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Understanding Abuse

What is Abuse

Abuse can happen to anyone, any time.

Any woman may experience abuse. It doesn’t matter how old she is, her race, ethnicity, education, cultural identity, socioeconomic status, occupation, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental abilities – or her personality. Abuse can happen to anyone.

And it can happen at any point in a woman’s life – from childhood to old age.


Jennifer is 17 years old. She left home at 16 to live with her boyfriend Joe, against her parents’ wishes. “You’ll ruin your life. He’s a loser and you’re too young to be shacking up with someone,” they raged. “If you move out, we don’t ever want you back.” When she got pregnant, Joe was furious and beat her badly. Jennifer feels she has nowhere to turn. She fears Joe, but does not want to admit to her parents or friends that she made a mistake. Joe has also told her that if she leaves, he’s not paying child support and will have nothing to do with the child. She endures his abuse, feeling she has no options.

Jennifer does have options. Optimism Place will shelter her – and everything she shares about her situation will be kept confidential. She also has access to the Family Court Support worker who will guide her in obtaining information about the family court process regarding custody and support.

There are many kinds of abuse, including:

  • Physical abuse, which includes hitting, punching, kicking, pushing, use of a weapon. These are all criminal offences in Canada, whether or not you’re physically injured.
  • Verbal abuse includes yelling, shouting, threats, refusing to talk. Most kinds of verbal abuse are not criminal offences. Nonetheless they are damaging and unacceptable.
  • Emotional/psychological abuse is often very hard to identify, but can include making you feel worthless, getting the children to insult and demean you, controlling and intimidating you through words and actions.
  • Social abuse can include cutting you off from family and friends, following you around, constantly calling and/or messaging you.
  • Financial abuse can involve controlling the money, not giving you enough to have any independence, wasting money the family needs on selfish purchases.
  • Sexual abuse might involve forcing you to have sexual relations, hurting you or forcing you to perform specific sexual acts against your will, insulting you sexually, refusing to have sex, having sex with others. Some of these behaviours are criminal offences and marital rape is always against the law.

When these behaviours form a pattern, the relationship is abusive. Many women live for years in abusive relationships, because they don’t believe they have any other choice.

Optimism Place can be that other choice.

We can help you leave an abusive relationship and offer guidance as you begin the transition. We have the support and services you need to start a new life. Don’t be afraid to call.


Maria is a 32-year-old mother of three, a well-paid shift-worker in a factory. Her husband Nick is an assistant manager at a grocery store. He says he loves her and Maria sees him as being a good dad to the children. Everyone thinks they have a perfect life, but Nick resents that Maria makes more money than he does. He refers to her as a failure, a lowdown factory worker. Shortly after the birth of their first child, he started having affairs and telling her about them in detail. Then he suggested he’d stop cheating on her if Maria would “do some of the things in bed” that these other women did. Thinking it might save her marriage, she agreed, but now she is frightened. He is into S&M and recently has raised the idea of choking as a sexual enhancement. The idea terrifies Maria, but she cannot admit how degrading her marriage has become to anyone.

Nick is emotionally and sexually abusing Maria. Optimism Place can provide her and her children with the shelter and support she needs, with just one phone call.

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