What is Abuse?
Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, yet the problem is often overlooked, excused, or denied. This is especially true when the abuse is psychological, rather than physical. Noticing and acknowledging the signs of an abusive relationship is the first step to ending it. No one should live in fear of the person they love. If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the following warning signs and descriptions of abuse, reach out. There is help available.
Signs that you are in an abusive relationship
- feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
- avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
- feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
- wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
- feel emotionally numb or helpless?
Does your partner:
- humiliate, criticize or yell at you?
- treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
- blame you for their own abusive behavior?
- have a bad and unpredictable temper?
- act excessively jealous and possessive?
- hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
- constantly check up on you?
- threaten to take your children away or harm them?
- limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
Abusive behaviour and violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to control you.
Violent and abusive behavior is the abuser’s choice
Despite what many people believe, domestic violence and abuse is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over his or her behavior. In fact, abusive behavior and violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to control you.
Abusive partners use a variety of tactics to manipulate you and exert their power:
Dominance – Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as his or her possession.
Humiliation – An abuser will do everything he or she can to make you feel bad about yourself or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you’re worthless and that no one else will want you, you’re less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.
Isolation – In order to increase your dependence on him or her, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world. He or she may keep you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone.
Threats – Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members, or even pets. He or she may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against you, or report you to child services.
Intimidation – Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don’t obey, there will be violent consequences.
Denial and blame – Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abusive partner may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. He or she will commonly shift the responsibility on to you: Somehow, his or her violent and abusive behavior is your fault.
How to Support a Friend
Supporting a Friend
If you are worried about a friend that you think may be in an abusive relationship, here are some tips for helping effectively:
- Set up a time to talk. Try to make sure you have privacy and won’t be distracted or interrupted.
- Let your friend know you’re concerned about her safety. Be honest and specific. Tell her about times when you were worried about her. Let her know you want to help.
- Be supportive. Listen to your friend. Keep in mind that it may be very hard for her to talk about the abuse. Tell her that she is not alone, and that people want to help.
- Offer specific help. You might say you are willing to just listen, to help her with childcare, or to provide transportation, for example.
- Don’t place shame, blame, or guilt on your friend. Don’t say, “You just need to leave.” Instead, say something like, “I get scared thinking about what might happen to you.”
- Help her make a safety plan that includes getting out safely.
- Encourage your friend to talk to someone who can help. Offer to help her find local support. Offer to go with her to the agency, the police, or court.
- If your friend decides to stay, continue to be supportive. Your friend may decide to stay in the relationship, or she may leave and then go back many times. It may be hard for you to understand, but people stay in abusive relationships for many reasons. Be supportive, no matter what your friend decides to do.
- If your friend decides to leave, continue to offer support. Even though the relationship was abusive, she may feel sad and lonely once it is over. She also may need help getting services from agencies or community groups.
- Keep in mind that you can’t “rescue” your friend. She has to be the one to decide it’s time to get help. Support her no matter what her decision.
- Be there for your friend no matter what. Abusive partners will often actively work to alienate people who are supports in the woman’s life. Even if she stays in the abusive relationship – especially if she stays in the relationship – she’ll need friends.
- Get support for yourself through the Women’s 24-Hour Support Line, so that you can stick it out with her. Women often lose the support of friends and family who become frustrated with her decisions. That just increases her isolation and only serves the abusive partner.
Links and Resources
Do you need more help or information? Click on the titles below to get linked services available to you!
BC Society of Transition Houses
The BC Society of Transition Houses (BCSTH) offers contact information on Transition Houses across the province
Ending Violence Association of BC
Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) offers information on anti-violence programs for victims of abuse across the province
VictimLink BC provides information and referral services to all victims of crime and immediate crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence, including victims of human trafficking exploited for labour or sexual services.
bc211 can help you find contact information on community, social or government services
Find out about Human Trafficking and your rights
Pets and Abuse
Pets are often used as a means of control by an abusive partner. At NSCSS, we understand the importance of keeping your pet safe as part of your own safety plan. That’s why at SAGE Transition House, we are able to accept some pets. Call us to talk about how you can keep yourself and your pets safe.
I am forever grateful to HOPE’s Place. It came into my life at a time when I thought there was no hope at all. I was in a very controlling relationship with no family in North Vancouver to assist me. My husband had closed down all our bank accounts and I was living an unhealthy lifestyle for myself and my children. I had been living on friend’s couches and stayed at the Women’s Shelter in North Vancouver for a while, to give myself space from the relationship. It is hard to imagine that there are women in North Vancouver that go through this and HOPE’s Place is definitely needed to assist these women to move on with their lives.
Living at HOPE’s Place has given me the confidence to realize that I can cope with the everyday things and even change lightbulbs!!! That I can start a new life with my children and not have to worry about being controlled in any way. My financial worries have also been helped with the reasonable rent that is offered at HOPE’s Place. It has helped me to manage my bills and realize what I can survive without.
As a result of this I hope to be able to move on with my family and have gained all the necessary support and assistance that is required to do this. I am also honoured to have met all the fantastic staff that are always available whenever I need a question answered or just to talk.
Thank you from myself and family.
I and my 2 children are current residents of HOPE’s Place, and hope and safety are what we now have. Living in an extremely abusive situation led Child Protection and the police to my door. I was told I had to take my children and leave or my kids would no longer be in my custody. Before this I was living in despair and felt there was no way out. My daughter had to go stay at a friends and I had no option but to take my baby boy and go to my parent’s house. I missed my daughter terribly and was forced to live in yet another abusive situation, as my father is a very abusive man.
Child Protection had assigned me a support worker who arranged an interview for possible living at HOPE’s Place. To my surprise someone was just moving out and I was able to be the next tenant! I cannot express in words the gratitude I have that we are living here. Every day I look around and thank God that we’re here. The girls at North Shore Crisis Services have been so helpful in assisting me in all areas of my new life. My kids are thriving and my life feels well worth living now. My new strength also has encouraged my mom to leave my dad and her abusive situation – the ‘ripple effect’.
Before I was depressed and living in isolation. Now I get out to playgroups with my son and have real friends. My teenage daughter is on the honour roll at school and sees a counsellor. We love our home and it is filled with love instead of the fear and despair we lived in. I pray that this program will continue to change women’s lives and let them know there is ‘hope’ for a better life. We deserve to feel loved and safe.
When I came to SAGE House, I didn’t know what to expect. I had concerns about many issues, mostly about my safety and the safety and wellbeing of my new born baby. I was very worried about how my baby and I will be treated by the staff. I was also concerned about the type of services and help available to me.
The services I received on my first day of arrival to SAGE House was very impressive and welcoming. The first staff I met was very professional and helpful. Even though I arrived around 3AM, she was very courteous and understanding. My first impression of SAGE House was excellent. The entire staff are wonderful. They are very professional, empathetic and always willing to help. I feel safe and at ease here, and the house security system is very effective.
The staff are great team players and work together as a family. My needs are adequately taken care of, and my concerns are dealt with efficiently. My request and questions are answered in a timely manner, and the staff take care of all my needs. They treat all residents with equal respect, tact and in a confidential manner.
My entire experience at SAGE House has been nothing but wonderful, encouraging, peaceful and mind-uplifting. Thank you SAGE House for making me feel loved again.
I have always considered myself a family centered person. My husband and my parents were my world. However, the end of my marriage in February caused resentment and anger in my ex-husband, my parents and even my extended family. Those feelings grew stronger in the weeks following my separation to the point that one night my ex-husband humiliated me, verbally abused me, threatened to inflict physical harm to me and even kill me in the presence of my parents. My parents also were verbally abusive and showed their support and solidarity to my ex-husband, while denying it to me. I found myself alone with my suffering and fear. I had lost my support system. At that point, I received timely advice to ensure my safety. The memory of SAGE house came to my mind. Ironically, about 10 years ago I had volunteered at SAGE briefly.
From the moment I came to SAGE I have received support and understanding from each one of the caring staff members. The emotional support that they provided me helped me to develop strength to create a new life for myself free from danger to my safety and emotional well-being. The staff shared with me valuable information and resources that enabled me to get assistance and encouraged me to continue my daily journey to self-improvement and long term safety.
Sage has been a place of healing in which communal living with women making their own journeys to healing from abusive relationships has provided much needed love and encouragement to each other. I will leave SAGE in a couple of days to move to a small town in northern BC, as my employer relocated me for my safety. I was able to reach for help and advocate for myself with the encouragement of SAGE staff. I am so glad I did. Now I have a new job that will provide me with the opportunity to expand on my career field, and relocation benefits that I would not have dreamed of.
I am hopeful and will do just fine. Thank you to every one of the members of SAGE House.