Criminal Code of Canada

Forms Of Abuse

Historical Information

General Information

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All forms of abuse are ways in which one person is trying to control or have power over another. Wife abuse can take many forms including physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, spiritual and economic.

It is important to understand wife abuse as a crime!!

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, it is a crime to use force or threat of force against another person or that person's property without her consent. The crime is called assault and there are three types:

  1. The touching, slapping, kicking and pushing of another person without consent
  2. Assault committed with the use or threatened use of a weapon
  3. Aggravated assault occurs when the victim is wounded or when the life of the victim is placed in danger.
The following examples of wife abuse would come under the assault provisions of the Criminal Code or other laws such as those relating to harassment or destruction of property.

PHYSICAL ABUSE: Slapping, punching, kicking and shoving; using objects such as a belt buckle to beat the victim; use of guns, knives to hurt or kill. It might start with slapping and proceed to use of weapons.

SEXUAL ABUSE: Inflicting pain and injury during forced sexual activities. A 1983 Canadian law makes it a crime for a man to sexually assault his wife or partner.

PSYCHOLOGICAL/ EMOTIONAL ABUSE: Violent threats against the victim and her family and /or children, such as, "If you try to leave, I'll find you and kill you and then I'll kill myself'.

ECONOMIC ABUSE: Destruction of her property - photo albums, clothes, family heirlooms and pets. This kind of abuse is also psychological; often the intent is to give the message, "Do what you're told or the next time it will be you, not your dress!"

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Wife Abuse - An Historical Perspective

People in general have a hard time understanding why, in this day and age, men abuse the women they love.

Well actually, until recently in history, women were considered the property of man. They belonged to their fathers until marriage, and then became the property of their husbands. Man had the right to treat his property as he wished.

In British common law, husbands were authorized to "chastise" their wives with "any reasonable instrument". Later the law was modified so that men could beat their wives so long as the weapon was no thicker than a man's thumb which is how the phrase "rule of thumb", came into use.

Back in 1962, in the United States, a woman who wanted to sue her husband for assault damages was turned down by a California Supreme Court Judge because "to hear the case would destroy the peace and harmony of the home".

While we are living in the 1990's, wife abuse still prevails as a serious problem in society. Unfortunately, old attitudes are still existing as we see many women entering transition houses to escape violent situations.

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Forms Of Wife Abuse

Deborah Sinclair, defines wife assault in Understanding Wife Assault, as "involving the intent by the husband to intimidate, either by threat or by use of physical force on the wife's person or property. The purpose of the assault is to control her behavior by the inducement of fear.

The term wife assault or abuse is widely used, however, when using the term, persons working in the field of family violence include common law, boyfriend/girlfriend relationships under the heading of wife assault. In recent publications dealing with the issue, the term spousal assault is being used to portray a more accurate description of the overall problem.

The most obvious for of wife assault is, of course, physical. The abuse can involve slapping, hitting, shoving, punching, choking, using cigarettes to inflict burns to the body, throwing objects such as furniture, or using coat hangers or belts to beat the victim.

Weapons, for example knives or guns, are used as a threat or actually may result in the ultimate violent act- murder.

Abusers are known to direct the abuse towards parts of the body not easily seen, such as the back, skull etc.

Emotional abuse or verbal abuse is, in my experience, looked upon lightly by society. However, persons working with emotionally abused women see it as having a very detrimental effect on the victim. Constant verbal battering erodes her self-esteem, until eventually she comes to believe things said to her, such as ''you're no good, a lousy mother, no other man would want you" etc.

Emotional abuse can cross over to psychological abuse, which has greater power to induce fear in the victim. There are often threats of physical abuse- threats he may have carried out, at least one time, in the past. The victim is well aware he is quite capable of following through with the threats again.

The spouse may also threaten to harm other members of her family or to destroy prized possessions, even a family pet. He may terrorize her by telling her he will take the children or, even more frightening, play with a weapon in her presence.

He may also try to control her activities by isolating her from family and friends or deprive her of needs, such as sleep or food. This type of psychological abuse is intended to wear her down. She lives in constant fear as she cannot predict if or when he will physically harm her.

Sexual abuse in a man fed or common-law relationship is a controversial topic to some and unfortunately laughed at by persons believing a man cannot be considered as having sexually assaulted his wife. She is, after all, his wife.

There is sexual assault on a low scale, such as using demeaning language and name calling to excessive jealousy and sexual accusations to a place higher on the scale, such as forced sexual activities.

Victims of sexual abuse at the hand of their spouses have reported being forced to take part in sex with other partners and other acts which they find distasteful and/ or painful. Threats or actual use of violence often accompanies sexual assault.

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