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Conjugal Violence





Conjugal violence can happen to anyone.  Therefore, it is an important issue and which needs to be discussed!

One in three women will experience a violent episode over the period of their lives. Also, there are approximately 40 000 arrests that result from conjugal violence reports in Canada. Of those more than 8 out of 10 victims are women. However, it is difficult to obtain a precise image of conjugal violence in Canada because many crimes are not reported to police.



Conjugal violence can be identified by a series of repetitive acts, which usually increase in frequency and intensity. This process is known as the cycle of violence; which is characterised by increasing tension, abuse, rationalization, reconciliation and a calm period (For more information on the cycle of violence consult: Part II: Cycle of violence).


It is a consequence of inequality between two partners; whereby one partner dominates, manipulates and controls the other. Also, it is important to remember that anyone can be a victim of conjugal violence, regardless of social class, age, cultural origin or religion.


Victims of conjugal violence can be subjected to:

  • humiliation
  • isolation
  • harassment
  • Intimidation
  • threats
  • depreciation
  • physical and sexual violence
  • emotional blackmail
  • financial control


The abusive partner may also restrict their partners’ independence by controlling their income and expenses as well as spying on them during their daily activities. Finally, it is important to remember that a partner’s dominance over their partner might extend to a psychological level, making it extremely difficult for them to break free from their abusive relationship.


Remember: Although a partner may try to use alcohol, drugs or stress as a justification for their violent behaviour, they ARE NOT and they CANNOT be used as an excuse for their actions!




Verbal Abuse: It is used to intimidate, humiliate and control the other person. It can either be subtle or very direct.

  • Screaming or raising their voice
  • Blaming the victim for their actions
  • Insulting


Psychological Abuse: It deals primarily with the attitudes and actions of the person and the abusive acts target their psychological integrity.  Similar to verbal abuse, psychological abuse can be subtle or more aggressive.

  • Isolating the person from friends and family
  • Humiliation, intimidation
  • Threatening the victim directly or indirectly (EX. If a spouse threatens to kidnap or kill your children)



Sexual Abuse: It is characterised by any act that is sexual in nature (with or without physical contact), which is committed without the consent of the other person. A lack of consent can be demonstrated either by saying NO or by any act of disagreement (EX. Pushing your partner off of you or even simply showing signs that you are uncomfortable, is sufficient in order to express your lack of consent).


Always remember: Consent should always be obtained without force!


  • Sexual touching or sexual acts against the will of the individual
  • Exploiting an individual for pornographic means
  • Harassing an individual sexually (at the workplace, at school or in the streets)


Physical Abuse: It is characterised by violent acts against another person. When physical abuse is present in the relationship, it is very likely that it is coupled with verbal, psychological or sexual abuse.

  • Biting, pinching or pushing
  • Hitting/punching, kicking
  • Confinement
  • Threatening with a weapon
  • Death threats
  • Throwing objects


Economic Abuse: It prevents a person from having economic independence. Once again, this form of abuse can be used either directly or indirectly.


  • Prevent or highly discourage their partner from working
  • Controlling their partners finances
  • Confiscating their partners pay checks or source of income


Spiritual Abuse: It forces a person to practice a certain religion or it can be used to forbid them from practicing their desired religion.


  • Threatening or intimidating a partner to practice or not to practice a religion


  • Prevent them from going to a religious institution
  • Forcing them to go to a religion institution
  • Denigrate their religion


How do I feel?


Although, there are a wide range of emotions that a victim might feel, the following is a general perspective of how you could feel:

  • You might be in constant fear of your partner
  • You might feel alone, helpless, tired or afraid
  • You could be depressed and confused as a result of your partners actions
  • You could be fearful for the safety of your children


How does your partner act?
  • He might often blow up over small incidents
  • He might be extremely jealous and might often claim that his jealousy is a sign of love for you
  • He might isolate you by devaluing your friends and family in order to cut you off from all social support
  • He might hold stereotypic views about gender roles in society
  • He might believe that it is okay for him to use violence to solve conflicts



Children exposed to conjugal violence experience a roller-coaster of emotions. The consequences of exposure to violence on children vary by age group.

  • Effects on infants:
    • Can range from being easily startled and fearful


  • Effects on school aged children:


  • Can have low self-esteem and difficulty concentration in school


  • Effects on adolescents:


    • May experience depression, anxiety and may turn to drug use as a means of numbing their emotions.

Children, who are witnesses to conjugal violence tend to learn poor coping strategies and are more likely to normalize violent behaviours which can lead to their own unhealthy and abusive relationships. While each child’s experience with violence is unique, stopping exposure to violence is the best thing you can do.  With support from family, friends and social workers your child can thrive!



There are four phases to the cycle of violence. Each phase indicates the behaviour of the abuser and the consequences the act will have on the victim. The existence of such a cycle is more obvious when there is physical violence in the relationship, however the cycle exists regardless of the form of abuse (physical, psychological, economical, spiritual and sexual). Finally, the length and intensity of each phase differs from one relationship to the next.



The cycle of violence constantly repeats itself with less time between each violent episode. Also, it is imperative to remember that the ultimate level of the cycle of violence is spousal homicide.  


Therefore, it is imperative to break the silence, as it is the only way to stop the cycle of violence.



  • Many small incidents over a longer period of time
    • These incidents can range anywhere from trying to change her behaviour to glaring looks or criticisms.
  • Violence usually causes anxiety and fear in the victim; and they may feel as though they are walking on eggshells around their partner in order to avoid the escalation of violence
  • Victim usually feel responsible for the situation and hopes that the violence is just a phase



  • Violence is aggravated
  • Violent episode can last from a few minutes to a few days
  • Victim is in a state of shock and is confused
  • Victim feels powerless



  • Abuser tends to justify his actions
  • Victim can internalise this justification
  • Victim will eventually start questioning themselves as to whether or not they are to blame for their partners abuse





  • Abusive partner can begs for forgiveness and promises that the violence is over
  • Abuser will say that he can change and the victim hopes that he will
  • Abuser will become kind and gentle



This last period can vary in length and may not even be present in certain relationships.

However, at one point in the reconciliation phase, the violence will erupt and the cycle of violence will begin once again.





Usually victims of conjugal violence feel isolated, lonely, and are filled with fear. Therefore, even if you might be hesitant to help, the simple act of reaching out and letting a victim know that you are there to support them, can provide tremendous relief.


If a victim does decide to open up to you, listen to her without passing judgement. However always make sure that both you and the victim are in a safe environment. Also, it is imperative that you do not bring up the issue in front of others and most importantly in front of the victims partner.


Finally, help the victim access support services such as talking to a social worker, attending support groups and help her find information about her rights.




  • Do not isolate yourself, it is important that you speak to someone you are comfortable with about your situation.
  • Seek out external resources, there are many resources available to help you such as talking to a social worker, who will listen to you and give you information about your rights and different options. Also, this service is free and confidential.
  • Call the police and report the incident. It is important to remember to write down the report number in order to refer to the incident at a later date.
    • However, after reporting an incident to police, the decision to press charges is not up to you and the police can press charges against your partner, even if you don not want to.
    • Remember 1 out of 4 calls to police is someone reporting a conjugal violence situation
  • Go to a shelter, if you do not feel safe in your own home. Shelters are secure and confidential locations you can live in for a certain period of time, and where you can have access to a support system of social workers who can help you start your new life.
  • The services offered by shelters are: individual consultations, support groups and accompaniments.
  • Also certain shelters have social workers who do speak your langue. Therefore, you can be provided information in the language you are most confortable with.  This service is also free, and all information discussed with the social workers is confidential.


If you are a victim of abuse, you are not alone and you have the right to be safe! Do not be afraid to ask for help!






Is conjugal violence a private or public issue?

  • Conjugal violence is NOT considered a private issue but rather a social problem, which needs to be openly discussed. Furthermore, in Canada, conjugal violence is not tolerated.
  • Also, the idea that conjugal violence is a private matter further ostracizes the victim and keeps them under the control of their partner. It also prevents them from seeking any form of help.

Why would a woman in a violent relationships stay with their partners?


  • There are a number of reasons why a woman would decide to stay with their abusive partner. Some women have hope that their partner will change (stop their violent behaviour), others feel guilty about breaking up their family and there are also women who believe they are not financially independent enough to make it on their own.


If a partner seeks help for their violent issues, will the abuse stop?

  • Therapy can address the violent behaviour but it is not a miracle solution. The first step towards change is for the partner to recognize that they need to change. Furthermore, the consequences of the violence (including both physical and psychological) will not go away on its own. It is important that the victim finds a way to heal from the effects of the abuse (EX. by talking to a social worker, by attending a support group, etc.)

Can men be victims of conjugal violence?


  • Yes. Due to the fact that conjugal violence is based on a relationship of domination; both men and women can become victims of this crime. In fact, of all the cases of conjugal violence reported in Québec, approximately 15% of victims are men.  




Conjugal violence is not tolerated in Canada, in all shapes and forms. If you are worried about the safety of yourself and your children, there are a number of resources that can help you:


  • If it is an urgent matter: Call the police 911
  • SOS violence conjugale: 1-800-363-9010 will put you in contact with different shelters
  • For external services contact the Shield of Athena: 1-877-274-8117


REMEMBER… You have the right to be free from abuse and you can break free from the cycle of violence!