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What do you do if you are abused or assaulted?

People often don’t have a clear idea what abuse or assault involves. Generally abuse and assault is a way to control a person with threats, emotional manipulation or violence. It often doesn’t end there though and can take many more forms.


Many people don’t recognize what abuse is and can normalize this type of behaviour if they don’t know any better.

Abuse comes in many forms. It can be emotional, psychological, financial, sexual or physical.

Abuse often goes undetected, because it can have many levels and layers.

Abuse includes, but is by no means limited to, these behaviours:

  • Yelling;
  • Controlling behaviour;
  • Isolating you from friends and/or family;
  • Hitting;
  • Pushing;
  • Burning;
  • Pinching;
  • Slapping;
  • Kicking;
  • Stabbing;
  • Cutting.

If there is extreme emotional or psychological abuse, then abuse can become assault. Physical abuse is assault. In any case, it’s against the law.

Forms of abuse

Abuse comes in many forms. It can take the form of:

  • Sexual abuse: if you don’t consent to sexual touching or activity and are forced into it;
  • Emotional or psychological abuse:
    • Criminal harassment, also called stalking. If a person follows you or watches wherever you go, makes threats against friends and/or family, constantly calls you and/or sends you e-mails which are unwanted, etc.;
  • Financial Abuse:
    • withholding money from you so that you cannot pay for the necessities of life for you and/or your children;
    • forces you to sign financial papers, such as home sale papers or wills or power of attorneys

Abuse is not limited to these forms of abuse.

If you are experiencing any or some of the above, be aware that these are considered crimes in Canada and that you should get help.


Assault is a criminal act. Section 265 of the Criminal Code of Canada states someone commits an assault when:

  • without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;
  • he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or
  • while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.

Immediate abuse and assault

If you have experienced assault, it’s important to call the police as soon as possible. If you are still in danger, then call 911.

Note that assault also includes sexual assault and if you have experienced sexual assault you should call the police, or if you are still in danger, call 911.

In either case, you need to get away from the scene in which you were assaulted and where people can see you and if you’re at home, scream so your neighbours can hear you.

Continuous abuse or assault

If you’re suffering from longtime abuse or assault the first step to get help is to call a shelter, a community organization or health centre.

If you’re a woman who is facing abuse or assault, there are women’s shelters all over Canada that can help you.

Where to find help

There are a lot of resources that can help you if you’re experiencing abuse.

If you’re experiencing family violence you can visit:

  • a hospital;
  • a police station;
  • your family doctor;
  • a women’s shelter;
  • a walk-in clinic;
  • a public health nurse;


  • tell a teacher;
  • tell a neighbour; and/or
  • tell someone who you think can aid you in getting the help you need.

Read more:

Abuse is Wrong — Department of Justice

Criminal Code of Canada — Assault