I’ve noticed warning signs

You have doubts about your relationship or a friend’s relationship. Making sense of the situation isn’t always easy so here are some examples that may help.

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Is my relationship normal?

Is it really always my fault? Is this considered violence? Have you ever asked yourself these questions? You’re not alone in this.

Domestic violence affects people of all ages and in all types of relationships from casual dating to marriage. Elle n’a pas de frontières ou de classes sociales.It’s not restricted by geography or social class. Domestic violence involves a range of recurring behaviours that an individual engages in on a daily basis in order to dominate their relationship and reap benefits and privileges to the detriment of their partner or ex-partner.

Domestic violence is domination through control and the violent partner will readily use various forms of violence in order to maintain their power over the other person.

Domestic violence can be a factor in all kinds of relationships, regardless of gender identity. However, since 80% of domestic violence victims in Canada are women and, in the majority of cases, the perpetrator of violence is a male partner, we chose to use examples and address the subject from the perspective of a woman victimized by a man. However, it is important to note that, regardless of the type of relationship, domestic violence has very specific characteristics.

The different types of violence can coexist and also be used together.

This is a change in the intensity of a person’s tone and intonation that sends the victim a clear message. Whether a partner shouts, whispers or gives the silent treatment, the objective is the same: to make the victim comply. 

  • “He would sometimes ignore me for two days at a time and I never knew why.”
  • “During a dinner with friends, he whispered in my ear, ‘I know you want to screw that guy. You can’t stop looking at him. You’re nothing but a slut.’”
  • “When he gets angry, he shouts really loudly and when I ask him to keep it down, he doesn’t listen to me. It’s embarrassing. I’m sure the neighbours can hear it.”

This form of violence is not easy to detect. However, it’s very common. The perpetrator of violence uses it in an insidious way to make their victim doubt themself. They attack their self-esteem, personality and dignity.


  • “Whenever we had an argument or went through a rough patch, it was always my fault.”
  • “My ex often told me that I was crazy and was imagining things and I should see a doctor.”
  • “It’s like I could never do anything right. Even when I thought I was good at something, it was never good enough for him.”
  • “My boyfriend sometimes makes hurtful remarks. When I bring this up, he tells me it was just a joke and I take everything personally.”

This is the malicious use of various technologies for the purpose of harming or controlling the victim. Technological violence can take the form of surveillance, online harassment or sharing intimate content without consent.


  • “He says that if I have nothing to hide, giving him my passwords shouldn’t bother me.”
  • “My partner reads my personal emails and texts and doesn’t always ask for permission.
  • “My boyfriend constantly texts and calls me. I have to reply even if I’m at work or school. If I don’t, he gets angry.”
  • “I found out that my ex tracked my movements on an application that he installed on my cellphone.

This form of violence involves using physical force to dominate, intimidate or dissuade the victim. This kind of behaviour doesn’t always involve physical contact.


  • “My boyfriend has never hit me, but when we argue, he sometimes punches holes in the wall, throws things or breaks things.”
  • “My partner has grabbed me by the throat.”
  • “He stopped me from seeing a doctor even when I was very sick and suffering.”

This is an abusive use of religious or spiritual beliefs to control a victim. A person may impose their own beliefs and practices, ridicule someone else’s beliefs and practices or prevent them from practicing their faith.


  • “Whenever I mention my beliefs, he laughs at me.”
  • “Whenever I wanted to go to church, he told me I was stupid.”
  • “He often tells me that I should obey him because God would want me to.”
  • “When I was with my ex, I always had to wear clothes that covered my arms and legs. If I didn’t, he’d tell me I looked like a slut.

This kind of violence can be difficult to define since it’s of an intimate nature and there are many sexual taboos. Sexual violence is any act that is not consensual. It doesn’t always involve physical contact.


  • “He expects me to be in the mood whenever he is and if I don’t accept, he sulks and completely ignores me for several days.”
  • “My boyfriend tells me that if I don’t agree to certain sexual practices, he’ll find someone else who will.”
  • “Without asking me, he sent images and photos of our sexual intimacy to one of his friends.”
  • “I thought it wasn’t rape because we were in a relationship, but I was wrong.”

This form of violence primarily restricts the victim’s autonomy, which can often force them to remain in the relationship. It may involve complete control over finances or, on the contrary, an obligation to get into debt to support the violent partner or meet their needs.


  • “Even though I have a job, he manages my accounts and my budget. Whenever I want to buy something, I have to ask him. This often ends in an argument and he tells me I’m selfish.
  • “He takes my credit card without asking me. He even forged my signature and applied for a credit limit increase.”
  • “I had to take out a loan for him in my name because he didn’t have credit. He told me he’d pay me back every month, but he never did.
  • “I left the perfect job because he didn’t like that I was working with men.”
  • “He forced me to take the same vacation days as him even though I didn’t have any paid leave. I couldn’t make ends meet at the end of the month.”

Social violence is characterized by isolating the victim across different spheres of their life and/or affecting their self-image.


  • “I lost several jobs because of him.”
  • “When I wasn’t in the room, he’d tell my friends and family that I wasn’t doing well and he was trying to help me, but I wouldn’t hear of it.”
  • “I no longer speak to my brother because he doesn’t get on with him.”
  • “Whenever I wanted to see my best friend, we’d argue and he’d come up with a reason for cancelling.”

Domestic violence doesn’t necessarily stop after partners separate. Perpetrators of violence often change their violent behaviour based on the situation.


  • “When I reported my ex’s violent behaviour towards myself and the children to the social workers, he accused me of alienating him from the children.”
  • “I know he’s doing this on purpose to drag out the legal proceedings.”
  • “When we meet to hand over the children, he asks me questions about my private life and relationships and when I want to leave, he tries to stop me.”
  • “He accuses me of breaking up the family.”


Understanding the Insidious Aspects of Violence

In order to fully understand the insidious nature of domestic violence, we must talk about the use of control in relationships.

Coercive control is a pattern of violent behavior that seeks to take away a person’s freedom and to strip away their sense of self. The person using violence creates a world in which the person experiencing coercive control is constantly monitored and criticised; their every move is checked against an unpredictable, ever-changing, unknowable rule book.

Coercive control involves using a range of repetitive strategies on a daily basis. Not all of these strategies are violent, but they all directly or indirectly force a person to be obedient. The accumulation of these strategies allows the perpetrator of violence to tighten their grip on their partner. Where there is a power dynamic in a relationship, there may be several manifestations of more subtle violence.



Emotional blackmail*

Isolation tactics


Fake kindness


Constant surveillance

* This is a form of control where guilt and fear are used to blackmail the other person. The perpetrator places their partner in a dilemma while persuading them that they’ll face guilt or fear if they don’t do what they want.

** This is a form of psychological violence that involves “lying or making another person doubt their perceptions.” This form of manipulation is used on a daily basis to distort the victim’s reality and lead them to doubt themself and their perceptions.


Being deprived of your freedom

  • Depriving someone of their right to life, liberty and security of the person.
  • Restricting or removing access to financial, social and health resources, for example.

Feeling like you're under constant surveillance (micromanagement).

  • Having the impression that you must comply with general, specific or implicit rules.

How control and violence manifest themselves

  • The use of strategies for the purpose of harming another person.

  • Violent behaviour (economic, physical, psychological, etc.)

The accumulation of these types of behaviour ensures that, over time, the victims feel they are trapped with no way out and physical violence is no longer necessary. The term coercive control attempts to dispel the myth of the “battered wife” because domestic violence goes far beyond violence that can be seen or heard. This dynamic is felt and experienced by the victims and affects them deeply.

Differentiating between an argument and domestic violence

How does my partner react when we argue? Do they shift the blame onto me? Do they make me feel like I’m being stupid or ridiculous? Am I afraid to express myself in my relationship? Does my partner justify their violent behaviour and always come up with a good reason?

Violence and control in a relationship goes far beyond simple communication issues and arguments.

When arguing with your partner

You feel that:

  • Both you and your partner strive to resolve any conflict and your arguments are clear and related to the subject.
  • You can both share your thoughts and point of view.
  • You argue about a particular subject and this subject can come up at times, but your partner doesn’t use a pretext to create conflict.
  • Even though you disagree, you’re both on an equal footing.
  • Even though you have differing opinions, you can freely express yourself and share your opinion without fearing their reaction.
  • The person who started the argument can more easily step back.
  • You both have to make certain compromises.

When arguing with your partner where there is a power dynamic

You feel that:

  • Your partner doesn’t see you as equals.

  • There could be consequences if you share your thoughts on the subject.

  • You fear your partner’s reaction.

  • You’re always walking on eggshells.

  • Regardless of what you say or do, there will be an argument.

  • Your partner is disrespectful towards you during discussions.

  • When an argument escalates (aggression, forms of violence), the other person always has excuses for their actions.

Don’t forget that disagreement is normal, but violence is not.

Recognize the warning signs

Abusive relationships begin in the same way as healthy relationships, but certain indicators allow us to identify potentially controlling individuals.


“My ex is crazy. It’s her fault that I lost custody of my children. She made false accusations of domestic violence.”


The person blames either something else or someone else for every negative aspect of their life. “I lost my job because my boss is incompetent.”“I don’t talk to my family anymore because they don’t care about me.”“It’s not my fault. I was tired.”“It’s not my fault. I’m under a lot of stress.”If they have an excuse for everything, they’ll also have one when it comes to you.


Don’t listen to her. She knows nothing about politics!” “You’re definitely fatter than my ex. That’s OK, but you could easily lose a few pounds.” And when you express your unease, they justify their behaviour and/or make you feel guilty. “Take it easy. It was just a joke! You take everything personally!”


They don’t like that you have friends and want to check your emails/texts/calls. They justify their behaviour because they were cheated on or for XYZ reasons… Early on, their surveillance tactics (turning up at your workplace to see you, insisting on video calls, wanting you to call them when you finish working) can be perceived as protection. “When I go out with my boyfriend, I’m really on edge. If anyone makes eye contact with me, I become afraid. I’m always afraid that he’ll start yelling at people.”


They insist on being the centre of every conversation and talk about themself, their projects and anecdotes. They regularly put their needs before those of their partner and even their children, at times. “Whenever I talk about something that affects me, he steers the conversation back to himself and his experiences.”


You haven’t been dating for long, but they’ve already mentioned moving in together or they’re making plans for your future (children, house) without taking time to get to know you and without consulting you. They’re even directly or indirectly pressuring you to commit to them. “We’d only been together for three months when he moved in with me.” When he asked me, I hesitated and he said, “So you don’t love me and you’re not sure about our relationship! I couldn’t really say no.”


The use of drugs or alcohol is not what causes a person to engage in violent behaviour. However, it can amplify the behaviour. “When he takes drugs, he always insists that I do too. Even if I don’t really want to, he always finds a way to convince me. And if he doesn’t, he tells me I’m boring.”“After two months together, I realized that he took drugs way more often than he led me to believe in the beginning.”


Depending on whether a situation is related to their own behaviour or that of others, they’ll analyze it differently. “When he’s involved, it’s a very different story. When I tell him it’s not fair, he says I shouldn’t compare apples to oranges.”“He drinks two or three beers every night. When I pour myself an occasional glass of wine, he accuses me of being alcoholic.”


They believe in traditional gender roles. “The man goes out to work and earn money and the woman’s job is to take care of the house, the cooking and the children.”“Your friend isn’t a real woman. She doesn’t take good care of her husband.”


When you’re with other people, they’re attentive, respectful and likable. However, when you’re alone, their personality completely changes. Or, on the contrary, they treat you well, but they use you as a scapegoat when they’re with their friends.


Please bear in mind that if a person exhibits one of these behaviours, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re violent. However, such behaviours are indicators that should be seriously considered. If a person exhibits several of these behaviours, you must pause and ask yourself questions.

If you have doubts, don’t hesitate to contact us by calling 819-326-1321.