Violence in an Intimate Relationship
People often assume physical violence when they hear about intimate partner violence, but that’s not always the case.
Violence in an intimate relationship is a pattern of behaviours used to gain or maintain power and control over a partner — physical violence is just one example of such behaviour.
No one deserves to experience abuse in any capacity and every type of abuse is serious. If you recognize any of these warning signs in your relationship, you can always reach out to us via text or phone.
Learn about abuse
Understanding common types of violence in an intimate relationship will better prepare you to identify them when you see them; experiencing even one or two of these warning signs may be a red flag that abuse is present in your own relationship.
Emotional and verbal abuse
Emotional & verbal abuse
Verbal abuse refers to the ways in which a person uses their words to cause harm. It is one tactic in a range of deliberate behaviors that a person may use to gain and maintain power and control over another in an intimate relationship. Verbal abuse is one aspect of psychological abuse, also referred to as emotional abuse or expressive aggression.
Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviours such as threats, insults, constant monitoring or “checking in,” excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, name-calling, put-downs, criticizing, and other demeaning language designed to bully, intimidate, frighten, humiliate, degrade and diminish the victim’s self worth and sense of safety.
Relationships can still be unhealthy or abusive even without physical abuse.
Examples of behaviours that qualify as emotional or verbal abuse include:
Calling you names or putting you down.
Yelling or screaming at you.
Stalking you or your loved ones.
Making you feel guilty when you don’t consent to sexual activity.
Threatening to harm themselves to keep you from ending the relationship.
Being jealous of outside relationships or accusing you of cheating.
Threatening to expose personal details, such as your sexual orientation or immigration status.
Preventing you from seeing or communicating with friends or family, or threatening to have your children taken away from you.
Telling you what to do or wear.
Blaming abusive or unhealthy behaviour on you or your actions.
Threatening to harm you, your pet(s), or people in your life.
Intentionally embarrassing you in front of others or starting rumours about you.
Damaging your property (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)
Using online communities or communications to control, intimidate, or humiliate you.
Gaslighting you by pretending not to understand or refusing to listen to you; questioning your recollection of facts, events, or sources; trivializing your needs or feelings; or denying previous statements or promises.
What to do if you’ve experienced emotional abuse
Emotional abuse may not always cause visible harm, but it does cause emotional pain and scarring and may lead to physical violence eventually. Verbal Abuse is difficult to detect, assess and substantiate, and many cases go unreported.
Constantly being criticized, told you aren’t good enough or made to question your grasp on reality can cause you to lose confidence in yourself and lower your self-esteem. As a result, you may start to blame yourself for your partner’s abusive behaviour — resist this impulse.
No matter what others might say, you are never responsible for your partner’s abusive actions.
Sexual abuse refers to any behaviour that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexually that they don’t want to do.
It can also refer to behaviour that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity takes place, including oral sex, rape, or controlling reproductive methods and choices.
Everyone has the right to decide what they do or don’t want to do sexually, and not all sexual assaults are violent “attacks.” Most victims of sexual assault know their assailants, and people of all genders and sexualities can be victims or perpetrators of sexual abuse. That includes people who are married, dating, in a “friends with benefits” arrangement, or just acquaintances.
Examples of sexual abuse include:
Unwanted kissing or touching.
Refusing to use condoms or restricting someone’s access to birth control.
Sexual contact with someone intoxicated from drugs or alcohol, unconscious, asleep, or otherwise unable to give clear and informed consent.
Using sexual insults toward someone.
Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity.
Preventing someone from using protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Threatening, pressuring or otherwise forcing someone to have sex or perform sexual acts.
What to do if you’ve experienced sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is never the victim’s fault. Just because someone “didn’t say no” or doesn’t resist unwanted sexual advances doesn’t mean that they consent.
Physical resistance can sometimes put victims at higher risk for further abuse, and the narrative that a lack of resistance equals consent makes it more difficult for survivors to report abuse. It’s up to each of us to understand consent and to communicate and respect the boundaries of our intimate partners, without exception.
Financial abuse often operates in more subtle ways than other forms of abuse, but it can be just as harmful to those who experience it.
Modern conditions of stark economic inequality mean that financial security is directly tied to our health and wellbeing. No one has the right to use money or how you choose to spend it to control your actions or decisions, and no one should control your ability to work.
Examples of financial abuse include:
Giving you an allowance or monitoring what you buy.
Preventing you from seeing shared bank accounts or records.
Maxing out your credit cards without permission.
Preventing you from going to work by taking your car, keys, or another mode of transportation.
Hiding or stealing your student financial aid cheque or other financial support.
Using your child’s social insurance number to claim an income tax refund without your permission.
Using funds from your children’s tuition or a joint savings account without your knowledge.
Giving you presents or paying for things with the expectation of something in return.
Depositing your paycheque into an account you can’t access.
Forbidding you from working or limiting the hours you do.
Using financial circumstances to control you.
Getting you fired by harassing you, your employer, or your co-workers.
Using your social insurance number to obtain loans without your permission.
Refusing to provide you with money, food, rent, medicine, or clothing.
Spending money on themselves while preventing you from doing the same.
What to do if you’ve experienced financial abuse
Financial abuse is usually coupled with emotional or physical abuse.
If you’re not in control of your finances or if your partner has taken money from your bank account, it can be especially scary to leave an abusive relationship. Contact us now at 1-855-687-1868 to get support and identify local resources to help you regain control over your finances — some organizations may even provide short-term loans to cover important expenses while leaving an abusive relationship.
You can also consider talking to a trusted and safe friend, family member, or one of our crisis team members about getting a protection order.
Our Economic Empowerment Strategies curriculum is designed to support you in assessing and redressing the impact of economic abuse.
No matter what you decide to do, consider making a safety plan that includes setting aside funds in a separate, private location.
Abuse has gone digital. Today we spend more time online and on our devices than ever before, creating new safety risks for victims of gender-based, intimate partner, domestic, and sexual violence. It is increasingly important to develop skills that prioritize your digital safety.
Digital abuse is the use of technologies like texting and social media to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner.
This behaviour is often a form of verbal or emotional abuse, conducted online.
All communication in a healthy relationship is respectful, whether in person, online, or over the phone. It’s never okay for your partner to use words or actions to harm you, lower your self-esteem, or manipulate you.
Examples of digital abuse include:
Telling you who you can or can’t follow or be friends with on social media.
Using social media to track your activities.
Constantly texting you or making you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone.
Stealing or pressuring your to share your account passwords.
Looking through your phone or checking up on your pictures, texts, and phone records.
Sending you negative, insulting, or threatening messages or emails.
Using any kind of technology (such as an AirTag, Compass Card, spyware, or GPS in a car or phone) to monitor your activities.
Insulting or humiliating you in their posts online, including posting unflattering photos or videos.
Sending, requesting, or pressuring you to send unwanted explicit photos or videos, sexts, or otherwise compromising messages.
What to do if you’ve experienced digital abuse
You never deserve to be mistreated, online or in person. Planning for safety in different online spaces can help keep you safe; access our resources for digital safety planning here.
If you’ve experienced digital dating abuse or technology facilitated abuse, we encourage you to contact us so we can talk through the details of your situation and identify available options.
Your partner should respect your relationship boundaries. Always.
You never have to share your passwords with anyone.
You never have to send any explicit pictures, videos, or messages that you’re uncomfortable sending (“sexting”).
Sexting can have legal consequences: nude photos or videos of someone under the age of 18 could be considered child pornography, which is illegal to own or distribute.
It’s okay to turn off your phone or not respond to messages right away. You have the right to your own privacy and to spend time with other people without your partner getting angry. Just be sure that the people who might need to reach you in an emergency still have a way to reach you.
Save or document threatening messages, photos, videos, or voicemails as evidence of abuse.
Don’t answer calls from unknown or blocked numbers; your abuser may try calling you from another line if they suspect that you’re avoiding them. Find out if your phone company allows you to block numbers (and how many if so).
Once you share a post or message, it’s no longer under your control. Abusive partners may save or forward anything you share, so be careful sending content you wouldn’t want others to see.
Know and understand your privacy settings. Social media platforms allow users to control how their information is shared and who has access to it. These settings are often customizable and may be found in the privacy section of the website. Keep in mind that some apps may require you to change your privacy settings in order to use them.
Be mindful when checking in places online, either by sharing your location in a post or by posting a photo with distinguishable backgrounds.
Ask your friends to always seek permission from you before posting content that could compromise your privacy. Do the same for them.
Avoid contact with your abuser in any capacity, through any technology, online or in person. Consider changing your phone number if the abuse and harassment don’t stop.
We’re here to discuss your situation, identify next steps, and support you in making the decision that’s best for you.
You can get information about safety planning here or call the
BWSS Crisis and Intake Line at 1-855-687-1868