When we think of violence we most often think of physical assault or abuse. Violence does take many other forms. One of our key goals is to help people recognize when other behaviours are violent.

A person can be the victim of one or more forms of violence or abuse including:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Emotional abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Neglect

Over the next weeks we will be looking at each of these and more, and their impact on us as individuals and as a community.

Below is a summarized version of family violence information directly from the Department of Justice. We like this wording as it briefly describes each form of violence, and how the Criminal Code might apply.

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Physical abuse, including assault, is the intentional use of force against a person without that person’s consent. Physical abuse includes:

  • pushing or shoving
  • hitting, slapping or kicking
  • pinching or punching
  • strangling or choking
  • throwing objects at someone
  • locking someone in a room

All of these acts are crimes in Canada.



Sexual abuse of an ADULT can include:

  • sexual touching or sexual activity without consent
  • continued sexual contact when asked to stop
  • forcing someone to commit unsafe or humiliating sexual acts

All sexual contact with anyone without consent is a crime. This includes sexual touching or forcing sexual activity on a spouse, a common law partner or a dating partner. Even when married, a spouse cannot be forced to have sexual contact.

Sexual abuse of a CHILD includes:

  • any sexual contact between an adult and a child under 16 years of age
  • any sexual contact with a child between the age of 16 and 18 without consent
  • any sexual contact that exploits a child under 18

In Canada, the age of consent for sexual activity is 16, but there are some exceptions if the other person is close in age to the child.

In addition, children under 18 cannot legally give their consent to sexual activity that exploits them. Sexual activities that exploit a child include prostitution and pornography. They also include situations where someone in a position of authority or trust, or someone the child depends on, has any kind of sexual activity with the child. A person of authority or trust could be a parent, step-parent, grandparent, older sibling, teacher or coach.

If a child is sexually abused at home, child protection services could intervene and remove the child from his or her parents.

Violence does not always involve physical abuse.

Without intervention, violence and abuse escalate over time.


Intimate partner violence is violence or abuse that happens:

  • within a marriage, common-law or dating relationship
  • in an opposite-sex or same-sex relationship
  • at any time during a relationship, including while it is breaking down, or after it has ended

Not all intimate partner violence is the same. In some cases, one person may want power and complete control over their partner and will use different ways (including physical violence) to get it. For example, they try to control things such as:

  • what that other person can wear
  • when and where that person can go out
  • who that person spends time with
  • when that person can talk to family and friends
  • what that person can spend money on
  • whether that person can work or take classes
  • all aspects of that person’s sexual activity

This type of abuse almost always gets worse over time. It often leads to serious physical violence and can cause you to have lasting health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).



Emotional abuse happens when a person uses words or actions to control, frighten or isolate someone or take away their self-respect. Emotional abuse is sometimes called psychological abuse. It can include:

  • threats, put downs, name calling or insults
  • constant yelling or criticism
  • controlling or keeping someone from seeing friends or family
  • making fun of preventing someone from practicing their faith or religion
  • destroying belongings, hurting pets or threatening to do so
  • bullying: intimidation or humiliation (including on the Internet)

Many forms of emotional abuse are not crimes but can be signs that the abuse might get worse. Some forms are crimes such as:

  • threats to harm the person or someone else
  • criminal harassment (stalking) which involves following or repeatedly contacting a person when they don’t want contact and they are afraid.



Financial abuse happens when someone uses money or property to control or exploit someone else. It can involve:

  • taking someone’s money or property without permission
  • withholding or limiting money to control someone
  • pressuring someone to sign documents
  • forcing someone to sell things or change a will.

Most forms of financial abuse are crimes, including theft and fraud.



Neglect happens when a family member fails to provide you with your basic needs. This can involve:

  • not providing proper food
  • not providing warm clothing
  • failing to provide adequate health care, medication and personal hygiene
  • failing to prevent physical harm
  • failing to ensure proper supervision

Some forms of neglect are crimes in Canada, including failure to provide the necessities of life and child abandonment. If a child is neglected, child protection authorities could intervene and remove the child from his or her parents.

Sources: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/fv-vf/about-apropos.html