Part of Family violence

What is family violence

Recognize the signs of family and domestic violence and know your rights.

Stop family violence

To stop family violence, we need to recognize the many forms it takes. Family violence is an abuse of power in a family or other trusting relationship where people rely on each other. When someone experiences family violence, their well-being, security and survival are threatened.

Call 911 if someone is in immediate danger. Family violence is a crime.

Get help 24/7

Family Violence Info Line (toll free)

Call: 310-1818

Text*: 310-1818

Start online chat

*Standard text message rates may apply.

Information in other languages: Family violence publications

Types of family violence

There are many types of family violence:

  • domestic violence – refers to violent or abusive behaviours in an intimate, dependent or trusting relationship. Depending on the place and context, that could refer to family violence or intimate partner violence.
  • intimate partner violence – means harmful actions (physically, sexually or psychologically) by a current or past partner or spouse.
  • sexual violence
  • child abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation
  • elder abuse and neglect
  • spousal or partner abuse
  • parent or guardian abuse
  • sibling abuse
  • being exposed to another person’s abuse
  • pet cruelty

Who violence affects

Family violence can happen to people of all ages, abilities, cultural and spiritual backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations. It can also affect pets and other animals. Victims of family violence may live together full-time or part-time, or they may live apart.

Victims can include:

  • married, common-law and dating partners
  • separated or divorced partners
  • people who are pregnant
  • birth, adopted, step- and foster children
  • grandparents and other extended family
  • individuals with guardians, trustees or care givers
  • pets

Clare’s law

In Alberta, Clare’s Law gives people the right to get information about potentially harmful intimate partners.

Types of abusive behaviours

Abusive and violent behaviours can happen in private or in front of others. Some examples are below.

  • Physical abuse

    • hitting, punching, kicking, biting, scratching or pulling hair
    • throwing or hitting you with things
    • using or threatening to use a weapon
  • Verbal abuse

    • name-calling and put-downs
    • yelling
    • swearing
  • Emotional or psychological abuse

    • making fun of you, your family and friends or your beliefs
    • threatening to hurt or kill you, your children, pets, family members or friends
    • threatening suicide or to take the children if you leave
    • threatening to have you deported
    • refusing you to support you or share physical affection because you are pregnant
  • Financial abuse

    • limiting your access to cash, bank accounts, credit cards or other family finances
    • preventing you from working
    • spending your pay cheque without your consent
    • running up debts in your name or selling your possessions without permission
    • destroying your personal property
  • Neglect

    Neglect is failing to make sure the basic daily needs of a child or other dependent are met. Basic needs include:

    • food
    • clothing
    • shelter
    • love and affection
    • protection from harm
  • Control, forced isolation or confinement

    • controlling what you do, where you go, or who you talk to and see
    • limiting, delaying or denying your access to health supports or medical care
    • controlling your access to food, supplies and prenatal supports when you are pregnant
    • forcing you to work beyond your ability
    • keeping you a prisoner in your home
    • abandoning you somewhere
  • Sexual abuse

    • saying things or making gestures or sounds that make you feel degraded, uncomfortable or unsafe
    • forcing you to be touched, kissed or have sex without your consent
    • making you dress in a sexual way
    • making you feel like you owe the other person sex
    • trying to give you a sexually transmitted disease
    • refusing to use condoms or birth control
  • Spiritual or cultural abuse

    • making fun of your beliefs
    • controlling the clothes you wear or food you eat
    • preventing you from taking part in spiritual or cultural practices
  • Stalking or harassment

    • following you around and watching where you live or work
    • sending you unwanted texts or emails
    • tracking or accessing your online accounts
    • making unwanted visits or calls to you
    • contacting your family, friends or co-workers and asking what you are doing and where you are
    • threatening behaviours, like leaving notes on your vehicle or the door to your home or workplace
  • Digital abuse

    • accessing accounts without consent
    • tracking online activity
    • using smart devices to control

Warning signs of abuse

People affected by family violence may cope differently or show no signs. There are some common warning signs of abuse you can look for. If you know someone experiencing family violence, find out how to help them.

Visit REAL Talk to learn how to understand and talk openly about domestic abuse in Alberta.

  • Adults

    As victims of family violence, adults may:

    • withdraw from family and friends
    • stop going out or doing activities they used to enjoy
    • show a change in personality including mood swings
    • show signs of depression or anxiety
    • hint about abuse
    • talk about their partner's substance use or abuse and concerns about their children seeing it
    • have unexplained bruises or other injuries
    • not want to make even simple decisions without their partner
    • have limited access to money
    • begin to use or abuse drugs or alcohol as a way to cope
  • Children

    As victims of family violence, children may:

    • often be left alone, hungry, dirty or not dressed for the weather
    • try to take on adult responsibilities like caring for siblings, doing household tasks or looking after a parent
    • act aggressively towards others
    • withdraw from others, lack energy or act passively
    • be extremely watchful or fearful of parents' reactions
    • have problems at school or with their grades
    • have unexplained bruises or other injuries
    • dress provocatively or inappropriately
    • know more about sex than is normal for their age
    • start smoking or using drugs or alcohol to cope
    • run away from home repeatedly
  • Youth

    As victims of family violence, youth may:

    • have mood swings
    • change their style of clothing, makeup or hair
    • start hanging out with different people
    • skip or drop out of school, or have falling or failing grades
    • overreact to things that seem small or unimportant
    • seem to lose confidence in themselves
    • withdraw from friends or family
    • stop going out or doing activities they used to enjoy
    • have unexplained bruises or other injuries
    • start smoking or using drugs or alcohol to cope
    • run away from home repeatedly
  • Older adults

    As victims of family violence, older adults may:

    • seem frightened, withdrawn or depressed
    • seem groggy all the time, possibly due to over-medicating
    • show signs of depression or anxiety
    • lose weight or seem too thin
    • wear dirty clothing or clothing not suitable for the season
    • not have their glasses, dentures, hearing or other assistive devices
    • have unexplained bruises, sores or other injuries
    • be isolated from others
    • have items missing from their homes
    • have someone cashing their pension cheques or withdrawing money from their bank accounts
    • have their medication taken from them

Know your rights

Family violence is a crime.

You have the right to:

  • be free and safe from violence
  • be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect
  • get information about their legal rights
  • press charges for criminal actions
  • have the maximum protection from abuse permitted by law including restraining or protection orders
  • get help from community resources

In Alberta, the Protection Against Family Violence Act protects abused family members of all ages, whether they live together or apart. This includes:

  • couples who are married, common-law, separated or divorced who may have children together or not
  • parents who have not resided together
  • birth, adopted, foster and step-children
  • adults who live together and one person has legal care and custody over the other

Read the Protection Against Family Violence Act Guide, 2011.