If You Think You Might be Abusive: Learning How to Stop the Cycle of Abuse

Law

Family violence (also called “domestic violence” or “domestic abuse”) is abuse of power by one person toward other people that the abuser has a relationship with. See the sections below for information about:

  • What abuse looks like
  • What a healthy relationship looks like
  • Recognizing your own abusive behaviour
  • Where to get help to change your abusive behaviour

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: July 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page has information about help available for people who are abusive toward their family members, and who want to change.

You may be wondering if your behaviour is abusive. Someone may have told you that they think you are abusive. Or you may already know that you are abusive, and you want to do something about it. Your options for help are described below.

Or, you may have a friend or loved one who you think is abusive. You can use the information below to talk to your loved one and get them the help they need so that they can stop harming others with their actions. The following resource have information about things to consider.

Web How to Talk to Men Who are Abusive
Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children
English

Web Domestic violence victims - concerned friends and family of abusers
Respect Phoneline
English
See “Concerned friends and family of domestic violence perpetrators.”
What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

family violence (also called “domestic violence” or “domestic abuse”)

Abuse of power by one person (the “abuser”) toward one or more other people that the abuser has a relationship with. It is a pattern of behaviours within a relationship of intimacy, dependency, and/or trust.

It is most common to think of family abuse happening in romantic relationships (such as dating, living together, and marriage). However, abuse can also occur in other relationships, such as those between parents and children, adult children and their parents (seniors), siblings, extended families, or people and their pets.

physical abuse

Physical abuse involves any unwanted contact with any part of a person’s body, such as punching, biting, pulling hair, slapping, pinching, pushing, or even caressing. It can also be failing to take care of a person’s physical needs or health.

There are different types of physical abuse:

  • sexual abuse: this is when someone tries to make someone else do something sexual that they do not want to do.
  • medication abuse: this happens when someone fails to properly provide medication for another person. For example: giving him or her too much medication, not giving enough medication, or not giving the medication at all.
  • physical neglect: this is when someone fails to do something, which puts another’s person’s health, safety, or well-being at risk. Physical neglect happens when someone does not provide someone else with their physical needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing.

emotional abuse

Emotional abuse happens when someone uses words or emotions to hurt another person. It is sometimes called verbal abuse or psychological abuse. Emotional abuse is intended to scare the other person, make them feel bad about themselves, and/or control them.

This type of abuse can include:

  • yelling;
  • belittling;
  • controlling;
  • threatening;
  • threatening to commit suicide so that the other person stays;
  • calling names;
  • abusing an animal that the person cares about; and
  • isolating the person from their family and loved ones.

financial abuse

Financial abuse happens when someone tries to use or control someone else’s money. This type of abuse can include:

  • controlling what they buy;
  • using their bank accounts without their knowledge or consent (including credit cards, debit cards, or cheques);
  • taking the other person’s money for themselves;
  • not letting the other person work, or limiting how many hours they work;
  • forcing them to sign legal documents that deal with money; or
  • abusing a Power of Attorney.

partner abuse

Partner abuse happens when someone causes injury or harm to the person who they are in a romantic relationship with. This type of abuse can happen between people who:

  • are currently dating, married, or living together; or
  • used to date, were previously married, or were previously living together.

child abuse

Child abuse includes any action or inaction that puts a child’s safety and well-being at risk. It is generally a pattern of behaviour rather than a single incident. The abuser could be anyone who is responsible for the care of a child, including a parent, guardian, relative, or other trusted adult.

The 4 main types of child abuse are: neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.

elder abuse

Elder abuse is an action or lack of action which causes harm to the safety, health, or well-being of an older adult.

animal abuse

Animal abuse occurs when someone mistreats an animal, either through action or inaction, and puts that animal’s safety and well-being at risk as a result. Neglect is one form of animal abuse.

What does abuse look like?

Family violence (also called “domestic violence” or “domestic abuse”) is abuse of power by one person (the “abuser”) toward one or more other people that the abuser has a relationship with. This can occur in any kind of relationship. It is most common to think of family abuse happening in romantic relationships (such as dating, living together, and marriage). However, abuse can also occur in other relationships, such as those between parents and children, adult children and their parents (seniors), siblings, extended families, or people and their pets.

Someone who is abusive may do it in different ways:

  • physically;
  • emotionally; and/or
  • financially

Physical abuse is any unwanted contact with any part of the other person’s body. This can include punching, biting, pulling hair, slapping, pinching, pushing, or even caressing. It can also be failing to take care of the other person’s physical needs or health.

Emotional abuse happens when someone uses words or emotions to hurt another person. It is sometimes called verbal abuse or psychological abuse. Emotional abuse is intended to scare the other person, make them feel bad about themselves, and/or control the other person. If someone is emotionally abusive, they might:

  • be extremely jealous;
  • never want the person to spend time with anyone else;
  • threaten the person;
  • regularly yell at the person;
  • regularly ignore the person for long periods of time (this is also called “giving the silent treatment” or “freezing out”);
  • try to control the person and make all of their decisions for them;
  • put the person down and try to make the person feel bad about themself; or
  • abuse animals to hurt another person.

Financial abuse happens when someone tries to use or control the other person’s money. If someone is financially abusive, they might:

  • control what the person buys;
  • use the person’s bank accounts without their knowledge or consent (including credit cards, debit cards, or cheques);
  • take the person’s money for themselves;
  • not let the person work, or limit how many hours they can work;
  • force the person to sign legal documents that deal with money; or
  • abuse a Power of Attorney.

For more information about recognizing abuse, see the following resources.

PDF Talking about family violence
Government of Alberta
English

Web The Power and Control Wheel
loveisrespect
English

For tools to help you determine if you are abusive in your relationship, see the “Am I abusive?” section below.

What does a healthy relationship look like?

No two relationships are ever the same. However, healthy relationships generally share similar characteristics. Sometimes it might be difficult to know whether or not you are in a healthy relationship, especially if this is your first relationship, or if you have never been in a healthy relationship before. It is important to make sure that you are in a healthy relationship. Everyone deserves to be in a healthy relationship.

People in a healthy relationship:

  • feel safe and comfortable with each other;
  • are okay spending time together as well as time apart from each other;
  • do not try to control each other; and
  • can disagree with each other but still respect each other.

For more signs and information on what a healthy romantic relationship might look like, see the following resources.

PDF Dating Abuse Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Healthy Relationships Are...
Canadian Women's Foundation
English

PDF How healthy is your relationship? Quiz
Canadian Women's Foundation
English

Web Dating Basics
loveisrespect
English

Web Healthy Relationships
loveisrespect
English

PDF Healthy Relationships Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Fact Sheet: Healthy Relationships
Native Women's Association of Canada
English

French resources:

Web Que signifie une relation saine?
Cabinet de psihoterapie
French
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Dans une relation saine, l’amour c’est :
Canadian Centre for Child Protection
French

PDF Votre relation amoureuse est-elle saine?
Université de Moncton
French

Web Relations saines et relations malsaines
Kids Help Phone
French

Web Relations saines
YWCA Canada
French

 

For more information on elders and healthy relationships, see the following resources.

Web The Importance of Maintaining Healthy Family Relationships
Comfort Keepers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Making Healthy Relationships
Elder Help-Peel
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Am I abusive?

You may be concerned that you are abusive in your family relationships. The following resources list questions for you to ask yourself to find out if your behaviour is abusive.


Web Ask Yourself, “Am I Hurting My Partner?”
National Domestic Violence Hotline
English

Interactive Am a good partner? Quiz
loveisrespect
English

PDF Are you abusive?
Center for Domestic Peace
English


Web Am I Abusive?
New Choices
English

Web Am I Abusive in my Relationship?
Rhode Island Legal Services
English

Web Is Your Behavior Abusive?
Domestic Abuse Project
English

 

For more information about recognizing abusive behaviour in yourself, see the following resources.

Web Am I Abusive?
Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter
English



Web Am I abusive?
Warwickshire Against Domestic Abuse
English




PDF What can I do if I'm abusive to my GLBT* partner?
Metropolitan Police Department
English

 

Sometimes, a person might become abusive when they drink alcohol or do drugs. For more information on the connection between family violence and substance abuse, see the following resources.


Web Why We Can't Blame Abuse on Alcohol
domesticshelters.org
English
I want to change my abusive behaviour. Where can I start? Who can help?

You can choose to change your behaviour. Choosing to change is not easy, and it will take time and work to overcome patterns of behaviour.

You are not alone. Below are some resources about how to make this decision, and who can help.

Deciding to change

See the following resources for things to think about when deciding to change.


Web Have You Been Abusive?
loveisrespect
English


Web Abusers have a choice
Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter
English


PDF Can I stop being abusive?
Break the Cycle
English

Web Is Change Possible In An Abuser?
National Domestic Violence Hotline
English

PDF Love and Respect: Teens helping teens develop safe relationships
Government of New Mexico
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See p. 17.

What sort of help is available?

For information about treatment programs for people with abusive behaviour can be, and how effective they are, see the following resources.

Web Domestic Abusers Can Reform, Studies Show
Wall Street Journal
English

Web What is Batterer Counseling?
domesticshelters.org
English

Web What is Batterer Counseling, Part 2
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Intervention Programs for Abusive Behavior
National Domestic Violence Hotline
English

 

The following resources are research reports about treatment programs in Canada. These reports may be a challenge to read.



Web Batterers' Treatment Programs
John Howard Society of Alberta
English

PDF Prevention and Early Intervention for Domestic Violence
Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter
English
Start on p. 57.

Places in Alberta that can help you change

For information about programs in Alberta that can help, see the following resources. You can also call the Family Violence Info Line at 310-1818. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 170 languages.

Interactive Domestic Violence Offender Treatment Program
Government of Alberta
English


Web Aboriginal Counseling Services of Alberta: Services
Aboriginal Counseling Services of Alberta
English

Web Programs and Services
McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association
English

Web John Howard Society of Alberta: Services
John Howard Society of Alberta
English

Web Anger Management for Mixed Groups
InformAlberta
English

Web Family and Community Support Services
Government of Alberta
English

 

Below are some programs that are available in areas across Alberta. This is not a complete list, but may give you a starting point in addition to the resources above.

Calgary
 

Web I was completely against it at first...
Calgary Counselling Centre
English

 

Camrose
 

Web Clubs & Organizations Directory for Camrose & Area
Camrose and District Support Services
English
See “Family Violence Action Society.”

 

Edmonton and area
 

Web Changing Ways Groups
Edmonton Family Violence Centre
English

Web 211 Resource Lists
Canadian Mental Health Association
English
See “Resources for Anger Management,” “Resources for Family Violence,” and “Resources for Men.”

PDF Parkland Region Resources for Family Violence
Spruce Grove Family & Community Support Services
English

 

Grande Prairie
 

Web Grande Prairie John Howard Society
John Howard Society of Alberta
English
See “Nexus Program” (for women), “Renaissance Program” (for men), and “Couples Enrichment Program.”

 

Lethbridge
 

Web Counselling, Outreach and Education
Lethbridge Family Services
English

Web Family Centre - Programs
Family Centre Society of Southern Alberta
English

 

Lloydminster
 

Web Community Programs & Education
Interval Home
English
See “New Perspectives for Men.”

 

Medicine Hat
 

Web Safe Families Intervention Team
Medicine Hat Police Service
English

 

Red Deer
 

Web Family Enrichment Program
Catholic Social Services
English

Web Programs and Services
Central Alberta Women's Emergency Shelter
English

PDF Red Deer - Elder Abuse Crisis Interventions
Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Network
English

 

Whitecourt
 

Web Family and Community Support Services
Town of Whitecourt
English
Choose “Family Violence Initiative” and then see “New Hope Family Violence Program.”

Process

Please see the Law tab of this Information Page for information about:

  • recognizing abusive behaviour in your relationships; and
  • where to get help in Alberta if you want to change your abusive behaviour.
Last Reviewed: August 2016

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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