Image of a man clenching his fist at his family.

Breaking the Silence: Understanding Family Violence and its Impacts

Gender-based violence is a human rights issue. GBV includes any form of violence – including abuse, assault, or harassment – that is driven by individual- or societal-level intent to harm or socially control individuals or groups based on their gender, gender expression, gender identity, or perceived gender. GBV frequently manifests as intimate partner violence towards women, which often occurs in the presence of children and overlaps with other forms of child maltreatment. When GBV – including intimate partner violence or child maltreatment – occurs within a specific home or household, it is often referred to as family violence. In this blog, we will explore what family violence is, the various forms it can take and its impacts.

Forms of Family Violence 

Physical Abuse

Deliberate or threatened physical force exerted upon a family member or intimate partner, resulting in injuries. It includes actions such as hitting, slapping, kicking, or any form of physical harm that results in injury.

Emotional (Psychological) Abuse

Manipulative behaviours that aim to control or induce fear in a family member or intimate partner, or to diminish their self-esteem and self-respect. It can manifest as constant criticism, bullying, or stalking.

Financial Abuse

Also referred to as economic abuse, occurs when an individual misuses or tries to control a family member’s or intimate partner’s financial resources such as money, assets, or property, resulting in financial dependence and insecurity.

Sexual Violence

Non-consensual sexual activities with a family member or intimate partner. It also includes focusing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening to them. This includes forcing a family member, intimate partner, or child to talk about, read, watch, hear or participate in viewing or sharing sexual images or materials.


When an individual or family member entrusted with the responsibility to care for another, fails to fulfill basic needs, including the failure to provide proper supervision (where needed and appropriate).

High Risk Groups

Family violence casts a wide and indiscriminate net—impacting individuals of all ages, genders, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, certain groups of the Canadian population are particularly vulnerable to its devastating effects:


In Canada, 2021 estimates from Statistics Canada indicate that women and girls are exposed to family violence at twice the rate of men and boys; in fact, women and girls comprise 69 percent of victims involved in police-reported family violence in the country (Statistics Canada, 2023).

Children and Youth

In 2019, an alarming 32% of child and youth victims of police-reported crimes were related to family violence; this equated to 22,299 children and youth. Notably, rates of family violence against children and youth tend to be higher in rural areas compared to urban areas, emphasizing the necessity for comprehensive support and intervention across the geography of Canada (Government of Canada, 2022).

Consequences of Family Violence 

In addition to safety risks linked to family violence, there is clear and consistent research evidence linking exposure to family violence with negative impacts on the physical, emotional, cognitive, sexual, and reproductive well-being of victims.

Additionally, the financial burden of family violence is significant, including healthcare costs, lost productivity at work, and the need for legal assistance. Notably, an economic analysis in Canada indicates that employers lose a staggering $77.9 million annually due to family violence (Wathen et al., 2015). Similar substantial economic impacts are evident in studies conducted in the United States and Australia.

In conclusion, family violence is a pervasive issue that knows no boundaries, affecting individuals from all walks of life. It is imperative that we collectively break the silence surrounding family violence, raise awareness, and implement comprehensive measures to prevent and address this issue. By fostering a rights-based culture that respects the inherent right of everyone to live a life free from violence, as well as by supporting – of, policy and law reform, and community engagement in violence prevention, we can reduce the proportion of Canadians who experience family violence and its negative impacts.


  1. Government of Canada,(2022, March 7). About family violence.DepartmentofJustice.
  2. Government of Canada. (2021, December 13). Fact sheet: Family violence.Women and Gender Equality.
  3.  Statistics Canada. (2023, August 30). Victims of police-reported family and intimate partner violence in Canada, 2021. Government of Canada.
  4. Wathen, C. N., MacGregor, J. C., & MacQuarrie, B. J. (2015). The impact of domestic violence in the workplace. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 57(7).

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