Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is any use of physical or sexual force, actual or threatened, in an intimate relationship. This includes emotional or psychological abuse or harassing behaviour. Domestic violence may occur in any type of relationship. While both men and women can be victims, the overwhelming number of domestic homicides involve men abusing women. Domestic violence affects all of us; everyone has heard about it in the news and most people know someone personally like a neighbour, co-worker, friend or family member who has experienced domestic violence.

It is important to remember that the person experiencing abuse is not to blame. Everyone has the right to live in peace and free of violence and we all have a role in preventing domestic violence.

For related information and how to stop family violence, you can check the Public Health Agency of Canada website.

Technology safety 

Technology and computers can be wonderful resources to communicate and gain information. Unfortunately, they can also be used as methods of control to track the communication, activities and whereabouts of the person being victimized. People who are being abused should be encouraged to use technology/computers in public or safe places. While erasing a computer history can offer some safety, a blank computer history can also arouse suspicion and does not eliminate other tracking methods. The same caution should be used with cell phones and leaving numbers for return phone calls. 

Forms of abuse 

Abuse can include intimidation, harassment and stalking. It is not just physical and it may be actual or threatened. In some cases it only takes one act to create an ongoing sense of fear. Abuse can take many forms:

  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Emotional
  • Psychological
  • Economical/Financial
  • Spiritual
  • Neglect 
Physical abuse 

Physical abuse includes:

  • Hitting
  • Slapping
  • Kicking
  • Spitting
  • Pushing or punching and
  • May include torture or the use of a weapon
Emotional abuse 

Emotional abuse includes verbal or non-verbal remarks or gestures:

  • Yelling
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Harassment
  • Abusive language
  • Violent acts to the home, property or pets
  • Being possessive
  • Threats to take the children away
Economical/Financial abuse 
A person may be abused economically or financially by the withholding of money, being unrealistically expected to do too much with too little money and then being criticized for failure to manage money, or being prevented from working. 
Spiritual abuse 

This type of abuse may occur if practicing religious or spiritual beliefs are prevented or are used to manipulate.


Neglect may also be experienced if the person is deprived of basic needs and human rights such as withholding medical treatment or care. 

Signs of abuse 

If your partner demonstrates any of the following behaviours, you may be experiencing some forms of abuse in a relationship.

  • Makes or carries out threats to hurt you
  • Threatens to take your children away
  • Intimidates you by destroying your property
  • Physically hurts you or the children
  • Hurts your pets
  • Makes fun of your spiritual beliefs or practices or prevents you from such involvement
  • Makes you afraid
  • Puts you down, calls you names, plays mind games
  • Humiliates or makes you feel guilty
  • Controls who you see, what you do and where you go
  • Says it's your fault the abuse happened
  • Stops you from getting or keeping a job
  • Controls all the money or threatens to hurt you financially
Where to go for help in Waterloo Region

If you are experiencing abuse it is important you protect your safety and the safety of your children. Speak to someone you trust. Know that you are not alone, it is not your fault, and there is help. You do not have to leave your relationship to seek help.

Waterloo Region has a wide variety of services for people experiencing domestic violence:

Leaving abuse

When you decide to leave an abusive environment, you need to be prepared. For information about how to prepare check Leaving Abuse - A Safety Planning Checklist.

Children and domestic violence 

Children can be affected by domestic violence in different. They can be affected in the way they think and feel about themselves, their families and their life.

For information on how children's behaviour is affected by domestic violence typical to their age, gender and stage of development, check the How to recognize if you or your children are being abused page on the Public Health Agency website.   

What might children learn from living with domestic violence?

Children living with domestic violence are not able to grow up in a healthy and secure environment. They may be mistreated and could be in danger of harm during the violence. The may also feel ashamed. Living with domestic violence may teach them that:

  • You can get what you want through violence
  • You can either act as the aggressor or the victim
  • Victims are responsible for the violence
  • Loved ones can hurt you
  • You can expect relationships to be unequal and unhealthy
  • Women are not entitled to be treated with respect

What might children learn from living in a positive home environment?

Parenting children in positive ways helps them:

  • Grow into healthy, capable and caring people
  • Develop social skills
  • Learn to trust judgement
  • Learn to respect others
  • To be resilient
  • Learn healthy problem solving
  • Learn empathy
  • Learn to be a good role model for others
Health effects of woman abuse 

Many women try to stop the abuse and protect their children, but once the pattern of abuse or violence has been set, it is very difficult to stop it without outside help. Abuse during pregnancy is common and may even start or worsen in pregnancy. The good news is that there is lots of help available in Waterloo Region.

The health effects of woman abuse are extensive, may lead to chronic conditions, and even death. On average, 40 women are killed in Ontario each year by current or former intimate partners. This accounts for 75 per cent of all female homicides. One in four suicides by women can be traced directly to the effects of current or past abuse.

Physical health effects 

Physical health effects may include:

  • Broken bones, bruises, burns, cuts, stab wounds, firearm wounds, bites, sprains, concussions, skull fractures, scarring
  • Perforated ear-drums, detached retina, injuries to the voice box, chipped or lost teeth, hair loss
  • Ongoing stomach pain, irritable bowel syndrome
  • Ongoing neck or back pain
  • Frequent headaches
  • Hyperventilation
Sexual health effects 

Sexual health effects may include:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV
  • Ongoing pelvic, genital or uterine pain
  • Frequent vaginal or urinary infection
  • Bruising or tearing of vagina or anus
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Infertility or early hysterectomy
  • Sexually addictive behaviours
Psychological effects 

Psychological effects may include:

  • Low self-esteem, self-degradation, self-abuse, difficulty with relationships
  • Acute anxiety, frequent crying, unusual or pronounced fear responses, uncontrolled or rapid anger responses, ongoing stress, phobias
  • Flashbacks, insomnia, sleep disturbances, nightmares
  • Lack of appropriate boundaries
  • Memory loss, loss of concentration and productivity
Psychiatric effects 

Psychiatric effects may include:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Dissociation
  • Post traumatic stress syndrome
  • Eating disorders
  • Adjustment disorders with depressed mood
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Contact Us