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Domestic Violence

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Without denying the fact that men can also be victims of domestic violence, in most cases, the victim is a woman and the abuser is her current or ex-partner. Victims and abusers have no particular characteristics. Some victims are young, some older; they are rich or not so rich; educated or not. Most men who abuse their partners do not exhibit violent behaviour outside their relationship. They are often good work colleagues and friendly neighbours.

Domestic violence takes many forms . . .

Violence against women is most often associated with physical abuse. However, violence may take many forms including psychological abuse, verbal abuse and sexual abuse. Financial domination is another form of violence. For example, a man who controls the expenses and income of his partner without her consent is engaging in financial abuse.

. . . and has serious consequences.

Violence has serious human, social and economic consequences both for the women who endure it and for society as a whole. Violence is detrimental to women’s personal and financial independence and can do serious damage to their physical and mental well-being.

The women, men and children who are caught up in a cycle of violence need appropriate support and treatment to help them break free.


  • In 2000, approximately 16,000 people in Québec were victims of crimes against persons in a domestic context. Eighty-five percent of the victims of these crimes were women (Ministère de la Sécurité publique, La violence conjugale : statistiques 2000 [Domestic Violence: 2000 Statistics]).
  • Women are the main victims of domestic homicides. From 1995 to 2000, 95 women were killed by their partners, ex-partners or boyfriends, which represents an average of 16.8 deaths per year in Québec (Ministère de la Sécurité publique, La violence conjugale : statistiques 2000 [Domestic Violence: 2000 Statistics]).
  • Young women from 15 to 24 have the highest risk of being killed by their partners or boyfriends (Statistics Canada 2000). This age group is the second most likely to report domestic violence to the police (Ministère de la Sécurité publique, La violence conjugale : statistiques 2000 [Domestic Violence: 2000 Statistics]).
  • Over a period of one year, over 100,000 women in Québec, or 6% of women over 18 who have a live-in partner, were victims of physical violence at the hands of their partner (Institut de la statistique du Québec, 2002).
  • Most children of women who are victims of domestic violence are present during acts of physical abuse: 75% witness the violence; 20% participate in it and 11% are also victims of the abuse. (Larouche, 1987; Sudermann and Jaffe, 1999).

How Is Domestic Violence Expressed?

Domestic violence does not suddenly appear in a relationship. It begins progressively and sometimes very subtly. Domestic violence can be expressed in many ways. A violent man may use physical force (e.g., hitting his partner or throwing things), but he may also make off-colour jokes, resort to blackmail or make unsubstantiated accusations. Sometimes he humiliates, insults, threatens or shouts at his partner. He may control her activities, monitoring who she sees and who she speaks to. He may keep tabs on her expenses and on how much money she has at her disposal. He may also resort to violence during sexual relations.

Examples of Domestic Violence:

  • Constantly criticizing his partner as well as her tastes and abilities
  • Putting down her friends or forbidding her to see friends or family
  • Controlling what she does or what she wears
  • Making fun of her physical appearance or sexual performance
  • Shouting for no good reason
  • Threatening suicide if she attempts to leave or using her kids to get to her

Violence: When It Starts in Adolescence

A surprising number of teenage girls report incidents of violence in their relationships. For a teenager, having a boyfriend or girlfriend is a sign of prestige. Young girls may want to please their boyfriends to their own detriment. They often feel responsible for the happiness or unhappiness of their partner.

The desire for control is still very common among adolescent males: “If you think I’m going out with you dressed like that!”; ”If you really loved me, you’d do as I say.” Violence in teenage relationships very often resembles that found in adult couples.

Prevention among young people involves providing them with egalitarian models that will foster more harmonious relationships between young women and men.

The Key to Breaking Free: Talking about It

Whatever form violence takes, talking about it is critical. Fear, shame or embarrassment can keep women and girls isolated in the grip of violence. It is therefore vital to break the wall of silence, talk about violence and seek help. This applies equally to victims, abusers and witnesses.

If someone talks to you about domestic violence in their relationship, it is important to listen without judgment and realize that considerable courage is required to talk about it, in the face of embarrassment, shame and fear. Regaining control over one’s life is not an easy thing to do. Each person proceeds at their own rate, and this should be respected.


Various resources are available to listen and provide support to people who want to talk about domestic violence: telephone hotlines, support groups for women and men, shelters for women and their children, health professionals, family members, friends, neighbours and work colleagues.

  • CLSC in your region
  • S.O.S. Violence conjugale
    Telephone: 514-873-9010 or 1-800-363-9010
  • Tel-jeunes (24/7)
    Telephone hotline service
    Telephone: 514-288-2266 or 1-800-263-2266
  • Women’s center
    Consult the phone book.
  • Ordre professionnel des travailleurs sociaux du Québec
    (Professional Order of Social Workers of Québec)
    Telephone: 514-731-3925 or 1-888-731-9420
  • Ordre professionnel des psychologues du Québec
    (Professional Order of Psychologists of Québec)
    Telephone: 514-738-1223 or 1-800-561-1223

Public Communication Campaigns

The Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux has conducted public communication campaigns in support of its policies:

  • La violence, c’est pas toujours frappant mais ça fait toujours mal
    (Violence may not always be striking, but it always hurts.)
    site on violence (in French only)
  • Parler, c’est grandir
    (Talking means growing up.)
    www.jparle.com (in French only)

2004-2009 Government Action Plan on Domestic Violence

In 2004, the Government made public an action plan against domestic violence consisting of 72 commitments based on four key focuses of intervention: prevention, detection, adaptation to special realities and socio-judicial intervention. Eight government ministries including three secretariats and their respective assistance and protection networks are accountable for the commitments made in the Plan d'action gouvernemental 2004-2009 en matière de violence conjugale. The priority of this action plan is the safety and protection of victims and their families.

Other Sources to Consult:

*The mention of a Website or link on this site does not imply an official endorsement by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux.

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