What is Domestic Violence?
Many people still see domestic violence as a private issue. It isn’t. Domestic violence is a crime. It is an intentional act that results from an imbalance of power and control over someone in the home. It is one of the most harrowing crimes of all. For someone to be physically or mentally abused by someone they love and trust is difficult for most of us to imagine. Anyone can be a victim. Domestic abuse crosses all boundaries and happens to people at all income and education levels, in all social classes, in all religions, racial and cultural groups. It can be committed by men against women, women against men and in same sex relationships. It can happen all of the time or once in a while.
Abuse is not an accident. It does not happen because someone was “stressed out”, drinking or abusing drugs. Abusers have learned to abuse so they can get what they want. Abuse is not a one time event.
According to the Ontario Safety Association for Community & Healthcare, each year in Ontario, there are approximately 25 female victims and 2 male victims of spousal homicide and just over one third of spousal assaults are reported to police – most go unreported.
The social costs including health care for victims, criminal justice, social services and lost productivity are estimated in the billions of dollars. The psychological impact for victims, their families and their friends can not be measured in dollars; it is severe and long lasting.
Just as with any other criminal act, information is needed to help make arrests and build prosecution cases to bring offenders to justice and safety to the victim. Domestic violence has the highest rate of repeat victimization of any crime and there are almost always multiple assaults before police are called.
Domestic violence can include:
Physical (being pushed, shoved, slapped, choked, kicked, bitten,
battered or beaten, assaulted with a weapon, held, tied down,
restrained, leaving victim left in a dangerous place or refused help in
cases of illness or injury)
Sexual (unwanted or forced sexual activity or degrading treatment
designed to humiliate)
Emotionally or Psychologically (being told that you are a worthless or
bad person, constant criticism, insulting or belittling, constantly being
intimidated or threatened or having other family members, your children
or your pets threatened, being threatened with suicide to get you to do
something, false accusation and blaming, ignoring, dismissing or
Financially (having money withheld or being prevented from getting a
Socially (isolated, not being allowed to go out or to see family or friends)
Domestic abuse also affects children. Many people who abuse partners also abuse children. Children also suffer through witnessing abuse. Children in homes where there is domestic violence are more likely to be abused and/or neglected. A parent who is being abused may be in too much physical or emotional pain to take good care of the children. Parents may think they don’t know but most children in these homes know about the violence and even if a child is not physically harmed, they may have emotional and behavioral problems. They feel helpless and may feel it is their fault. Violence in the home is dangerous for children. They live with scary noises, yelling and hitting and are afraid for their parents and for themselves. They feel badly that they can’t stop the abuse. Some children will intervene to protect the victim, which can result in injury and emotional trauma. If they do try to stop the fight they can be hurt or injured by things that are thrown or by weapons that are used. Children living in these homes can have many troubles; difficulty sleeping and in school and difficulty getting along with others. They often feel sad and scared all the time and grow up with self esteem problems. These problems do not go away on their own. They are usually long term and can surface later in life. In some instances this trauma will present in later life with serious mental health problems such as self-harm, depression and suicide.
Children are affected by abuse on many different levels:
Emotionally (fear, anxiety, anger, depression, low self esteem)
Physically (difficulty sleeping or eating, health problems
Socially (poor social skills, peer rejection)
Cognitively (developmental delays, poor school performance)
Behaviorally (aggression, tantrums, immaturity)
For a list of typical long term effects on children by age group, go to http://www.satcontario.com/DomesticViolence/
Possible Health Effects
Most of us are aware of the physical injuries that can occur during a domestic violence situation, where the victim has bruising that can not be explained. Other common effects of abuse include but are not limited to:
- Acute anxiety
- Depression (be sad, lonely withdrawn and afraid)
- Thoughts of suicide
- Eating disorders
- Sexual dysfunction
- Miss work on a regular basis or seem to be sick often
- Poor concentration (have trouble concentrating on a task)
- Alcohol/drug use to cope
Who are the abusers?
Abusers are not easy to spot. In public they may appear friendly and loving to their partner and family. They only abuse behind closed doors and they often hide the abuse by causing injuries that can be hidden and do not need a doctor. Abusers do not see themselves as being abusive. They often have low self esteem and they do not take responsibility for their actions. They may even blame the victim for causing the violence. Though in most cases men abuse female victims, it is important to know that women can also be abusers and men can be victims.
What you should know
However a person experiences domestic violence, it almost always gets worse.
Always know, it is not your fault and you do not deserve it. You have the right to live free from fear and harm no matter your race, age, background or religion or whether you are married or living with your abuser. You should also know that violence sometimes continues and may get worse after the relationship has ended.
If you are being abused, remember:
- You are not alone
- It is not your fault
- Help is available
Why abuse is not reported
Domestic violence is often kept secret because of its personal nature. Because of the social stigma, many victims of battering never report abuse or seek help. Often victims are terrorized and fear for their lives if they call the police. This silence is the batterer's best friend. Domestic abuse or battering is often considered a private matter, rather then the criminal offense that it is. Sometimes even acquaintances say the victim did what they did to make the batterer angry, blaming the victim for their own abuse.
- Many people who are being abused do not see themselves as victims.
- The victim may fear repercussions or retribution
- If the victim is a lesbian, gay or transgendered person, they feel isolated and may be afraid to have people know about their sexual orientation
- If the victim is physically or mentally challenged or elderly, they may depend on their abuser to care for them and may not have anyone else to help them.
- A male victim of abuse may be ashamed and feel that no one will believe them
- If the victim is from another country they may be afraid of deportation
- If the victim’s religion makes it hard to get help, they may feel they have to stay rather than break up the family
- If the victim is a teen, they may be afraid to leave the abuser if they go to the same school.
Teens could be a victim of abuse if they are dating someone who:
- is very jealous and/or spies on them
- will not let them break off the relationship
- hurts them, is violent or brags about hurting other people
- puts them down
- forces them to have sex or makes them afraid to say no to sex
- abuses drugs or alcohol or pressures them to abuse drugs/alcohol
- has a history of bad relationships and blames it on others
Stalking is a crime.
Stalking happens when someone who is emotionally obsessed with you demonstrates this through unwanted actions or contacts. It is called “Criminal Harassment” by the legal system. It often starts with small incidents that get bigger, more frequent and more threatening. A stalker can be someone you know or can be a stranger. Stalking can be in the form of unwanted phone calls or gifts or following people, often going to where they live or work. It can also take the form of threats to you or to your family. It can even result in kidnapping. Stalking is serious. It often turns to physical violence. Tell the police.
- Tell the police every time the stalker makes contact with you
- Keep a written record of all contacts including date, time, type of contact, location, etc.
- Save phone messages from the stalker
- Save letters and gifts from the stalker
- Write down information about the stalker (description, type of vehicle, plate number, etc)
Cycle of Violence
What Can You Do If You Are A Victim
How Can I Help A Friend
What Can An Employer Do
How Crime Stoppers Can Help
If you have any information about any serious crime, please call Crime Stoppers.
If your tip leads to an arrest or recovery of property or narcotics
you may be eligible for a cash reward.
You will never have to give your name or testify in court and Crime Stoppers doesn’t have call display or call trace.
Call Crime Stoppers locally at
675-8477 (TIPS) or toll free at 1-800-222-TIPS
Click here to use our secure on line form
Text TIP267 and your message to CRIMES (274637)