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What Is Family Violence

What is family violence?

Family violence refers to violence committed by spouses (legally married, separated, divorced and common-law partners), parents (biological, adopted, step, foster), children (biological, adopted, step, foster), siblings (biological, adopted, step, half, foster), and extended family members.

What is Intimate Partner Violence? 

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is domestic violence by a current or former spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner.  IPV can take a number of forms, including physical, verbal, emotional, economic, spiritual or cultural, Isolation and/or abandonment, entitlement, sexual abuse and using children.

How common is family violence?

  • One in ten women is abused each year in Canada by her spouse, partner or boyfriend
  • Of all reported violent crime in 2016, more than 26% resulted from family violence.  
  • 67 % of victims of family violence reported to police in 2015 were young girls or women 
  • In 2015, the rate of police-reported family violence against females was double that of males (325 per 100,000 versus 160)
  • Women aged 30 to 34 recorded the highest rates of family violence.

Who is most at risk of being abused?

  • Young women
  • Aboriginal women
  • Women isolated in the home – perhaps living on a farm or rural community
  • Women in common-law relationships
  • Recently separated
  • Persons with a disability
  • Elderly persons


Family and Friends, Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), Victims Services, RCMP, Riseup Society Alberta, Women’s Shelters, Alberta Mental Health.        In an EMERGENCY call 911.


Red Flags For Abusive Relationships

The following is a list of warning signs for potentially abusive relationships. They are presented as guidelines and cues to pay attention to, not as judgments on the worth of the other person.

Question relationships with partners who:

  • Abuse alcohol or other drugs.
  • Have a history of trouble with the law, get into fights, or break and destroy property.
  • Don’t work or go to school.
  • Blame you for how they treat you, or for anything bad that happens.
  • Abuse siblings, other family members, children or pets.
  • Put down people, including your family and friends, or call them names.
  • Are always angry at someone or something.
  • Try to isolate you and control whom you see or where you go.
  • Nag you or force you to be sexual when you don’t want to be.
  • Cheat on you or have lots of partners.
  • Are physically rough with you (push, shove, pull, yank, squeeze, restrain).
  • Take your money or take advantage of you in other ways.
  • Accuse you of flirting or “coming on” to others or accuse you of cheating on them.
  • Don’t listen to you or show interest in your opinions or feelings, things always have to be done their way.
  • Ignore you, give you the silent treatment, or hang up on you.
  • Lie to you, don’t show up for dates, maybe even disappear for days.
  • Make vulgar comments about others in your presence
  • Blame all arguments and problems on you.
  • Tell you how to dress or act.
  • Threaten to kill themselves if you break up with them or tell you that they cannot live without you.
  • Experience extreme mood swings tell you you’re the greatest one minute and rip you apart the next minute.
  • Tell you to shut up or tell you you’re dumb, stupid, fat, or call you some other name (directly or indirectly).
  • Compare you to former partners.

Some other cues that might indicate an abusive relationship might include:

  • You feel afraid to break up with them.
  • You feel tied down, feel like you have to check-in.
  • You feel afraid to make decisions or bring up certain subjects so that the other person won’t get mad.
  • You tell yourself that if you just try harder and love your partner enough that everything will be just fine.
  • You find yourself crying a lot, being depressed or unhappy.
  • You find yourself worrying and obsessing about how to please your partner and keep them happy.
  • You find the physical or emotional abuse getting worse over time.

Adapted from the Domestic Abuse Project (

Helping A Friend Who Is Being Abused

Many are emotionally, physically, or sexually abused by their intimate partners each year. If you are concerned about a friend, perhaps you feel the problem will work itself out. This is very unlikely. Violence and abuse in relationships usually continues and often gets worse over time if no action is taken to stop it. You can help your friend by being honest about your concerns. Say something.

Things that might be keeping you from saying something:

  • The violence can’t really be that serious.
    Dating violence includes threats, pushing, punching, slapping, choking, sexual assault, and assault with weapons. It is rarely a one-time occurrence and usually escalates in frequency and severity. Even if the violence is “only” verbal, it can seriously affect the victim’s health and well-being, so any act of dating violence is something to take seriously.
  • My friend must be doing something to provoke the violence.
    A victim of dating violence is never to blame for another person’s choice to use violence against her/him. Problems exist in any relationship, but the use of violence is never acceptable.
  • If it’s so bad, why doesn’t s/he just leave?
    For most of us, a decision to end a relationship is not easy. Your friend’s emotional ties to her/his partner may be strong, supporting the hope that the violence will end. Perhaps your friend doesn’t know about available resources, or maybe social and justice systems may have been unhelpful in the past. Perhaps when your friend has tried to end the relationship in the past, her/his partner may have used violence to stop her/him. These are just some of the many compelling reasons that may keep someone in an abusive relationship.
  • I shouldn’t get involved in a private matter.
    Dating violence is not a “personal problem”. It is a crime with serious repercussions for your friend, your friend’s partner, your campus, and your entire community.
  • I know the abusive person– I really don’t think he/she could hurt anyone.
    Many abusers are not violent in other relationships and can be charming in social situations, yet be extremely violent in private.
  • The abusive person must be sick.
    Using violence and abuse is a learned behavior, not a mental illness. People who use violence and abuse to control their partners choose such behavior; viewing them as “sick” wrongly excuses them from taking responsibility for it.
  • I think the abusive person has a drinking problem. Could that be the cause of violence?
    Alcohol or drug use may intensify violent behavior, but it does not cause violence or abuse. People who engage in abusive behavior typically make excuses for their violence, claiming a loss of control due to alcohol/drug use or extreme stress. Acting abusively, however, does not represent a loss of control, but a way of achieving it.
  • How can my friend still care for someone who abuses her/him?
    Chances are, the abuser is not always abusive. S/he may show remorse for the violence after it happens and promise to change. Your friend may understandably hope for such changes. Their relationship probably involves good times, bad times, and in-between times.
  • If my friend wanted my help, s/he would ask for it. Your friend may not feel comfortable confiding in you, feeling you may not understand her/his situation. Talk to her/him about the abusive behaviors you have noticed, tell your friend no one deserves to be treated in that way, and ask her/him how you can help.

What You Can Do to Help:

  • Say something. Lend a listening ear. Tell your friend that you care and are willing to listen. Don’t force the issue, but allow your friend to confide in you at her/his own pace. Never blame your friend for what is happening or underestimate her/his fear of potential danger. Focus on supporting your friend’s right to make her/his own decisions.
  • Become informed. Find out all the facts you can about dating violence. Contact offices  that address sexual and dating violence, or contact the local program(s) in your area that assist victims of domestic violence. Look for books about dating violence in your local library. 
  • Guide your friend to community services. Gather information about dating/domestic violence programs in your area. These programs offer safety, advocacy, support, legal information, and other needed services. If your friend asks for advice on what they should do, share the information you’ve gathered. Let your friend know they are not alone, and people are available to help. Encourage them to seek the assistance of dating/domestic violence victim advocates. Assure them that the information will be kept confidential.
  • If your friend decides to end the relationship… Help them make a plan to be safe. They may want to call a local domestic violence hotline to help create a “safety plan”. Domestic violence programs can help them look at their options and make a plan to be as safe as possible. Victims of dating violence may face the greater risk when they try to end the abusive relationship. If the abusive person feels they have lost control, they may become very dangerous.
  • Focus on her/his strengths. Your friend has probably continually been told by the abusive person that they are a bad person, a bad student, or a bad friend. Your friend may believe they can’t do anything right and that there really is something wrong with them. Give them emotional support. Help them examine their strengths and skills. Emphasize that they deserve a life that is free from violence.

This document has been adapted several times by several organizations and originated with “Helping The Battered Woman, A Guide For Family And Friends,” a 1989 publication of the National Woman Abuse Prevention Project.


Examining Your Relationship

What are your rights in a relationship?

  • To express your opinions and have them be respected
  • To have your needs be as important as your partner’s needs
  • To grow as an individual in your own way
  • To change your mind
  • To not take responsibility for your partner’s behavior
  • To not be physically, emotionally, verbally or sexually abused
  • To break up with or fall out of love with someone and not be threatened

Are you being abused?

  • Are you frightened by your partner’s temper?
  • Are you afraid to disagree?
  • Are you constantly apologizing for your partner’s behavior, especially when he or she has treated you badly?
  • Do you have to justify everything you do, everywhere you go, and everyone you see just to avoid your partner’s anger?
  • Does your partner put you down, but then tell you that he or she loves you?
  • Have you ever been hit, kicked, shoved or had things thrown at you?
  • Do you not see friends or family because of your partner’s jealousy?
  • Have you ever been forced to have sex?
  • Are you afraid to break up because your partner has threatened to hurt you or himself or herself?
  • Has your partner ever threatened your life or the life of someone close to you?

Are you being abusive?

  • Do you constantly check up on your partner and accuse her or him of cheating or lying?
  • Are you extremely jealous or possessive?
  • Do you have an explosive temper?
  • Have you hit, kicked, shoved, or thrown things at your partner?
  • Do you constantly criticize or insult your partner?
  • Do you become violent when you use drugs or alcohol?
  • Do you use threats or intimidation to get your way?
  • Have you ever forced your partner to have sex with you through threats?
  • Have you ever threatened your partner with physical harm?
  • Have you threatened to hurt yourself or someone else if your partner breaks up with you?

If you feel that you are in an abusive relationship, you are not alone.

There is help available for you or someone you know who suffers in an abusive relationship.

The Red Flag Campaign is a project of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance
and was created thanks to the generous support of the
Verizon Foundation.

Relationship Quiz


1. We work as a team to solve life’s challenges

  __not at all __sometimes         __often

2. We are in agreement about finances

__not at all __sometimes         __often

3. Our vision for the future is similar

__not at all __sometimes         __often

4. We agree about most aspects of raising the children

__not at all __sometimes         __often

5. We agree about how to discipline the children

__not at all __sometimes         __often

6. We enjoy doing leisure activities together

__not at all __sometimes         __often

7. We support each other’s interests

__not at all __sometimes         __often

8. I feel good about myself in our relationship

__not at all __sometimes         __often

9. We laugh together

__not at all __sometimes         __often

10. I feel loved within our relationship

__not at all __sometimes         __often

11. I am happy with our sexual relationship

__not at all __sometimes         __often

12. I am confident about my partner’s fidelity

__not at all __sometimes         __often (all the time)

13. We communicate freely with each other

__not at all __sometimes         __often

14. I am happy with the way responsibilities are shared

__not at all __sometimes         __often

15. We meet each other’s intellectual and emotional needs

__not at all __sometimes         __often

16. We respect each other’s religious or spiritual beliefs

__not at all __sometimes         __often

17. The “give and take” within our relationship is consistently equal

__not at all __sometimes         __often

18. We grow and learn together

__not at all __sometimes         __often

Financial Support

As a Registered Charity (#81655 5353 RR0001), Riseup Society Alberta relies on the generous contributions of committed supporters to meet ongoing needs. Gifts come from individuals, groups, businesses and churches.  Each contribution is greatly appreciated.

Making a one-time gift

You can donate directly by mailing a cheque to Riseup Society Alberta  
Box 5437 Leduc, Alberta T9E 6L7 780-739-7473 or through e-transfer to

You can also donate to Riseup Society Alberta via:

  • Via United Way
  • Via PayPal
  • Via Canada Helps
  • Go online to use your credit card by clicking on the “Donate Now” button
  • Download and complete the Credit Card Donation Authorization Form (Please set up a link to the form I am including as a separate document).

Becoming a Monthly Donor

  • Go online to use your credit card by clicking here: Donate Now
Volunteer Support
We are grateful to the many people who contribute their gifts, talents, resources and time to make this work possible. Riseup currently has a volunteer committee who have contributed in excess of 500 hours in 2019.  If you are interested in volunteering please contact Riseup Society at 780-739-7473 or , 780-769-0268.

Areas of Interest for Volunteers

  • Distribution of promotional material at community events
  • Fundraising
  • Attending events and selling 50/50 tickets
  • Event planning
  • Raising awareness in the community
  • Attending meetings
Recommended Books

Top Picks by Riseup Society Staff

When Love Hurts: A Women’s Guide to Understanding Abuse in Relationships by Jill Cory and Karen McAndless-Davis

This book can be a useful companion to help women who are struggling in relationships made worse by the  isolation brought about by the Covid-19 directives.  It is essential reading for any woman wondering if she is being abused. It helps women recognize the signs of abuse in a relationship and the abusive strategies their partner uses to control and disempower them. Along with true stories of women experiencing abuse, the book offers exercises that allow readers to examine their own situation. It explores difficult questions and offers straightforward advice.

Copies of the book “When Love Hurts” are available to purchase at Riseup for $20.00

Further Recommended Books will be added soon


Recommended Websites

Family Violence Information Line in Alberta 780-310-1818 

Service offers:

  • a 24 Hour, toll free helpline in Alberta for anyone experiencing family violence or abuse, or who knows someone that has questions about family violence

Support includes:

  • referrals to family violence programs, resources, and services
  • staff trained to respond to crisis situations

Alberta Justice and Solicitor General

Domestic Violence Guideline (2008) and Handbook (2014) by Alberta Justice and Solicitor General”

Downloadable Handbook (157 pages) is for Police and Crown Prosecutors in Alberta. Guideline is a simplified explanation.  Explains legal action in Domestic Violence.

Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters

The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters is a province-wide, voluntary organization supporting women’s shelters and their partners through education, research and services for the benefit of abused women and their children.

Internet Safety Guide

Government of Canada, Department of Justice

This website gives lots of information in short paragraphs.  Lots of different topics are covered with suggestions for follow-up.  Might need other web pages to find specific resources in your community, but you will know what to ask for.

Public Health Agency of Canada

Stop Family Violence  is presented by Canada’s Family Violence Initiative, which brings together 15 federal government departments and agencies to prevent and respond to family violence.

Edmonton Dream Centre

The centre offers a residential program for women coming from crisis situations. The program provides a process to bring healing and change to women in distress.