Domestic assault is not physical violence alone. Domestic assault is any behavior the purpose of which is to gain power and control over a spouse, partner, girl/boyfriend or intimate family member. Abuse is a learned behavior; it is not caused by anger, mental problems, drugs or alcohol, or other common excuses.

Types of Domestic Violence

When the general public thinks about domestic violence, they usually think in terms of physical assault that results in visible injuries to the victim. This is only one type of abuse. There are several categories of abusive behavior, each of which has its own devastating consequences. Legality involved with physical abuse may place the victim at higher risk, but the long term destruction of person hood that accompanies the other forms of abuse is significant and cannot be minimized.

Please explore the following sections to learn more about how to identify domestic violence.

Types of Abuse:

  • Control
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse & Intimidation
  • Isolation
  • Verbal Abuse: Coercion, Threats, & Blame
  • Using Male Privilege
  • Economic Abuse


Controlling behavior is a way for the abuser to maintain dominance over the victim. Controlling behavior, the belief that they are justified in the controlling behavior, and the resultant abuse is the core issue in domestic assault. It is often subtle, almost always insidious, and pervasive. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Checking the mileage on the odometer following their use of the car.
  • Monitoring phone calls, using caller ID or other number monitoring devises, not allowing the victim to make or receive phone calls.
  • Not allowing their freedom of choice in terms of clothing styles or hairstyle. This may include forcing the victim to dress in a specific way such as more seductively or more conservatively than they are comfortable.
  • Calling or coming home unexpectedly to check up on them. This may initially start as what appears to be a loving gesture, but becomes a sign of jealousy or possessiveness.
  • Invading their privacy by not allowing them time and space of their own.
  • Forcing or encouraging dependency by making the victim believe they’re incapable of surviving or performing simple tasks without the abuser or on their own.
  • Using the children to control the victim parent by using the children as spies, threatening to kill, hurt or kidnap the children, physical and/or sexual abuse of the children, and threats to call Department of Child Safety (DCS, formerly CPS) if the mother leaves the relationship.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse basically involves a person using physical force against you, which causes, or could cause, you harm.

Types of physical abuse

Physical abuse can involve any of the following violent acts:

  • scratching or biting
  • pushing or shoving
  • slapping
  • kicking
  • choking or strangling
  • throwing things
  • force feeding or denying you food
  • using weapons or objects that could hurt you
  • physically restraining you (such as pinning you against a wall, floor, bed, etc.)
  • reckless driving
  • other acts that hurt or threaten you.

Consider a situation of domestic violence. A woman calls the police to report an assault by her husband. It was not the first time he assaulted her, but she did not previously report the abuse. Charges are laid. A psychological assessment is conducted, an expert stating that the defendant has violent tendencies and is likely to re offend. The defendant tells his lawyer that he “will get back at” his wife. With no previous record he is able to voluntarily enter a guilty plea with the Crown, to participate in “rehabilitative” programming for abusive individuals.

After his release from custody he returns home to his wife, who has not received any legal advice through the criminal process. He continues to abuse her, threatening her to dissuade her from calling the police. The psychological assessment and plans of retaliation against his wife did not meet the clear, serious, and imminent requirements of the public safety exception to solicitor-client privilege, so his lawyer did not disclose to the Crown when negotiating the plea. If the defendant were to be charged with domestic violence offences again, he would undoubtedly return to this lawyer who negotiated a lenient plea. His lawyer now has a “rounder” client to support his business, perhaps a factor in deciding that, objectively, the public safety exception need not apply.