Code Trauma presents this article as part 1 of a series on Domestic Violence. Read Part 2 here.

Have you ever heard about a friend who has been the victim of domestic violence and said to yourself: “Why do they stay?  That couldn’t happen to me!  I would just leave…” It’s great that you are vigilant and hold on to this mindset before the situation ever occurs to you. But truth be told, a lot of times these situations don’t just take place suddenly. They often build up over time. The perpetrator tests out the waters, so to speak.

At the beginning, they can be very sweet. Slowly but surely, they may start out with psychological games. Once they feel more comfortable and feel that you are vulnerable, they may progress to verbal abuse. They may try to alienate you. Their behaviour then escalates to physical and/or sexual assault. Once the abuser feels that your self-esteem has been diminished and that they have you wrapped around their finger, they are able to manipulate you and treat you as they want.

You may feel that domestic violence will never happen to you, but it can happen to most of us, particularly if we don’t know the red flags, are vulnerable, or can’t rely on a good support system and adequate resources. 

You may not even notice the abuse has started if you don’t know the signs. Young people, you must pay particularly attention to this, as your excitement and emotions can cause you to be short-sighted and ignore red flags due to your enthusiasm. But again, this can happen at all ages.

Casting Doubts

Abusers can have you questioning your own judgement. They may deny that they have ever said something. Or they may be insisting that you are imagining things and are delusional. They may even have you doubting yourself (things you saw, things you heard, or the way things occurred), leading you to believe their version. We call this “gaslighting”. They can be very charming, persuasive and manipulative. In a recent article, the Huffington post wrote: “…threatening, insulting, shaming, belittling, name-calling, gaslighting and stonewalling… are done in an attempt to chip away at the victim’s independence and self-esteem so the abuser can gain control in the relationship.” [i]

There is always help and hope

However, do not get discouraged, no matter what stage of the abusive relationship you are in. Even during this time of COVID-19, never let the government restrictions or curfew prevent you from leaving a dangerous situation. The regulations do not apply to you if you are in a situation of domestic violence.[ii]  Since the start of this pandemic, there has been an increase in distress calls to help lines by about 60% compared to the year prior.[iii]  Rest assured that local police stations are aware of the problem and are ready to assist you.  You can also call the various helplines listed here – they will guide you to a safe place.  You should tell a family member or friend you trust so that they can be there to support you.

View our list of Domestic Violence Ressources and Emergency Action Plan.


Child abuse and elder abuse are other forms of violence also of concern during these trying times. The same advice applies: recognize the signs, make an emergency plan and seek help.

In our next article, we will discuss some early signs and red flags to be aware of. Although some individual signs can occur in healthy relationships, when many of these signs are present or start to appear in sequence, you need to be aware, listen to your gut, cut off the relationship as soon as possible, don’t look back and walk away with confidence.

SOS Domestic Violence : 1-800 363-9010, 24/7
Text: 438-601-1211, from 2:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.


Read Part 2 of our series on Domestic Violence here.


Written by: Tara Grenier, M.Sc., CAT(C), Injury Prevention Professional at the Montreal General Hospital- McGill University Health Centre


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