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Cycle of Violence

This chart describes the behaviours that are identified as domestic violence and abuse. Some women may not realize that their spouse or partner is being abusive. This is also a helpful tool if you are concerned for a family member or friend who you believe is in an abusive relationship. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR ANY KIND OF ABUSE. Clicking on the image will enlarge it.


If you or someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, contact our confidential crisis line for immediate support 1-800-565-3390

Cycle of Physical Violence

Abuse may seem unpredictable, but careful observations have proved that, in many cases, there is a predictable pattern to the abusive outbursts. The pattern, or cycle, happens many times over a relationship. Each phase of the pattern may have different lengths of time and over time the level of violence and abuse seems to increase in severity. It’s important to note that not everyone’s experiences are the same, nor do all violent and abusive relationships fit the cycle.


Intimate partner violence and abuse comes in many forms, whether physical, emotional or sexual, and it leaves deep marks that can be long-lasting. It can occur in both public and private spaces, as well as online.

  • physical abuse: intentional or threatened use of physical force, including pushing, hitting, cutting, punching, slapping, shoving, strangulation

  • criminal harassment (also referred to as stalking): repeated behaviour that creates fear for one’s safety or the safety of a loved one. This can include making threats, obscene phone calls, following, watching, tracking, contacting on the Internet, including through texts or email messages

  • sexual violence: sexual acts without consent, threats of punishment for refusing sexual activity, forcing someone to watch or participate in the making of pornography, sexually degrading language and belittling sexual comments

  • emotional /psychological abuse: insults, belittling, constant humiliation, intimidation, threats of harm, threats to take away children, harm or threat of harm to pets

  • financial abuse (also referred to as economic abuse): control or misuse of money, assets or property, control of a partner’s ability to access school or a job

  • spiritual abuse: using a partner’s spiritual beliefs to manipulate, dominate or control them

  • reproductive coercion: controlling reproductive choices, pregnancy outcomes and/or access to health services

  • coercive control: patterns of control and abuse that cause fear or terror, including using force and/or threats to alter behaviour, and control (limiting a partner’s behaviour and choices, isolating a person from family and friends, and denying access to employment, education or medical care)

  • technology-facilitated violence (also referred to as cyberviolence): use of technologies to inflict virtual or in-person harm including observing and listening to a person, tracking their location, to scare, intimidate or humiliate a person

Source: Women and Gender Equality Canada

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