Recognizing Signs of Abuse

CW: Discussion of abuse and violence



The above design is from BOLT Safety’s recent #ButterflyEffect campaign, with the butterfly motif symbolizing healing and growth.


Recently, BOLT Safety and Heartwork Canada announced the launch of our new partnership. Together, we are going to work to raise awareness about, and shift focus towards, allyship for survivors of violence and abuse. In the image for this article, the butterfly symbolizes life, change, hope, and healing. In August 2021, we will be running the #ButterflyEffect campaign to promote this message on our social media platforms, and we hope you’ll join us! We’re @boltsafety everywhere.


To celebrate this partnership, our team has decided to release the following article discussing various types of abuse, and draw attention towards some supportive resources available for victims and survivors.


Domestic abuse is when there are continuous attempts or behavior by the abuser to gain control or power over their partner within an intimate relationship, whether it be a romantic or familial one. For the examples provided in this article, we focus on relationships of a romantic nature. Something that’s not often talked about is how domestic abuse can occur regardless of the parties’ age, gender identity, ethnicity, race, religion, cultural background, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Regardless of the reason, the fault lies with the perpetrator of abuse, and it is extremely harmful to blame the victim and perpetuate such misconstrued narratives.


Unfortunately, domestic abuse comes in many forms, which are discussed in more detail below:


Verbal abuse is seen when the abuser...

  • Constantly insults/criticizes their partner

  • Humiliates or shames their partner

  • Acts in a possessive and jealous manner

  • Makes threats

  • Turns love and care conditional

  • Accuses or blames their partner for something they didn’t do, such as having an affair


Emotional abuse is seen when the abuser...

  • Diminishes their partner’s self-worth

  • Monitors their partner’s every movement, including where they go and who they meet

  • Shows extreme jealousy

  • Forces isolation upon their partner, restricting them from seeing friends/co-workers/children and other such support networks

  • Neglects or refuses to acknowledge needs

  • Uses anger as a tactic for control

  • Threatens to inflict physical harm to themselves, their partner, children or pet(s)


Psychological abuse is seen through the following behaviour:

  • Gaslighting: One of the main differences between emotional and psychological abuse is that the offender tends to make the victim question their own sense of reality, with the goal of hurting them and lowering their self-confidence so that they’d be more susceptible to their tactics.

  • The abuser instills fear and doubt

  • The abuser interacts when only necessary or beneficial to themselves (i.e. neglectful to their partner’s needs)

  • The abuser claims their behaviour was ‘only a joke’

  • Downplaying or invalidating their partner’s feelings

  • Giving gifts after physical abuse in attempt to console their partner


Physical abuse:

  • Any physical act of violence: hitting, biting, scratching, pushing, grabbing, pinching, punching, shoving, slapping, kicking, slamming, hair-pulling, beating, etc.

  • Damages to property or possessions (for example: throwing objects, punching walls, kicking furniture, breaking dishes, or slamming doors)

  • Driving recklessly

  • Abandonment in unfamiliar or dangerous places

  • Confinement to, or prevention from going to their house

  • Hurting their children

  • Forced drug or alcohol use

  • Prevents the victim from receiving any form of help, such as during medical emergencies

  • Threatening to, or physically inflicting wounds with a weapon


Sexual abuse:

  • Forcing a partner into a sexual act (i.e. without their freely given and sober consent)

  • Forcing a partner to dress in a sexual way

  • Involving other people to participate in sexual acts with their partner without their consent / forcing their partner to engage in sexual acts with others

  • Falsely accusing their partner of cheating

  • Being disrespectful to their partner by using demeaning names

  • Demanding sex after beating their partner, or when their partner is tired/sick

  • Hurting their partner with a weapon or other tools during sex


Financial abuse:

  • Giving their partner an allowance and withholding access to money

  • Prohibiting their partner to attend their schooling or place of work

  • Making their partner financially dependent by controlling everything finance-related

  • Refusing to allow their partner to get loans or other means of supporting themselves financially


BOLT Safety condones violence and abuse of any form, and calls upon everyone to spread awareness and be an ally for survivors. If you, or someone you know, has experienced abuse, you may find other articles on our platform under the ‘Safe Hubs’ category to be of help. You can also reach out to local women’s shelters for refuge, hospitals for medical attention, or your local police station to file a report.


The BC & Yukon VictimLink webpage also provides further resources for support.


Here’s an excerpt from the VictimLinkBC webpage, which explains their service:

“VictimLinkBC is a toll-free, confidential, multilingual service available across B.C. and the Yukon 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can be accessed by calling or texting 1-800-563-0808 or sending an email to VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca. It provides information and referral services to all victims of crime and immediate crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence, including victims of human trafficking exploited for labour or sexual services.”


If you would like to learn more, you can check out the following articles, which we used to write this article, for further reading:


United Nations: What is Domestic Abuse?

HealthLinkBC: Domestic Violence

Psychology Today: Emotional Abuse

Government of Canada: Family violence: How big is the problem in Canada?

About Spiritual: What Do Butterflies Symbolize?

Origins: Is There a Difference Between Emotional Abuse and Psychological Abuse?