Family Violence Initiative

What is abuse?

Family violence or abuse happens when someone in your family or someone you are dating hurts you physically, sexually, psychologically or financially. Family violence or abuse can also include neglect.

Some kinds of abuse are crimes, like physical or sexual violence. Crimes are also called criminal offences.* Other kinds of abuse, like repeated insults, may not be crimes, but the abuse can still hurt. It can also lead to criminal forms of abuse if it gets worse.

If your husband, wife, common-law partner, boyfriend or girlfriend is abusive, that is family violence. If your parent, child, brother, sister, in-laws or other extended family member are abusive, that is also family violence.


In an emergency

  • Call 9-1-1
  • Run outside so people can see you, unless you are safer inside.
  • Scream—let the neighbours hear you so they can call the police.

Abuse can happen to people of all origins, religions and ages. It can happen to anyone, no matter how much education or money they have. It can happen to men or women, boys or girls. But women are more often the victims of the most severe forms of family violence, like physical and sexual violence.

If you are being abused, you might feel scared, ashamed and alone. You might even think it is your fault. It is not your fault. The person abusing you is responsible for their own actions.

Violence is a choice, but it is a bad choice.

What should you do if you are being abused?

You may not want to talk about your family to other people. You may think family violence is private. But here in Canada, it is also a public concern. It affects families, children and all of society. It is very harmful for children to live with family violence.

If you are being abused, it is important to get help. Speak to a doctor, nurse, social worker, teacher, police officer or any person you trust. If your child is being abused or sees you being abused, you must contact the police or child protection services.*

It could be very difficult for you to get away from abuse without help from other people. You might feel dependent on the abusive person. You might still love that person. You might feel that person needs you. You might have family members who expect you to stay at home for the sake of the family's honour. You might feel it is your duty to stay in the relationship. The person who is abusing you might threaten you and make you feel that leaving is even more dangerous than staying. Or they might promise to change and beg you to stay.

Is abuse normal in relationships?

Healthy relationships are NOT abusive. Family members should respect each other and treat each other with dignity. The person abusing you may be dealing with a lot of stress, but this does not make it okay for them to hurt you. There are many healthy ways to deal with problems and conflict. For example, you can get help from someone you trust, such as a religious leader or a community worker. The person abusing you may love you, and you may love them, but violence has no place in a family or intimate partner relationship.

The person being abusive also needs to know that many forms of abuse are crimes under the Criminal Code,* and they can be charged by the police.

The following sections describe different types of abuse.

Gender Equality

In Canada, women and men are equal under the law. For example, they must be treated equally in the workplace. Also, it is against the law for a man to use force to make a woman stay home, keep her from taking classes, or stop her from seeing friends or family.

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