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Woman abuse involves the intent by a woman’s intimate partner (dating, common-law, legally married or estranged) to intimidate her, either by threat or by use of physical force on her person or property. The purpose of the assault is to control her behaviour by the inducement of fear, either by forcing her to do what he wants or by preventing her from doing as she wishes. Underlying all abuse is a power imbalance between the victim and the perpetrator.

Joint Committee on
Domestic Violence

What is woman abuse?

The term woman abuse describes any kind of abuse a woman is subjected to because she is a woman. This kind of abuse may also be called “gender-based violence”, “family violence” or “gender-based abuse”.

This abuse can happen in a woman’s intimate relationship (dating, common-law, marriage), in which case it may be called “domestic violence” or “intimate partner abuse”.

Sexual violence, including sexual harassment and sexual assault/abuse is gender-based violence. The perpetrator of sexual violence could be the woman’s partner/spouse, someone she is dating, someone she knows at school, work or in the community or a stranger.

Woman abuse is intentional.

The perpetrator uses abuse to gain and maintain power and control over the woman. He may do this by using physical or sexual force or by threatening to use that force. The abuser wants to control the woman’s behaviour by making her afraid. The abuse is not because the abuser has “lost control.” Most men who abuse women are not violent or abusive to other people. Alcohol use, stress and mental health issues do not cause a man to be an abuser but may trigger or exacerbate an abusive episode.

The United Nations General Assembly (1993) defines woman abuse as, “any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty whether occurring in public or in private.”

Woman abuse creates fear, can make the woman feel humiliated and gives the abuser power and control over the woman.

It can occur in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships.

A woman may be subjected to abuse by her partner during an intimate relationship, while she and her partner are breaking up or after they have separated.

Many, but not all, forms of woman abuse are against the law in Canada. It is a serious problem that occurs throughout society and has negative effects on the health and well-being of women, children, families and the community.