Understanding Abuse

Abuse is a pattern of behaviour used by one person to gain and maintain power or control over another. When most people think of abuse, they often link it directly to physical violence which leaves visible wounds on the victim’s body. However, there are several other kinds of abuse which have significant risks to physical and mental well-being. Abuse may include any or multiple of the following kinds of behaviors, sustained over a period of time and often escalating.

  • Physical Abuse: Physical abuse and violence is the use of physical force against a person, which results in pain, discomfort or injury. It includes acts such as threats/assaults with a weapon or other object and acts such as hitting, slapping, punching, kicking or any other rough treatment.
  • Emotional and Psychological Abuse: Emotional and psychological abuse is often subtle, but very pervasive. It ranges from acts which aim to chip away a person’s self-worth and self-confidence, to using threats and causing fear in a person to gain control. Acts include name calling, humiliation and intimidation, and using reality distorting statement to create confusion and insecurity. Over time, behaviour may escalate to threats of violence, threatening to harm the person or his/her family, stalking and criminal harassment, verbal aggression, destruction of personal property, and use of undue pressure to instill fear in the victim to, for example, give money or possessions, or forego legal proceedings.
  • Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse occurs when a person is forced to unwillingly participate in sexual activity, within or outside the bounds of marriage. Sexual abuse and violence include using coercion, guilt or manipulation to engage in sexual acts, forced sexual intercourse, exhibitionism, use of fear to force compliance, or touching in a sexual manner without consent.
  • Verbal Abuse: Verbal abuse is characterized by a repetitive pattern of coercion, threats and blame through the use of abusive language aimed to threaten or terrorize the victim, or his/her family members.
  • Religious Abuse: Religious abuse occurs when someone uses a person’s religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate, dominate, control or demean a person. It includes acts of forcing a religious or spiritual belief on another person, engaging in acts which limit a person from following his or her preferred spiritual or religious tradition without fear of repercussions, and using religious as an excuse for physical and/or psychological abuse.
  • Cultural Abuse: Cultural abuse and violence occur when a person is harmed as a result of cultural, traditional, or religious practices prevalent in society, and is typically overlooked, justified or legitimized by community members. It includes honour crimes, repercussions of seeking divorce, rape and/or domestic violence within the bounds of marriage and banishment of members of LGBT communities.