Intimate partner violence and abuse

Intimate partner violence refers to harm caused by an intimate partner.

  • An intimate partner is a person with whom someone has or had a close personal relationship. The relationship could be characterized, for example, by an emotional connection, or ongoing physical contact or sexual behaviour. Partners may identify as a couple, or refer to each other as spouse or partner.
  • The harm is often a result of a person looking to gain or assert power or control over their partner. It threatens the safety and security of the partner, and can take many forms.

Intimate partner violence is sometimes called dating violence or domestic violence. However, these terms also include violence that takes place in other types of relationships (for example, violence toward children or older adults).

On this page

Types of abuse

Intimate partner violence can take many forms, including:

Physical abuse

A threat or attack made with a fist or object; pushing, shoving, slapping, kicking, striking, choking, hitting or beating. This abuse may or may not leave physical marks or cause noticeable injuries.

Sexual abuse

Any forced sexual activity and other forms of sexual coercion.

Emotional or psychosocial abuse

Words or actions to control or frighten an intimate partner, or destroy their self-esteem through feelings of shame, anxiety or hopelessness.

Financial abuse

Control or misuse of an intimate partner's money, resources or property.

Neglect

Situations where a person has a responsibility to provide care or assistance to someone, but actively does not do so.

Who is at risk

Anyone, regardless of age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, race, ability or ethnicity can be a victim of intimate partner violence. In Canada:

Warning signs

A relationship may be abusive if one partner:

  • has unexplained bruises or questionable explanations for injuries
  • acts differently when their partner is around (for example, doesn't speak up)
  • tries to change the subject if they are questioned about their partner's behaviour
  • seems to be controlled by their partner and seems reluctant to make decisions by themselves
  • withdraws from their friends and family
  • is pressured to have their online activity monitored by their partner
  • has an uncharacteristic change in risk-taking behaviours (for example, doing drugs, drinking alcohol)
  • experiences a drop in school or work performance
  • is humiliated or criticized by their partner in front of others
  • is frequently contacted by their partner wanting to know where they are and what they are doing

Impacts

Relationship violence can have devastating impacts on victims/survivors. For example, they may face:

  • damage to their self-esteem and confidence
  • loss of sense of safety
  • financial instability
  • damage to their personal development and ability to actively participate in society
  • physical injury
  • depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

The law in Canada

The RCMP's role

The RCMP has a mandate to:

  • enforce the law
  • support education and prevention initiatives that focus on intimate partner violence
  • engage with victims/survivors and support the rehabilitation of offenders when they are brought to us
  • collaborate with regional and municipal police agencies, social workers, nurses and other professionals to ensure victims/survivors are referred to appropriate support agencies.

Creating a safety plan

Creating a safety plan can help you and your family mitigate potential risks.

  • Create a code word with friends and family that lets them know to call for help when leaving is not possible
  • Keep important documents such as passports, social insurance numbers, bank cards and keys in one safe location so you can quickly grab them in an emergency
  • Have a plan to get out of your house in an emergency and find a place you and your children can escape to
  • Prepare an emergency bag with essentials such as important documents (originals or photocopies), clothing, medication, money, etc. that you can quickly take with you should you have to leave
  • Consider sharing your safety plan with a trusted family member

Help is available

If you are a victim/survivor

Know that it is not your fault and you are not alone.

  • Call 9-1-1 or the local police department if you fear for your safety or that of your children
  • Confide in someone you trust
  • You may wish to seek support from one or more of the following:
    • a local crisis line
    • women's groups and shelters
    • cultural or religious centres
    • Indigenous friendship centres
    • a family doctor
    • a spiritual or religious leader or Elder
    • police
    • victim services
    • legal counselling
    • women's resource centres
    • community health centres

If you think someone you know is a victim/survivor

  • Talk to them and make sure they know you can be trusted
  • Encourage them to seek support and identify their support network

Additional resources

RCMP

External sources

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