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How to recognize when issues are arising

By Kayla Empey

Posted on August 6, 2021
gender based violence victim

This article contains examples of domestic violence, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse, and a mention of suicide.

Gender based violence can encompass many different forms of abuse, some more obvious than others. This can mean physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse.

Violence appears most commonly in romantic relationships, often making it difficult for the victim to leave the person they love. Domestic violence often begins subtly before evolving into something worse. The victim might not recognize the abuse right away, or might try to ignore it for other benefits the relationship brings.

It can be easy for someone to assume it will never happen to them, particularly when they see their partner as trustworthy. But it is important to remember that gender-based violence happens to 1 in 3 women.

Being mindful of your significant other’s history is the first step to detecting warning signs of abuse. This can include looking at their history of violence against other people, alcohol or drug use, mental health issues or access to weapons such as guns or knives.

Even if there is no indication of a violent past, it is important to learn how to recognize when issues are arising within a relationship. Here are some common signs that gender-based violence could be present:


A common sign of domestic violence is if a partner is possessive or tries to control your behaviour.

Firstly, pay attention to your partner’s beliefs about the role of women. Any indication that they believe men are superior to women is a warning of danger. This could mean thinking women should take care of the men, or that the men ‘own’ the woman in a relationship.

Even if they do not have these beliefs, they can still be possessive in other ways. An abuser might try to control all the finances, insist you reply right away to all their texts and calls, or demand to know the passwords to your social media accounts. They might also try to make everyday decisions for you that are not theirs to make, such as what you wear or eat, how you spend your money or your use of medications.

Unpredictability or jealousy

Another sign that issues are arising is if your partner has a quick and unpredictable temper, to the point where you never know when they will have a burst of anger. It is possible that they might also try to blame you for their outbursts or threaten you in some sort of way. If you feel as though you have to tip-toe around your significant other to not upset them, this could be a sign of gender-based violence.

An abusive partner might also be unreasonably jealous and constantly accuse you of cheating. They might try to keep track of everything you do, and even discourage you from seeing certain friends and family.

Demeaning behaviour

Gender-based violence also presents itself in the form of demeaning behaviour. Your partner might insult you about the way you look or your intelligence. They might purposely humiliate you or make you feel bad about what you enjoy.

An abuser might also try to sabotage parts of your life, such as your ability to attend school or work.


Guilt is commonly used to manipulate, but it can sometimes be the most difficult to recognize. An abusive partner might make you feel bad for disagreeing with them or not giving them what they want. They might try to blame you for anything bad that happens.

For example, a partner might make you feel bad about not wanting to have sex with them, or guilt you into stopping birth control for their pleasure. They could also assume that because you consented to a sexual act in the past means that you will always want to do it. They might say something like, “well you did it before, why not again?”

Remember that sexual abuse is also a form of gender-based violence. Beyond guilting you into sex, an abuser could go so far as to force you to have sex or do any sexual activities with them that you do not consent to.

Guilt is also used by abusers to trap a person in a relationship. Your partner might say that you have to stay with them because they need you to support them emotionally, or might even threaten to kill or hurt themselves if you leave. They could also guilt you into staying by arguing that they have provided you with money, shelter or food so you do not have the right to leave.

Physical abuse of you or others

The previous issues are focused more on emotional abuse, but it is also important to look out for the ways in which a partner can be physically abusive too.

Physical abuse does not have to mean leaving giant bruises and injuries on your skin—it can also be relatively minor incidents.

Examples could be:

  • Grabbing you with force
  • Shaking or pushing you
  • Hair-pulling
  • Restraining you against your will or locking you somewhere

It is also important to pay attention to any physical abuse of others, such as family members, children or pets.

Getting help

If you do find yourself in such situations, it is important to reach out for help as soon as possible.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

Otherwise, begin developing a safety plan—a plan that includes ways to keep yourself safe while in your relationship, planning to leave or after you leave. is an online resource to assist women seeking safety from abuse. The website includes an interactive map that allows women to be connected to the nearest shelter to them in Canada. You do not need to stay in a shelter to get help, you can also call a shelter to receive support, information or referrals.

You can also visit Ending Violence Association of Canada’s website for more crisis and help lines available in your province or territory.

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