Breaking the Cycle


By Natallia Staravoitava

“You can meet the nicest guy who treats you like a queen, but have no clue who he really is,” reveals Nina, whose partner became physically violent toward her after two years of dating. “The worst was the psychological abuse. I felt like...not myself. Zero confidence, scared of talking.”

“He was attentive, affectionate and loving… until he wasn’t anymore,” explains Jane, another woman with a similar story. “I spoke too much, my opinion was misplaced, and my outfits were promiscuous. All of which he believed deserved correction. After every slap and punch he promised to change. But he never did. I learned to adapt, realizing that submission was the only way to save me from his wrath.”

Unfortunately, Nina and Jane’s stories are all too common. Conjugal violence doesn’t discriminate between age group, social class, culture, religion or ethnicity. It is present in both heterosexual and same sex relationships.

An abusive relationship is centred around the notion of control, creating a growing power imbalance between the perpetrator and the victim. The abuser may try to isolate the victim from family and friends, prevent them from forming new friendships, or take charge of all household finances and legal documents. Warning signs include a wanting to rush into a relationship, making subtle comments about a partner’s appearance and entourage, imposing beliefs and desires, putting a partner down in front of family and friends or when alone.

The cycle of conjugal violence typically exhibits three phases: a building tension (the feeling of walking on eggshells), resulting in an abusive incident (physical, psychological, verbal, sexual, financial, spiritual), followed by a honeymoon stage (the abuser apologizes and promises to change). This repetitive cycle only gets worse.

Violence and harassment are likely to continue even after the victim leaves the relationship. In Jane’s case, her ex-partner contacted her workplace, friends, and family, used social media to track her, and even stalked her outside her home for over a year after they split up. Former partners may also refuse to pay for child support and even make them liable for their debts.

But there is hope. Montreal is home to a myriad of options including emergency hotlines and shelters like Auberge Transition. Opened in 1975, Auberge Transition is Canada’s longest running women’s shelter. Last year alone, they provided shelter to 65 women and 49 children, in addition to offering external services like counselling and crisis intervention to an addtional 126 women.

The team at Auberge Transition encourages women to prioritize their safety and well-being at all costs, even if it means leaving a relationship. “There are help and resources for you and your children. If you feel like you are in an abusive relationship or in danger, listen to your intuition. It is a compass guiding you to safety. You are not alone and there are people who are willing to listen and support you.”


  • Have your own personal bank account and keep your PIN confidential.
  • Make sure your cell phone is registered under your name.
  • Store important documents for you and your children in a safe location.
  • Remain in contact with family and friends.
  • Don’t hesitate to reach out: Auberge Transition, 514-481-0495,; SOS Violence Conjugale, 1-800-363-9010,; Assistance aux femmes, 514-270-8291,


Spring 2020, Vol 12 N°2

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