Abuse: Barriers experienced by victims of abuse

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

There are many reasons why a victim may not report abuse to the authorities. As well, there may be circumstances where there is little evidence to substantiate abuse. The information provided below is intended to assist officers to better understand victims of abuse and the difficulties some clients may have in discussing or reporting the abuse.

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Barriers to a victim escaping an abusive relationship

Barriers specific to recent immigrants

Reasons why victims may not disclose abuse

A person who is abused may endure the violence for a long time before seeking support or they may never tell anyone. The reasons why victims may keep abuse secret relate to their circumstances, feelings, beliefs and level of knowledge about domestic abuse.


Feelings and beliefs

Victims often feel conflicting emotions and suffer confusion or shame. They may believe that the abuse is their fault and that they will be punished for telling. Depending on their situation, victims may fear any of the following outcomes if they tell someone about the abuse:


Reasons why people who witness or suspect abuse may not report it

Other people—including professionals, neighbours, friends and other relatives or family members—may witness or suspect abuse, but not report it. Their reasons for not reporting relate to their circumstances, feelings, beliefs and level of knowledge.


Concern about the demands of becoming involved

Feelings and beliefs


For these and other reasons, many cases of family violence are still not reported to either police or child welfare authorities.

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