Domestic Violence

This post contains information supplemental to my presentation, “Emotionally Close While Physically Distant,” part of the webinar “Helping to Stop Abuse During COVID” sponsored by Temple Sinai Toronto, Live streamed: April 20, 2021, 7:30-8:30pm.

Domestic or family violence is an abuse of power – a betrayal of trust. It is common for people who are abused to feel at fault – and to feel that they deserved to be hurt – to feel guilty and ashamed. These feelings flow from irrational thoughts. The person who is abused is NEVER responsible for the abuse no matter how much that person believes he/she provoked the abuser. It is ALWAYS the person who chose to abuse who is responsible. The only person who should feel guilty and ashamed is the abuser who has failed to control their behaviour. Abusive behaviour is a choice.

Types of Abuse

(1) Physical Abuse is any type of physical assault or physical form of harm. Included are punching, kicking, spitting, hitting, or using an object to cause pain. Other examples are forcing a person to use drugs or alcohol, forbidding a person to eat or sleep, physically blocking a person from leaving a room or house, and physically restraining a person from moving.

(2) Sexual Abuse is a form of physical abuse. It is forcing another person to engage in any type of sexual activity without their consent and engaging in sexual activity with a minor. This might include forcing the person to dress in a sexual way against their will, restraining a person against their will during sex, causing pain with an object during sex, and inviting others to witness sexual activity without the person’s consent.

(3) Physical Neglect is another type of physical abuse. Examples are failing to provide the basic necessities of life to another person – for example, not providing food, water, heating, freedom of movement, or health care and failing to protect someone from physical harm.

(4) Emotional Abuse can be difficult to recognize. Some examples are name-calling, put-downs, intimidation, swearing at the person, threats to harm the person or their children or pets, public embarrassment, preventing the person from communicating with family and friends, and blaming the survivor for the abuse.

(5) Digital Abuse is a form of emotional abuse using technology. Examples are sending abusive messages to the person, using social media to track the person’s activities, posting unflattering photos or videos of the person without their consent, pressuring the person to post unwanted photos or videos online, stealing the person’s passwords, constantly texting the person and pressuring the person to respond immediately, creating a fake social media identity, and sending messages to others pretending to be the other person.

(6) Financial Abuse involves using money or property to control and exploit someone. Examples are taking money without consent, withholding money to control someone, depositing pay in an account that only the abuser can access, getting the person fired from a job, preventing the person from going to work, maxing out a person’s credit cards without permission, pressuring someone to sign documents, pressuring the person to change their will, or pressuring them to sell something.

Recognizing Signs that a Child or Teenager is being Abused

1. Unexplained physical injuries

2. Unexplained weight loss, poor hygiene, inadequate clothing

3. The child is left in unsupervised, dangerous situations

4. The child is excessively withdrawn, fearful

5. Child’s behaviour goes from extreme compliance to aggression

6. Child is not attached to parents or caregiver

7. Child acts inappropriately as an adult or as an infant

8. Child shys away from physical touch

9. Child wears inappropriate clothing that may cover signs of physical abuse

10. Child frequently misses school without explanation

11. Child shows knowledge of sexual acts inappropriate for their age

12. Child makes a strong effort to avoid a certain person

13. Child tries to run away from home

What to Do to Help a Child or Teenager

1. Ask only “yes” and “no” questions if the child may be overheard by the abuser. You might say: “I’m worried about you. I am here for you and want to help. Is someone hurting you?”

2. Convey non-judgmental acceptance and compassionate understanding. For example, “I am sad that you are hurting. I believe everything you are telling me. I care about you. I want to help.”

3.  Help the child reduce guilt. Children are naturally egocentric. They lack the cognitive maturity to correctly attribute hurtful behaviour to the adult who is causing pain. They naturally feel that it is their fault. Tell the child “You are not to blame no matter what you said or did.”

4.  Provide the child with the phone number for Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 and instructions for texting TALK to 686868.

5. Call the Childrens’ Aid Society: 416-924-4646 or the Jewish Family and Child Service 416-638-7800. Calling Childrens’ Aid does not necessarily mean that the children will be removed from their home and your report can remain anonymous.

What to do if You are a Child or Teenager and Need Help

1. Call 911 if you feel in immediately danger

2. Contact:

1-800-668-6868 or text TALK to 686868

3. Contact:

Text HOME to 686868

4. Talk to a friend’s parent, a teacher, or another trusted adult and ask for help.

Recognizing the Signs that an Adult is Being Abused

1. Unexplained physical injuries

2. You notice unusual attempts to cover up parts of their body for example, starting to wear a scarf or long sleeve tops.

3. They are unusually meek, apologetic, and passive.

4. Avoiding discussing relationships the person has with family or caregivers.

5. Constant hypervigilance and alertness

6. Evidence of neglect such as poor hygiene or poor nutrition.

7. Evidence that medications are not being given properly.

8. Unusual compliance with family or caregiver

What to do to Help an Adult

1. Convey your concern directly. Do not wait for them to talk about the abuse. Ask only “yes” and “no” questions if you worry that they may be overheard by the abuser. For example, “I’ve noticed some changes in you recently. I’m worried about your safety. I am here for you and want to help. Are you being hurt physically? Are you being hurt emotionally?”

2. Tell them to call 911 if they are ever in immediate danger. Do not hesitate to call 911 yourself if you feel that this is the case.

3.  Ask “Is there a day and time when we could walk together to talk? Is there a day and time when we could talk privately?”

4. Convey nonjudgmental acceptance. For example, “I am sad that you are hurting. I know that this is a scary and difficult time. I believe everything you are telling me. You do not deserve this pain. I want to help.”

5. Depending on the nature of your relationship, you might consider if you are in a position to help them financially to find another place to stay, or if it is safe for you and for them, to have them stay with you.

6. Help them reduce guilt. You might say “The pain is not your fault no matter what you said or did. The person who hurt you is the only person responsible.

7. Show them the hand signal which indicates that they are in immediate danger. Say that you will call 911 if you see this signal. It is showing your palm to the camera, tucking your thumb inside your palm, and then folding your fingers on top of your thumb.

8. Call a local shelter to obtain information and share the information with them.

9. When children are living in their home, convey the message that the children will be safe only when they are safe. “By taking care of yourself, you are taking care of your children.”

10.  Recommend that they document the date and time and nature of any abuse that has occurred and keep it in a private place.

11.  Recommend that they do not retaliate or intentionally provoke the abuser. Focus them on ensuring their safety.

12. Keep in regular contact with them.

What to do if you are an Adult and Need Help

1. call 911 if you are in immediate danger. Police stations are open for walk-ins if you need to leave your home to seek help.

2. If you have children, teach them to how to call 911 in case of an emergency situation, and roleplay so that they know to give their address and not to hang up the phone.

3. If you are in danger of violent assault, create a safety plan: choose a room where you can move to if you are unable to exit the house. Avoid the kitchen or a bathroom. The room should have heavy furniture that you can move against the door. Identify the quickest route out of your home.

4. Make yourself and your health and safety the priority.

5. Contact: for a directory of local services,, Men can contact the Toronto office of Men and Families 647-479-9611,

6. Contact crisis lines. Save these phone numbers under a heading of “grocery stores” or “drug stores” if you are concerned that the abuser may see the numbers:

Distress Centres of Greater Toronto: 416-408-4357

Gerstein Crisis Centre: 416-929-5200

Distress and Crisis, Ontario: 416-486-2242

Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566

7. Call for professional help: Jewish Family and Child Services 416-638-7800, Assaulted Women’s Helpline: 416-863-0511.

8. Call for psychological treatment: Ontario Psychological Association: 416-961-5552

9. Ensure that your phone and computer are password protected.

10. Clear your call display often on all phones that the abuser might access.

11. Clear your browser history every time you use your computer.

12. Always carry your cell phone with you tucked away where it cannot be easily snatched.

13. Keep spare car keys somewhere secret.

14. Have an emergency bag packed with copies of important papers, clothes, if you have children – toys, and store in a secret place or with a friend or relative.

15. Ask a neighbor or a friend if they can leave a key for you somewhere if you need to go someplace safe in an emergency.

16. When you are on a private zoom call with a friend or relative, you can signal for help by using the following hand signal suggested by the Canadian Women’s Foundation: put your hand up with your palm facing the camera with your thumb tucked inwards, and close your fingers over your thumb.

17. Document abuse – date, time, what happened.

What to do to Help a Senior

1.  If you suspect that a senior living in a long-term care setting or retirement home is being abused, contact the Long-Term Care Action Line at 1-866-434-0144. You can make the call anonymously.

2.  If you are concerned about a senior who is living in the community, provide them with the number for the Senior’s Safety Line: 1-866-299-1011. Recommend that the senior keep this number private. Consider calling this number yourself to get recommendations about how to help.

3. Increase your contacts and encourage friends and relatives to do the same. Offer to run errands for them.

What to do if You are a Senior and Need Help

1. call 911 if you are in immediate danger. Police stations are open for walk-ins if you need to leave your home to seek help.

2. Call the Senior’s Safety Line: 1-866-299-1011 or 416-326-7076.

3. Document abuse – date, time, what happened.

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