • spitting
  • choking
  • pulling my hair
  • biting or pinching
  • kicking
  • blocking my exit from the room
  • pushing, shoving, hitting, slapping, punching

Verbal Abuse
Any use of words or volume of voice to threaten, belittle or injure you.

  • yelling or screaming      
  • blaming me
  • name calling
  • using condescension
  • putting me down
  • swearing
  • using sarcasm & hurtful ‘jokes’
  • saying ‘you always’ or ‘you never…

Sexual Abuse
Any unwanted sexual contact.

  • ridiculing me for saying ‘no’
  • using my past sexual experience
  • coercing sex by guilt, harassment or threats
  • forcing sex (rape)
  • criticizing how I dress (too sexy or not sexy enough)
  • telling me I’m not ‘good enough’
  • telling me I’m fat and undesirable
  • talking to others abut our sex life
  • insisting on using pornography
  • having or threatening to have affairs
  • putting me down sexually ( e.g. calling me a whore, slut, frigid, prude, etc.)
  • demanding sex as payment

Spiritual Abuse
Any word or action that damages you spiritually.

  • using religious authority against me
  • attacking my beliefs
  • using scripture against me
  • isolating me from my religious community
  • destroying my soul

Cultural Abuse
Any use of cultural ideas as a way to dominate you.

  • using culture to legitimize abusive behaviour
  • refusing my right to learn Canadian culture
  • speaking his language to exclude me
  • forcing me to adopt his cultural practices
  • using extended family to oppress me
  • putting down my culture

Using Children
Any involvement or use of the children in the abuse.

  • belittling me in front of the children
  • using children to take his advantage
  • threatening to take children from me
  • fighting me for custody of the children
  • not paying child support
  • telling me I’m a terrible mother
  • abusing the children
  • threatening to harm the children
  • using visitation to harass me

Social Abuse
Any attempt to cut you off from sources of support and care.

  • isolating me
  • cutting me off from friends
  • embarrassing me in front of others
  • controlling whom I spend time with
  • refusing to spend time with the family
  • being jealous
  • preventing me from working
  • criticizing family members and friends so I stop seeing them
  • monitoring phone calls
  • monitoring car mileage

Emotional Abuse
Any act intended to undermine your emotional well-being

  • teasing
  • using a threatening tone of voice
  • being jealous
  • intimidating me
  • quick mood changes
  • giving mixed messages (e.g. love/hate)
  • behaving unpredictably
  • being competitive
  • changing rules 
  • making me feel guilty
  • minimizing my feelings
  • putting me in a ‘no win’ situation
  • blaming me for everything
  • withholding affection
  • waking me up
  • threatening suicide
  • making light of the abuse

Financial Abuse
Any intentional act that deprives you ( or your children) of financial security or limits your access to financial decision making

  • making me justify every purchase
  • withholding financial information
  • making me account for every cent
  • closing out joint accounts without my consent
  • spending money needed for the household on himself (or gambling it away)
  • belittling my financial contributions to the household
  • threatening to take all of the money if we should separate
  • running up bills
  • forcing me to ask for a raise at work
  • spending money carelessly
  • hiding money from me
  • limiting my access to money
  • making me beg for money
  • forcing me to commit welfare fraud
  • threatening to call welfare
  • leaving me with the burden of paying bills when there’s not enough money
  • making financial decisions without me
  • not paying child support

Intellectual Abuse
Any act intended to make you question your intellectual ability.

  • trying to make me look stupid
  • claiming superior intelligence
  • correcting my grammar
  • confusing me
  • belittling my intellectual ability
  • not letting me finish my sentences
  • showing off his higher education

Abuse of Pets and Property 
Hurting pets or damaging property in order to intimidate, control and hurt you.

  • threatening to hurt pets
  • killing pets
  • punching walls and doors
  • throwing things
  • damaging the vehicle
  • smashing things
  • breaking treasured items

 

Warning Signs of Abuse

Are you concerned about someone you think is being abused, but don’t know what to do? By understanding the warning signs and risk factors of woman abuse, you can help.

  • If you recognize some of these warning signs, it may be time to take action:
  • He puts her down
  • He does all the talking and dominates the conversation
  • He checks up on her all the time, even at work
  • He tries to suggest he is the victim and acts depressed
  • He tries to keep her away from you
  • He acts as if he owns her
  • He acts like he is superior and of more value than others in his home
  • She is apologetic and makes excuses for his behavior or she becomes aggressive and angry
  • She is nervous talking when he’s there
  • She seems to be sick more often and misses work
  • She makes excuses at the last minute about why she can’t meet you or she tries to avoid you on the street
  • She seems sad, lonely, withdrawn and is afraid
  • She uses more drugs and alcohol to cope
  • Here are some of the ways you can help when you recognize the warning signs of abuse:
  • Talk to her about what you see and assure her that you are concerned. Tell her you believe her and that it is not her fault.
  • Encourage her not to confront her partner if she is planning to leave. Her safety must be protected.
  • Offer to provide childcare while she seeks help.
  • Offer you home as a safe haven to her, her children and pets. If she accepts your offer, do not let her partner in.
  • Encourage her to pack a small back with important items and keep it stored at your home in case she needs it.
  • Know that you or she can call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline, your local shelter, or, in an emergency, the police

 
Impact of Abuse

The seriousness of the abuse cannot be judged by the type of abuse you are experiencing, but rather by the impact it is having on you. All the types of abuse have a profound impact on the person being abused. Taking all the forms seriously will help to validate all that a woman has been experiencing in the relationship.