Intimate partner violence occurs within the context of a current or past intimate relationship. It can occur in any type of intimate relationship, regardless of its duration, and regardless of the gender identity of the partners: married or civil union, common-law, polyamorous partner, friends with benefits, dating, etc.
This type of violence can occur at any age. The main difference between intimate partner violence and "relationship conflicts" is that there is an imbalance in the distribution of power between the partners.
To control the victim, the abuser uses multiple strategies, such as insults, threats or intimidation. The violence can continue even when the partners break up; this is called post-separation violence.
Intimate partner violence can also include violence against the victim's family, property or even pets. It can also be directed at the victim's new partner.
Different forms of intimate partner violence
Contrary to what many people think, intimate partner violence can occur without physical abuse. It covers a wide range of behaviours and can manifest itself in different forms:
• verbal violence: orders, yelling, degrading or humiliating words, etc.
• psychological violence: social isolation, devaluation of the partner, breaking of valuable objects, etc.
• physical abuse: beatings, burns, bites, etc.
• sexual abuse: sexual assault, harassment or intimidation to have sex, etc.
• economic abuse: control of income and expenses, not allowing the partner to work, etc.
• spiritual abuse: forcing the partner to practice or stop practicing a religion, ridiculing beliefs, etc.
Acts that can be crimes
The law does not specifically recognize intimate partner violence as a crime. However, many acts committed in the context of intimate partner violence can be crimes. For example:
• Threats to kill or injure
• Sexual assault
• Criminal harassment
• Sharing intimate images
• Homicide and attempted murder
• Breaking and entering
Although it is experienced by partners of all gender identities, intimate partner violence primarily affects women, regardless of their culture, social status or income. It can be argued that intimate partner violence is largely the result of historically unequal relationships between women and men, where women are disadvantaged.
Cycle of violence
We speak here of a cycle of violence because the aggressor and the victim enter an infinite loop that is divided into 4 phases:
The abuser has episodes of anger, threatens the other person with glares and/or gives the silent treatment. The victim feels anxious, walks on eggshells and is careful about what he or she does.
The abuser abuses the other person verbally, psychologically, economically, physically and/or sexually. The victim feels humiliated and sad.
The abuser finds excuses to justify his or her behaviour: fatigue, alcohol, stress at work, etc. The victim doubts his or her own perceptions and feels responsible for the situation.
Also called "honeymoon phase"; the abuser gives compliments, gifts. They swear it won’t happen again. The victim feels as if they are "back" with the person they fell in love with.
Each time the loop is closed, the violence may intensify in the abuse phase and the periods of reconciliation may gradually shorten.
In the long run, the cycle of violence has a devastating effect on victims as it continually repeats itself. Each time the cycle begins again, victims become more disempowered: they question their own judgment, doubt their perception, lose their self-esteem, fear their environment, try to prevent outbursts of anger, and live in a constant state of terror. All of these elements allow the abuser to maintain control over the victim.
As the abuse becomes more entrenched in the relationship, the episodes become more frequent and the tension and the assaults become more intense.
In some cases, the violence may even change, for example from emotional abuse to verbal abuse or from verbal abuse to economic abuse.
• Éducaloi - https://educaloi.qc.ca/capsules/la-violence-conjugale/
• Gouvernement du Québec - https://www.quebec.ca/famille-et-soutien-aux-personnes/violences/violence-conjugale/definition-de-la-violence-conjugale
• Table de concertation en violence conjugale de Montréal - https://www.tcvcm.ca/page/victime-de-violence-conjugale
Are you wondering if your relationship is violent?
Are you wondering if you are in a situation of intimate partner violence? Take the confidential interactive questionnaire from SOS conjugal violence :