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The Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship

Woman thinking, man in backgroundAs you may have heard on the news this morning, Simon Gittany was convicted today of throwing his girlfriend Lisa Harnum, a Canadian, off the 15th floor balcony of their apartment in Sydney Australia.

After the verdict was read, Lisa’s mother told reporters her daughter’s death was a “powerful wakeup call to young women and to parents, siblings and friends of these young women, to be aware of the warning signs of a controlling relationship and to take a pro-active approach to assisting them.”

Here are some warning signs you may be in a controlling or abusive relationship.

Has your partner ever:

  • Called you names, made jokes at your expense, or humiliated you in private or in front of others?
  • Told you what to wear, or harshly criticized how you dress?
  • Insisted you have sex when you don’t want to, or insisted you take part in sexual activities you dislike or that cause pain?
  • Refused to let you work, or forced you to work?
  • Refused to let you leave the house?
  • Constantly demanded to know where you are, what you are doing, and who you are with?
  • Monitored your phone calls, text messages, emails, Facebook, etc?
  • Refused to let you phone your friends or family?
  • Told you who you can and can’t talk to?
  • Constantly questioned your spending or taken control of your money? If you are financially dependent on them, have they unreasonable limited the money they give you or refused to tell you about your family’s financial situation?
  • Followed you in a way that made you fearful?
  • Used physical force (push, punch, slap, choke, shake, use objects/weapons, etc.)?
  • Physically harmed others (children, pets, family members, friends, neighbours, etc.)?
  • Threatened to use physical force? Threats aren’t always spoken – they can be silent too, such as looks, gestures, displaying weapons, etc.
  • Threatened to kill you or others if you leave?
  • Threatened to kill themselves if you leave?
  • Threatened to turn you into the authorities (police, immigration, etc.) if you leave?
  • Used your religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate or control you, or to justify violence against women? Denied you freedom of religion, by refusing to let you practice your spiritual beliefs or insisting that you follow theirs?
  • Blamed you for their abusive behaviour, and told you it was your fault?
  • Destroyed your possessions?
  • Showed up unexpectedly, when they were not invited and not welcome, to social or work events?
  • Stolen your money?
  • Insisted you use drugs or alcohol against your will?
  • Insisted you take part in dangerous or criminal activities?
  • Hidden your keys or purse so you can’t leave the house?

Some abusers deny being abusive. Some freely admit they have behaved badly, show great remorse, and promise never to do it again – though they almost always do.

Many abusive relationships develop gradually and, at first, it might be tempting to write their behaviour off as harmless, perhaps just signs of love or jealousy or emotional insecurity.

But as women have said for years, abuse is NOT about jealousy or love – it is about power and control. The Public Health Agency of Canada puts it this way: “This abuse is rooted in a power imbalance — between individuals, within families and in society. Basically, when one person is considered less worthy than another one — as an individual or because they are a woman, homosexual, Aboriginal or disabled person — there is the potential for abuse.

Abusers use many different methods. If they have not yet used physical violence, it can be easy to deny that abuse is even taking place. But other forms of abuse – emotional, sexual, financial, or spiritual – can be just as damaging and are often the precursor to physical violence.

And when an abuser’s usual methods cease to work – such as when women try to leave – the abuse can quickly become deadly.

According to newspaper reports, Simon Gittany was “domineering and had tried to control everything his fiancée did, even the way she wore her hair and what clothes she chose to go out in.” But Lisa Harnum was planning to leave him and return to Canada and – tragically – he found out.

The most dangerous time for an abused woman is when she attempts to leave. In one study, half of the murdered women were killed within two months of leaving the relationship.

The two best tools for ending violence against women are knowledge and speaking out. Now that you know the warning signs of an abusive relationship, I invite you to learn the facts about violence against women.

Together, we can stop the violence, for good.

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10 Responses to “The Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship”

  1. Avatar Jade says:

    I want to cut my story short as much as possible. I’ve suffered for years believing that my husand is the only person who will love me.My mental health is in a bad shape right now. I’m far away from my parents and have no means to get out of this suffering because of the pandemic. I don’t have friends here too. They’re all in different countries. He never cared about my feelings and gives more time and attention to his friends. I want to escape but I have nowhere to go.

  2. Avatar Mayflower says:

    I was still in a bit of denial until I read this form…I still can’t believe that I allowed myself to stay in this relationship as long as I did. I was such a strong independent women,,,, I left my abusive relationship on May 20th. I spent 2 months in a traumatized state. Friends and family didn’t even know who I was. My relationship was 1.5 years and the last 8 months of it I was stuck beside him. I had a broken hand – a man made a comment towards me leaving a Halloween party and my partner blew off his handle, I ended up getting pushed by the other male and was in a cast for 3 months and off work. He controlled everything I did, I couldn’t go to the grocery store, the mall, the gas station or Tim Horton’s without him. He controlled my phone and always went on it, he told me that I shouldn’t be working in a male dominated field, he didn’t want me wearing high heels, make up or perfume. The list can go forever…. He had me go to his work with him so he could keep me “protected” after many physically abusive attacks, everything was making sense especially after my 11 year old daughter stood up in a restaurant and called him out one evening saying he wasn’t a nice man, he is mean to me and to please stop doing that to her, that was when I knew I needed to get out. I was ashamed that I failed in this relationship as I had divorced 3 years earlier and felt that if my children’s mother can’t make good decisions how would they ever trust me. I started hiding money he would give me and was waiting to get my income tax done so I could leave. I hide my spare car key in a coat in case I ever needed it. My income tax came in, unfortunately he found out, he said the money would be safest with him and then Covid-19 hit and I was stuck. A week before I left, he pinned me down and strangled me, that was the last time he was ever putting bruises on my body. I was scared and thought I was going crazy, I felt like I was injected with a drug and I couldn’t come off of it. I felt like that for almost 2 months. I left and ended up at a women’s shelter. He was arrested and has 5 domestic charges against him. With all the counselling that I have received and still am, has shown me that it is my patterns that have gotten me to where I am. I am so proud of my daughter for standing up to him when I couldn’t. Now, my ex husband has completely alienated me from my daughter, who was my absolute bestfriend, she will barely talk to me. I can’t explain to her what happened, but someday she will find out and I will be here for her with open arms.

  3. Avatar Farzana Zakia says:

    July 19th 2:48 AM

    My husband grabbed my hand tightly and hit me on the head in front of my mother while I was holding my 21 months baby in my lap 5 days ago. Before this incidence, we were in the car in our driveway and he was shouting at me. He the phone on the side and when I opened the door, it fell on the ground. He picked it up and smashed it. After he hit me, I called the cops. We both were arrested and charged for assault even though I am the victim. I am in so much of emotional pain. I get nightmares and is suffering from insomnia. I had to call crisis 3 times to deal with my emotions. I am really glad that my mom is looking after my baby and sometimes, she throws salt into the newly, fresh wounds. It is even difficult to find the privacy to cry and talk to people without my mom interfering. I know she means well. Sometimes I regret of calling the police but this is not the first time my husband it me and I never want him to hit me again, especially not in front of my son.

    • Kate Hawkins Kate Hawkins says:

      Thank you for your comment. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable and we’re so sorry that you’ve experienced it. We’ll do our best to direct you to an agency that can help, see below, and always remember if you are in immediate danger call to 911:

      – Visit this part of our website and select your province or territory to see what might be available to you for assistance – just be aware that when using the Internet your abuser may attempt to check your search history. You can learn how to make your searches safe by erasing your tracks and you can find out more about that at

      – If you live in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, or British Columbia, we would suggest calling 211 – this is a free provincial referral number for thousands of agencies across these provinces.

      – If you live in Ontario, another great resource is the Assaulted Women’s Helpline which can be reached online at or by phone at 416.863.0511 or 1.866.863.0511.

      – Depending on the province or territory you live in, there may also be a listing in the front or back of your phone book.

      – If you have a local YWCA, you may wish to call them to see if they know of local services you can access.

  4. Avatar Kelly says:

    My daughter is in a 3 year relationship with her common law partner. She told me last night that he left for 2 weeks at camp to work. He left her no money and he hadn’t bought groceries in a month. She said she is starving. He also told her if she doesn’t get a job soon that he is leaving. Her mental health is not always the best. A lot of anxiety and worries constantly about her physical health. She always thinks she is dying from something. She sent him a message the other day just saying thank you and a very nice message. He didn’t even respond to it She seen he was on fb. She always has complaints about him. When I say anything about him she blows up at me saying he does everything for her. And gets very mad at me. I only met the guy twice because they don’t leave close but he just didn’t impress me. She said he makes 8 thousand dollars a month and he is always broke. What is your advise to me. He does put a roof over her head. It seems like he is not there for her emotionally.

  5. Avatar Racheal says:

    Hi my name is Rachea (not real name) and for the last three and a half years ive been verbally abused by my boyfriends mother. She calls me names like bitch, f**kbrain, sl*t, whore and gold digger all the time. Its normally when her son (boyfriend) is at work and I cry everytime I go to bed because she calls me names like that almost everyday its a battle and I try to avoid her but I cant I live in the same house with her and the whole family. His step dad doesn’t call me names thank god but I’m sick of the abuse I’m close to literally packing my things and leaving but he tries to make me stay and I stay. What do I do because Im at my wits end.

  6. Avatar Jason zampa says:

    Hi There
    You make a great point here and it was never my intention to make it sound like abuse is only just physical. It can of course be mental, spiritual, financial, emotional, etc.

  7. Avatar shanika1981 says:

    This information has been enlightening and straight forward.
    I LOVE that you have explained it in easy to understand terms.
    Some of these things i honestly thought that i was alone. I thought that maybe i was nuts because i couldnt see how these things were happening.
    Thank you SO much again for your wisdom.
    Ladies AND Men you are NOT alone!

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