Abuse: Types 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.

Abuse is a behaviour that scares, isolates, or controls another person. Abuse may be a pattern or a single incident. Abuse includes the following forms:

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Examples of types of abuse

Examples of types of abuse
Type of abuse Description Examples
Physical abuse Generally involves physical contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, pain, injury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm
  • hitting, beating, slapping, punching, choking, burning, pushing or shoving the person in a way that results or could result in injury
  • forcefully isolating the person from friends and family
  • confining the person (habitual residence or other)
  • forcing the person to engage in drug or alcohol use or illegal behaviour against their will or creating dependencies
  • for people with physical disabilities, abuse could be manifested, for example, in deliberate rough handling when transferring the person to and from their bed or wheelchair, sometimes causing bruises or injuries
Sexual abuse Generally encompasses any situation in which force or threat is used to obtain participation in non-consensual sexual activity or coercing a person to engage in sexual activity against their will
  • marital or spousal rape
  • forcing or manipulating another into having sex or performing sexual acts
  • forcing unsafe or degrading sexual acts
  • using physical force to compel a person to engage in a sexual act against another person’s will
  • using physical force, weapons or objects in non-consensual sexual acts
  • involving other people in non-consensual sexual acts
  • exposing, suggesting, attempting or completing a sexual act involving a minor
  • exposing, suggesting, attempting or completing a sexual act involving a person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, unable to decline participation, or unable to communicate unwillingness to engage in the sexual act (for example, because of illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or because of intimidation or pressure)
  • controlling a person’s reproductive choices
  • for people with physical disabilities, abuse could be manifested, for example, by inappropriate touching when providing assistance with personal care and hygiene
Psychological abuse Generally where there is a pattern of coercive or controlling behaviour or iterated threats
  • insulting, intimidating, humiliating, harassing or threatening a person (including with respect to immigration status or deportation), name-calling, yelling at, blaming, shaming, ridiculing, disrespecting and criticizing a person
  • threatening a person with murder
  • threatening to commit suicide
  • intimidating, threatening or harming a person with a knife, gun, or other object or weapon
  • using religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate, dominate and control
  • threatening to take away or hurt a person’s children
  • for people with disabilities, abuse could include belittling remarks based on the person’s inabilities or threats to destroy an assistive device or harm a service animal
  • in cases involving lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning and 2 spirit (LGBTQ2+) people, abuse may involve threatening to disclose to family, friends or colleagues the gender identity or sexual orientation of the person
  • controlling what the person can and cannot do
  • controlling whom the person can speak with or what they can say
  • engaging in technologically assisted abuse, such as hacking private accounts, forcing a person to provide passwords, listening in on conversations
Financial abuse It is described as a form of abuse where a person has control over another person’s access to economic resources.
  • stealing or taking a person’s money, salary or cheques or coercing them into giving up money
  • rigidly controlling finances and limiting the amount of resources the person can access
  • withholding money or credit cards
  • exploiting a person’s economic resources
  • requiring a person to deposit money into their bank account for fraudulent purposes
  • closely monitoring how a person spends money
  • destroying a person’s property
  • spending a person’s money without their consent
  • creating debt for a person or completely spending their savings to limit available resources
  • preventing a person from working, attending school or choosing their own career
  • sabotaging a person’s job (making them miss work, calling them constantly)
Neglect Generally consists of when a family member who has a duty to care for a person fails to provide that person with basic needs
  • not providing food, shelter or proper clothing
  • not providing adequate health care or medication
  • failing to prevent physical harm
  • any other omission that results in a risk of serious harm
  • leaving an injured or sick person on their own for too long when that person is injured or unwell

The above examples are not exhaustive. Other types of physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse may also be taken into consideration.

Specific forms of abuse

Forced marriage is a form of violence that happens when one or both parties do not consent to the marriage. Unlike arranged marriages which take place with the consent of both parties, in forced marriages, individuals are coerced to marry, usually by family members, through threats, physical violence or emotional manipulation.

Gender-based violence is violence that is committed against someone based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE), real or perceived. The victims can be women, men, boys, girls, youth or any member of the LGBTQ2+ community.

Female genital mutilation or cutting includes procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Engaging in female genital mutilation or cutting and removing a child to undergo this procedure elsewhere is a criminal offence in Canada.

Honour-based violence is a form of violence which happens when family members believe that the victim has behaved in ways that bring shame or dishonour to the family. Manifestations of this form of violence include physical and emotional abuse, and may lead to death. The violence can be perpetrated by a partner or family member, and from the perpetrator's perspective, is used to protect family honour and restore the family’s reputation.

Family violence is considered to be any form of abuse or neglect that a child or adult experiences from a family member, or from someone with whom they have an intimate relationship. This can include child abuse, intimate partner violence, or elder abuse.

Learn more

  • for information on temporary foreign workers who are experiencing abuse or who are at risk of experiencing abuse in the context of their employment in Canada, see
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