What Is Domestic Violence?

The language around this issue is tricky: abuse refers to the use of power and control tactics to dominate and intimidate another person.  Woman abuse points directly to tactics that are used by a man to control his intimate female partner (wife, girlfriend, common-law partner, etc.).  Domestic violence implies that both men and women can be victims and perpetrators, and that abuse can exist in straight, gay, and lesbian relationships.1

So what is the difference between abuse and relationship conflict?

Abuse involves:

  • Continued and increasing patterns of control, intimidation, manipulation, and violent behaviour by the abuser
  • Potentially severe and life-threatening behaviours

In contrast, relationship or marital conflict:

  • Is usually more equal between genders
  • May once or twice escalate into one inappropriate push, slap, or thrown object(note, however, that even in the case of such an inappropriate push or slap, our police services have a zero-tolerance policy and, if they are contacted, are still required to lay assault charges.  Please read our section on police and crown attorney obligations to learn more.)
  • Is not about one partner controlling another

The Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Advisory Committee – Lanark County recognizes that victims of violence include women, men, and children of any age, race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and/or sexual orientation.  For this reason, we identify as a committee that works to end domestic violence.  We believe, however, that terms such as woman abuse, intimate partner violence, partner abuse, spousal abuse, and dating violence are equally valid and we support our members’ choice to use different terms.

We also recognize, though, that the majority of harmful domestic violence is still perpetrated by men against women. Likewise, some groups of women (like those who are young, disabled, poor or Aboriginal) deal with multiple challenges that put them at greater risk.

1Unless otherwise noted, the below information has been adapted from Linda Baker and Allison Cunningham’sProfessor’s Resource Guide to Teaching about Woman Abuse and Its Effects on Children (2005), Learning to Listen, Learning to Help: Understanding Woman Abuse and Its Effects on Children (2005), and Little Eyes, Little Ears: How Violence Against a Mother Shapes Children as They Grow (2007).

2Source: General Social Survey on Victimization, Statistics Canada, 2005.

3Source: Statistics Canada.  Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile. 2009

4Source: Sixth Annual Report of the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee.  Office of the Chief Coroner, Province of Ontario: 2008.

5Permission to reproduce this diagram is provided by the Queen’s Printer for Manitoba.  The Queen’s Printer does not warrant the accuracy or currency of the reproduction of this information.

6The above notes on the cycle of violence have been adapted from publication “The Cycle of Violence and How to Break It,” published by the Manitoba Department of Justice’s Victim Services Branch.

7Source: Domestic Violence Death Review Committee.

8Source: adapted from the London Abused Women’s Centre website, available athttp://www.lawc.on.ca/ResourceWhyWomenStay.htm

9Source: Domestic Violence Death Review Committee.