The York Region Violence Against Women Coordinating Committee
The York Region Violence Against Women Coordinating Committee. The mission of the YRVAWCC is to promote a collaborative and effective response to the violence against women in York Region.
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Indicators of Abuse

» Emotional/Psychological indicators

» Physical indicators

» Sexual indicators

» Financial indicators

» Stalking/Harassment

»Indicators Related To Marginalized And High Risk Women

» Indicators for Pregnant Women


Emotional/Psychological indicators

The woman may:
• Seem timid, anxious, agitated, scared, exhausted, depressed or have a flat effect
• Concede to the abuser to answer or make decisions on her behalf
• Seem more concerned about the abuser's needs than her own needs or health concerns
• Have heightened startle response
• Have suicidal or homicidal thoughts
• Report feeling isolated
• Feel extremely angry
• Experience sleeplessness and/or nightmares

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Physical indicators

Visible injuries may include bruises, cuts, burns, black eyes, choke marks, bleeding
injuries, chunks of hair pulled out, dental injuries

Invisible injuries include internal bleeding, punctured eardrums, fractures, sprains,
pulled muscles, bruising, headaches, chest, stomach, or pelvic pain and old untreated

The woman may minimize the seriousness of her injuries, or make excuses about how
she received her injuries (e.g. blame herself for being clumsy, or slipping down the
stairs, reporting an "accident-prone" history)

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Sexual indicators

The woman may complain of:
• Unwanted touching Recurring genital pain or infection
• Sexually transmitted diseases
• Forced/coerced/non-consensual sexual activity
• Sex trade work

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Financial indicators

• Abuser controls all the money
• Abuser withholds money from the woman or gives the woman a strict allowance
• Refusal to spend money without agreement of the abuser
• Non-disclosure of critical financial information (i.e. liabilities, investments, etc.)
• Coerced to assume financial liability
• No access to independent financial advice

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• Stalking behaviour may include:
• Letters, emails, telephone calls Sending unwanted gifts
• Showing up uninvited
• Stealing mail
• Following, watching, tracking Harassing her employer or colleagues
• Vandalizing her property
• Harming pets
• Assault – physical or sexual
• Kidnapping, holding hostage
• Threatening harm to the person being stalked, her family, friends

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Indicators Related To Marginalized And High Risk Women

Women may be abused regardless of socio-economic status, age, sexual orientation, profession (including sex trade), mental health status, gender, citizenship status, physical ability, religion, language, race, culture or ethnicity. For example, pregnant women are not immune from abuse. Indeed, clinical evidence shows that it is not uncommon for abuse to start or to increase during pregnancy with adverse affects on the mother and fetus. There is a higher incidence of abuse to pregnant and parenting women, with even greater risk to pregnant or parenting teens.

Recent clinical findings show that elder abuse is on the rise, yet it is highly under-reported. Often unrecognized as victims of abuse, disabled and elderly women are at an increased risk of being abused because of their inability to flee the abuse and/or report it. Symptoms of the abuse are often minimized or go undetected because of the symptoms related to the disability and/or age. She may also be reluctant to report her family member or be unaware of her rights.

Although psychiatrized women may experience similar issues as disabled and elderly women they are not often able to access appropriate supports and services. Psychiatrized women include those who have a DSM IV diagnosis (see Glossary, Appendix C) and may be or have been involved in the mental health system. Psychiatrized women are further marginalized when the mental health system accepts and believes the abusive partner’s forms of manipulation of this system. No woman should be refused service and/or not believed based on her ability or mental health status.

There are similar difficulties identified in assisting women from diverse cultures who are abused. York Region is home to diverse and multicultural communities. Women from these communities and who may be immigrants or refugees warrant increased culturally appropriate supports and services in the community.

In addition to the physical, sexual, stalking/harassment, emotional/psychological, and financial indicators listed previously, there are specific indicators that are highlighted here for pregnant women, elderly women, disabled women, and women from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds.

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Indicators for Pregnant Women

Pregnancy is a particularly vulnerable time for women in terms of violence.  Research shows that there is a higher incidence of abuse among pregnant women, with even greater risk to pregnant or parenting teens.  It is not uncommon for abuse to start or to increase during pregnancy, with adverse effects to the mother and fetus.

Several missed appointments Feigned labour to avoid being at home
Premature contractions Sexually transmitted diseases
Threatened abortion Miscarriages
Late prenatal care (e.g. 2nd or 3rd trimester) Fear of partner
Direct trauma to uterus Unhappy about the pregnancy
Discusses termination of the pregnancy  

During Labour and Hospital Stay

Her partner will try to make decisions about how to deal with the pain she is experiencing
Her partner may present as controlling, display inappropriate behaviour, or smell of alcohol
After her visits with her partner, the woman seems visibly distressed
Her partner is absent from the labour room or does not leave the woman alone during extended labour
(i.e. will not leave labour room for meals or breaks)


• The child may have low birth weight
• The woman may be hesitant to leave hospital
• The woman may miss appointments
• The woman may not return for post-natal clinic visits
• Her partner calls to cancel post-natal visits

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