What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse stems from a desire to gain and maintain power and control over an intimate partner or family member.

Abusive people believe they have the right to control and restrict their other’s lives, often either because they believe their own feelings and needs should be the priority in a relationship, or because they enjoy exerting the power that such abuse gives them.

Tactics of abuse (in any form) may be aimed at dismantling equality in a relationship to make others feel less valuable and undeserving of respect.

Remember that everyone deserves to have a healthy, loving, and respectful relationship—no matter what.

  • Abuse is a learned behaviour. Some people witness it in their own families growing up; others learn it slowly from friends, popular culture, or structural inequities throughout our society. No matter where they develop such behaviours, those who commit abusive acts make a choice in doing so — they also could choose not to.

    Many people experience or witness abuse and use their experiences to end the cycle of abuse and heal themselves without harming others. While outside factors (including drug or alcohol addiction) can escalate abuse, it’s important to recognize that these issues do not cause domestic abuse.

  • Anyone can be abusive, and anyone can be the victim of abuse. Abuse happens regardless of gender, age, sexuality, race, economic status, ability, citizenship status, or any other factor or identity. Feelings of confusion, fear, or anger are normal responses to abuse, but they may also make you feel isolated or like no one will understand.

    Being abusive is a decision: it’s a strategic behaviour by your partner or family member to create their desired power dynamic.

    Regardless of the circumstances of your relationship or past, no one ever deserves to be abused and you’re never responsible for your partner, ex-partner, or family member’s abusive actions.

    Domestic abuse can also strain the people who witness, intervene, or simply recognise the tragic realities of relationship abuse. It can be painful and draining — physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially — to watch the people in our lives abuse or be abused. In that regard, we are all impacted by any and all forms of abuse, and it’s on each of us to take steps in our daily interactions to end and prevent future abusive behaviour.

  • In a healthy relationship you should feel:

    • safe
    • supported
    • respected
    • loved

    And your partner:

    • supports your goals
    • sometimes admits to being wrong
    • discusses things with you
    • involves you in decisions
    • is interested in your happiness
    • is willing to compromise


    With unhealthy relationships you may feel:

    • Frightened
    • intimidated
    • isolated
    • ashamed

    And your partner:

    • threatens you
    • makes all the decisions
    • controls your actions
    • blames you
    • threatens to harm others
    • humiliates you
  • How does this happen?

    Like most people, you may have entered this relationship thinking that it would last.

    You may be committed to the relationship and it is hard to admit that all is not right.

    As time goes on, your partner may act out of character and you make allowances for this.

    You start to feel that you are walking on eggshells and that you may be to blame.

    You may be confused as to why this is happening and will try to understand the reasons for the change in your partner’s behaviour.

    As things worsen, you might wonder what you can do to make things right, but you may not consider this could be domestic abuse. You become frightened and perhaps think about leaving.

    If you find the strength to leave you may go back several times.

    You may feel lonely, confused, frightened and ashamed.

    You are not alone...