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Intimate partner abuse

What is intimate partner abuse?

Intimate partner abuse is the abuse of power by one partner in a dating, common-law or married relationship.  This abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial, social, cultural or a combination of some or all of these. It creates a power imbalance between the two partners and can leave one partner feeling intimidated by and fearful of the other.

Most often in heterosexual relationships, this abuse is perpetrated by men against their female partners, so it is also called woman abuse.

The United Nations General Assembly (1993) defines woman abuse as “any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty whether occurring in public or in private.”

The impact of abuse can last long after the relationship ends, with the woman experiencing triggers, fears and panic attacks as a result of what her ex-partner did to her in the past.

  • Woman abuse is intended to induce fear, humiliation and control.
  • It can occur in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships.
  • Abuse may occur during a relationship, while the couple is breaking up or after the relationship has ended.
  • Violence against women is not a result of someone losing control. It is the intentional control by one person of another. The abusive person is purposefully using verbal, non-verbal and/or physical means to gain control over the other person. In many cases, abusive partners are not abusive or violent to others outside the family or home.
  • Woman abuse is a crime and a serious societal problem that has negative effects on the health, well-being and development of women, children, families and the community.
  • Abuse is not limited to any single act or behaviour but rather involves a pattern of physical, sexual and/or psychological behaviours perpetrated by a current or ex-partner. It may or may not include physical violence.
  • Abuse is intentional and, although there is a relationship between woman abuse and such factors as substance use or stress, these are not causes of woman abuse.

Forms of abuse

Women may be subjected to many different behaviours during an abusive relationship. These tactics are often used by an abusive person in an effort to maintain power and control. They typically serve to reinforce fear, intimidation and coercion.

When someone is being subjected to abuse, it often changes the way they view themselves, others and the world around them.

Abuse is a cycle that can be broken. The first step is to identify the types of abuse that are happening. This abuse checklist can be used as a guide to help you remember instances of abuse, but it is not a complete list. Each woman’s experiences are different and this is only a guide.