Frequently Asked Questions
What is violence against women? What is woman abuse?
Woman abuse in adult relationships is the use of tactics to establish and maintain power and control over a woman.
These tactics include the many forms of abuse and violence that women experience including, but not restricted to, emotional, physical, verbal, sexual, psychological, ﬁnancial, spiritual and cultural. It refers to both current and past experiences of violence. These tactics can also include using children, social status and privilege.
Am I being abused?
It can be very hard to see abuse in our own lives. There are many stereotypes about what abusers might look like or act like. And there are many negative views about what abused women are like. All of this can make it really difficult to see ourselves as abused women or our partners as abusive men. Abusive men come from every background. And women of all levels of education and income and race can experience abuse.
Two questions that you might ask yourself if you are wondering if you are being abused are:
- Are you afraid of your partner?
- Do you regularly change your behaviour, opinions or choices due to fear of consequences or reprisals from your (ex)partner?
If you have more questions about this, please feel welcome to contact us.
Why do women stay in abusive relationships?
One of the first questions asked about family violence is “why doesn’t the woman just leave him?” Intentional or not, the effect of this question can be to shift blame on the victim. A more appropriate question would be “why do men abuse women?” What we know about abusive men is that when a woman decides to leave is the most dangerous time for her. Attempting to leave a relationship puts a woman at increased risk.
The reasons why women stay in abusive situations are as varied as the women themselves. Here are a few:
- She love her partner, not the abuse
- She has no place to turn
- She has no money or job to support her or her children
- Her religious beliefs about marriage and family make it hard to change her situation
- Her family and friends urge her to stay and work it out
- She wants her children to have a father
- She fears that she will lose the children
- She is ashamed
- She believes she is the cause of the abuse and that she deserves the abuse
- She lacks self-esteem
- She is afraid her partner will hurt himself
- She thinks her partner needs her
- She fears for herself
Who are the perpetrators of violence against women?
The majority of violence comes from men. Not every man will commit violence against women. But the men that do commit violence against women come from every economic class, every level of education, every race, every ethnicity, and from almost every age group. Violence can come from an intimate partner, a family member or an authority figure such as a teacher, a police officer, a doctor or an employer. Violence can also come from a stranger but it is significantly less common.
How are my children affected by my abusive partner?
Witnessing violence in the family has a significant and traumatic effect on children. Children can suffer from anxiety, depression, a loss of self-esteem, emotional trauma, and even a reduced ability to trust. These and other problems can then have a negative affect on the way they perform in school, and their ability to connect to their friends or with family members.
We have a number of programs to help you understand and help your children, and for more information about this, click here.
How can I help a friend that is being abused?
- Let your friend know that you believe what they have told you — chances are the situation is worse than what they tell you.
- Encourage but do not pressure your friend to talk about the abuse. Allow them to say as much or as little as they want in their own words.
- Reassure your friend that they are not causing the abuse. The abusive person learned to use abuse as a way of controlling their partner long before they met.
- Let your friend know that abusive relationships always get worse without outside help. Abusive behavior such as name-calling, put-downs, jealousy, intimidation, bullying and isolation are very damaging and can also lead to physical abuse.
- Tell your friend that they are not alone in their situation. Dating violence happens to many people, especially girls and women. People of all races, ages and social classes are victims of abusive partners.
- Your role as a friend is to support, not rescue. Point out different options available to your friend and help them evaluate each one.
- No matter how tempting it is to bad-mouth the abusive partner, stop yourself. Most people who are in abusive relationships want the abuse to stop but want the relationship to continue.
- If your friend is not ready at this point to make major changes in their life, do not take away your friendship. Your support may be what makes it possible for them to act later.
- Help your friend with self-esteem. Tell them what you admire about them; why you value them as a friend; what their strengths and special qualities are.
- Support your friend’s emotions: fear, anger, embarrassment, hope, and grief over the loss of the relationship, etc..
- Take care of yourself! Helping a friend who is in an abusive relationship is very difficult. You need to look after your own well-being too. Talk with other friends or family about your feelings without giving away your friend’s name or betraying them.
What is the cycle of violence?
The cycle of violence is a way of understanding the pattern of the way violence occurs in against women in relationships. It comes from the basic observation, made by women who have suffered from abusive partners, that their partners weren’t always abusive. In fact, many abusive partners also behave in charming, caring, and loving ways. This can be confusing for women trying to understand what is going on and it is all part of a larger violent cycle.
What is a safety plan?
A safety plan is a plan made by women with abusive partners. It can help you think through and plan in advance for various different dangerous situations. The context of every abusive relationship is different and requires a plan that fits for the unique hazards and dangers present for each particular woman. When women know that they are not to blame for being abused, it can become easier to begin the process of creating a safety plan. We help women to make safety plans, and for more information about how to make a plan, go here.
How are women blamed for being the victim?
I was told that I was responsible for my husband switching in a Jekyll/Hyde fashion from normal behavior to a snide remark against me because I somehow “allowed it”.
I was told that I looked for an abuser and sought one out.
I was told that because I wasn’t abusive my “St. Mary act” gave me tremendous power over the family – even more than the abuser whose unpredictability terrified both me and my children.
I was told that I have been worse to deal with than an abuser because with an abuser a person at least knows what he is dealing with. However, this isn’t true in dealing with a non-abusive person.
Even though I was brainwashed by consent accusation and blame to believe that I was doing something wrong, I was told that I “shouldn’t” have stayed in the marriage while I tried to find out what I was doing wrong.
I was told that by spending time searching for answers, seeking counselling, and trying to understand, I had hurt my children as well as my abuser because I was guilty of “collusion”.
I was told that even though I told my abuser “I felt hurt” when he said hurtful things, I enabled him to be abusive.
I was told that I was a masochist who wanted to be mistreated.
I was told that the problem in the relationship was that I was a woman who loved too much.
I was told that I was addicted to high drama and excitement.
I was told that I must forgive if I wish to recover.
I was told that I was responsible for all my pain because I had turned him into a monster by being trusting and innocently naive.
I was told that I was a martyr and nothing is worse.
I was told that in splitting up, it is both partners who are responsible for the ending of the relationship.
I was told that I mistreated him and abused him too.
I was told that I am only attracted to abusive men, that if I hadn’t married this abuser, I’d have married another.
I was told that I didn’t believe I deserved to be loved.
I was told that I believed love is being in pain and I don’t know how to love.
I was told that I could only love a needy person.
I was told that to become clear, I must not focus on him nor “take his inventory.”
I was told that I am co-dependent.
I was told that I was in love with a dream.
I was told that I must stop blaming my mate and take responsibility for my own behavior.
(Adapted from: Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out, by Patricia Evans, Holbrook, MA: Bob Adams, Inc., 1993)
What is elder abuse?
A person is being abused by someone they know when the behaviours of that person help to establish dominance and control. This power and control of one person by another is the main reason for abuse. Elder abuse is common in Canada, and one in every twleve seniors (8%) in British Columbia experiences abuse. The abuse ranges from financial abuse to intimidation and humiliation to censoring mail or the denial of privacy or home invasion. According to the BC Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support, about 61000 seniors in BC are abused each year.
What are the rates of violence in same-sex relationships?
What is Feminism?
If you ask three feminists what feminism is, you will probably get three different opinions about it. But there are, we think, certain ways of thinking about Feminism that are important. In one sense, feminism is, simply a practical day to day response by women to a culture and society that favours men financially, politically and socially. When we measure the ways that power and control operate in our communities, we find that there is a concentration of power and control in the hands of men. This can sometimes be very obvious, as in the case of company presidents and CEOs. Or it can be very subtle and hard to see. In working day to day to improve the lives of women in a male-centered society, certain tactics and practices and ideas keep recurring and these form a kind of basis of understanding feminism and a feminist response to the culture we live in.
As an example of one important strand of feminism, we can look at the historical importance of legal and political equality. Women’s right to vote, in Canada, was only recognized in the twentieth century and Indigenous Women’s right to vote was won as recently as 1969. Despite these human rights successes, women remain a marginal voice in elected office and still to this day, in over 40 federally formed governments, no woman has ever been elected as prime minister. This obvious inequity points to just how male-centered our culture is. It is in this sense that feminism can’t be understood without also forming an understanding of patriarchy, or the way in which men tend to be at the top of the hierarchy in our society.
Perhaps most importantly, feminist thought has always asked the question, “why are men mostly responsible for acts of violence in our communities?” We need not answer this tough question in order to help women, however. And in order for our societies to make meaningful long term change, it must not be women alone that are working to understand male violence.
What are some common myths about abuse?
- Women are responsible for the violence perpetrated against them.
- Women like being abused.
- Women are most often abused by strangers.
- Only poor women are abused.
- If women just had the courage to leave, they would be safe.
- Our culture of political correctness makes everything abuse.
- Boys will be boys.
- Men who abuse can’t control themselves.
- Men who abuse are just really passionate.
- It’s only abuse if you can see bruises.
- When women are abused it’s because they are mean and manipulative.
- Violence isn’t a gender issue, it’s a human issue.
- Women are as likely to abuse as men.