Gender-based violence in relationships is not a private or family affair. Relationship violence is a crime and it happens to many people. No matter what the reason, abuse is not okay!
Help and support are available to survivors or those experiencing violence through our Transition House, Stopping the Violence Counselling, Outreach, and Victim Services Programs.
Violence and abuse in relationships includes:
- Any act of imposing one’s will upon another emotionally or physically
- Being mentally controlled, yelled at, or belittled
- Being denied access to money or work
- Being denied the rights to leave your home, use your phone, work, or see friends
- Being ignored or stonewalled, and not heard
- Being touched in any unwanted way
- Being forced to have sex against your will or desire
- Emotional abuse – insults, intimidation, neglect, controlling behavior, isolation, etc.
- Stalking or cyberstalking or cyberharassment
Offenders may be a spouse, partner, lover, casual date, or family member. Violence in relationships commonly includes violence that occurs after the couple has separated or divorced. In fact, violence will often become worse when you try to leave the relationship or home.
The majority of violence in relationships involves male/male-identified offenders and female, female-identified, or transgender victims; statistics show that women are 8 times more likely than men to experience relationship violence. However, violence and abuse can also occur in same-sex partnerships and situations.
How to Support Someone in an Abusive Relationship
What can you do if you suspect someone you know or love is in an abusive relationship?
Listen to your friend or family member and let them open up about the situation on their own terms. Don’t be forceful with the conversation. It may be very hard for your friend to talk about their relationship, but remind them that they are not alone and that you want to help.
Don’t place the blame on your friend
Help your friend understand that the behaviors they are experiencing are not normal, and that it is NOT their fault their partner is acting this way. They may feel personally responsible for their partner’s behavior or as though they brought on the abuse, but assure them that this is not the case. Everyone is responsible for their own behavior, and no matter what the reason, abuse is never okay.
Offer solutions to your friend
The best way for you to help your friend is to offer them options. Don’t push any one of them in particular, but instead let your friend know that you will support them no matter what they decide to do. Some of these options include visiting or dropping in to the Transition House, calling our Help Line at 1-877-626-4677, talking to a health services provider, making an RCMP report, talking to our Victim Services Program for support, or calling VictimLink BC at 1 800 563 0808.
Depending on how ready your friend is to open up, they may feel more comfortable talking with anonymously over the phone, or they may want to have the conversation in person with someone who can help. If your friend is planning to end things with their partner, you should create a safety plan with them because the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is post-break up. Maintain a calm approach when dealing with the situation and be open to what your friend is most comfortable with. At the suggestion of seeking help, it is possible that your friend may try to cover up or down play the abuse. Reassure your friend that they are the expert in their own life and make them feel as though they are in control of the situation.
The only exception here is if someone is in imminent danger – whether it is self-harm or harm inflicted by another person. If your friend is in immediate danger, you should alert authorities (i.e., RCMP ) right away. Even if you think your friend will feel betrayed or angry with you for going to the police, saving someone’s life is the most important thing. Relationship abuse can be fatal and you should not hesitate to take serious action if you think that anyone is at risk for physical or sexual harm.
Why Do People Choose to Stay in Abusive Relationships?
One of the most common questions about violence against women in relationships is: “Why do they stay?”
Most people in abusive relationships do end up leaving. However, this process can be a long and dangerous one. Non-judgmental, well-informed support is essential for assisting survivors to be as safe as possible, whether or not they leave their abuser. A woman or person in an abusive relationship probably faces at least one of the following barriers to leaving:
- An abuser is most likely to kill his partner when she leaves or attempts to leave him.
- Violence often continues even after the relationship has ended, through ongoing emotional and physical abuse, stalking, or protracted custody and access disputes.
- The abuser may have threatened to harm her, her children, other family members and/or pets if she leaves. They may have threatened to commit suicide or kidnap her/their children.
- She/they may be financially dependent on her/their partner. Women’s income can be negatively affected when a relationship ends, and many women face extreme poverty.
- If a woman is First Nations and lives on reserve, she may not want to risk losing her housing, family connections, or community and cultural supports.
- A woman with a disability may be dependant on her partner for personal care.
- Aboriginal women and women of colour may face racist responses or barriers from service providers if they seek help. LGTBQ2S+ people may fear a homophobic response by service providers.
- Women from small communities may worry about having to leave their community if the relationship ends.
- The woman may not speak English.
- The abuser may have told the woman she will not be able to live without him – she will never find anyone else, etc. This type of ongoing emotional abuse can be very damaging and women may begin to believe the abuser.
- The woman may love with the abuser, be committed to “working things out,” or may not want to fragment or break apart her family unit.
- The woman may believe her partner’s promises to change.
- The woman may believe that the abuse is her fault.
- The woman may not know the violence is illegal or that there are resources available.
- The woman may believe that her children will be safer or better cared for if she stays.