Identifying Abuse

Iris Kirby House, St. John’s Site: 1 (877) 753-1492O’Shaughnessy House, Carbonear Site: 1 (888) 596-8709

Young woman blowing on a dandelion

What is Abuse?

Abuse occurs in all walks of life. Women, children and the elderly are most often victims of family violence. Unfortunately, some attitudes, behaviours and beliefs related to family violence help perpetuate abuse. What begins with control and emotional abuse often becomes physical violence, and repeated abuse escalates in severity over time.


Violence is a serious abuse of power, trust or dependency within a relationship. It can take many forms such as emotional, physical, psychological, sexual, financial, and may include neglect, intimidation and the destruction of property and pets. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, abuse is a crime.

Signs of Abuse

If any of this sounds familiar, you are in an abusive relationship. Without intervention this situation will likely intensify and worsen.

Emotional Abuse – Feeling intimidated, manipulated, or otherwise controlled.

Emotional abuse is any behaviour that is designed to control another through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, manipulation and invalidation. Often, individuals affected by emotional abuse are left with the deepest and most lasting wounds. Invalidation is to reject, ignore, mock, tease, judge or diminish someone’s feelings.
All forms of invalidation are also forms of psychological attack. When individuals are confronted repeatedly with psychological attacks, survival instincts tell the individual to defend themselves through confrontation or withdrawal. If an individual continues to withdraw repeatedly, visible effects may include decreased self-esteem, decreased self-confidence and increasing feelings of powerlessness in the relationship.

Physical Abuse – Being hit, slapped, kicked, punched or pushed around.

Physical abuse is any act of violence against the victim. It is the most visible and lethal form of violence, with the extreme being death. Examples of physical abuse include slapping, kicking, choking, pulling hair, shoving, punching, beating, burning, throwing objects, use of weapons, restraint of any form, etc.
Threats are a form of physical abuse. When threats are made within a violent relationship, they can be as debilitating as the violence itself. Even when the victim has not been physically abused, the abuser will often demonstrate their ability to harm the individual by punching walls or doors, breaking furniture, kicking or killing family animals, destroying personal property, etc.

Psychological Abuse – Threats to hurt you, your children or your family.

Psychological abuse ties in with emotional abuse. Psychological abuse is used by the abuser to wear the victim down, undermine the victim’s self-concept, and over time, cause the victim to blame themselves. Psychological and emotional abuse clears the path for physical and sexual abuse.
Examples of psychological abuse include intentionally creating feelings of guilt, silent treatment, demeaning comments, accusations, isolation (such as the abuser controlling where the victim goes), demoralizing family, friends and the individual, etc.

Sexual Abuse – Being forced to engage in sexual activity against your will.

Sexual abuse is any kind of sexual encounter without consent and includes unwanted touching, forced sexual activity, forcing the victim to perform sexual acts, and exploitation through photography or prostitution.

Examples of sexual abuse include forcing an individual to strip, forcing the use of sex toys, forcing painful sexual positions, taking unwanted sexual photographs, forcing sex after physical abuse or assault, etc.

Economic/Financial Abuse – Having no control in the household finances.

Economic or financial abuse occurs when the abuser denies the victim access to funds or makes the victim responsible for earning all the household income while the abuser handles the money irresponsibly.

Other examples of financial abuse include the prevention of attaining employment or education, having to account for any and all spent money, placing all the bills in the victim’s name, denying the purchase of personal hygiene products, etc.

Destruction of Property – Personal belongings or property are damaged or destroyed.

The destruction of property is when someone destroys your personal belongings, property or pets. This is meant to instill fear, particularly about your own personal safety. Many women have told us that when their partners destroy their property or hurt their pets, the terrifying experience sends them a message signifying they’re next. All types of abuse are damaging and can have serious effects on a person.


If you think you are being abused, you are not alone and you are not to blame. You cannot control the violence. We can help.

Warning Signs of Abusive Behaviour


Abuse happens in all walks of life, for all types of reasons. Circumstances of abuse often start small and grow in intensity and frequency. Remember, abuse is never your fault. However, there are key things you should watch out for to help keep yourself, and your children, out of harm’s way. The following list of questions will help you identity the warning signs and hopefully encourage you to seek help should you discover that you’re in an abusive relationship.


  • Do they get jealous, angry or upset with you if you even talk to other people?
  • Do they want you to spend all of your free time with them, or make attempts to keep you away from family and friends, especially those who are particularly close to you?
  • Do they tell you where you can and can’t go, whom you can and can’t spend time with, or what clothes to wear?
  • Do they compare you unfavourably to other women?
  • Do you know if they were abusive in other relationships?
  • How do they talk about others with whom they have been in a relationship? Do they call them names or blame them for all of the problems in the relationship?
  • Do they contact you several times a day to check in with you, keeping tabs on your whereabouts?
  • How do they react to stress or frustration? How do they react when they get angry? Do they blame you or others even when it seems obvious that the mistake or problem is theirs?
  • Do they make a lot of jokes about women/men or put women/men down a lot?
  • Do they get angry over little things such as being a few minutes late? Do they accuse you of being with somebody else?
  • Will they talk about a disagreement and try to work it out or do they get angry, insist they are right and refuse to negotiate?
  • Do they respect your opinions and preferences, or are they always right? Do they make all the decisions? Do they try to change your mind to their way of thinking?
  • Have you ever felt afraid of them, even for a little while?
  • Have they ever threatened you in any way?

Do you think you are being abused? Call us, you are not alone:

Iris Kirby House, St. John’s Site:

(709) 753-1492


O’Shaughnessy House, Carbonear Site:

(709) 596-8709



Other resources:

Violence Prevention Initiative of the Province of Newfoundland & Labrador

The first step is often the most difficult. If nothing is done, the abuse will not stop. Help is available. Recognize that no one has the right to control you and that it is everyone’s human right to live without fear.
If you want help in creating a safety plan, please call us: 1-877-753-1492.

If you are not ready to make that call, there are other options for you:


  1.  Call the police if you have been assaulted.
  2. Make an emergency plan – click here for what suggestions.
  3. Tell a friend or family member you trust.
  4.  Decide what is best for you. Set your own limits, stick to them and feel good about taking charge of your life.
  5. Tell someone and keep a record of all incidents for evidence.
  6. Write down the details as soon as possible after the assault. Keep it in a safe place where your partner won’t find it.
  7. Develop a safety plan: Memorize emergency numbers, keep a spare house and car keys handy, and know where you can stay in an emergency.
  8. Consider ending the relationship as soon as possible. Without intervention, the violence will increase in frequency and severity.