What is Abuse? - Alberta Human Services - Government of Alberta

What is Abuse?

Melissa’s Story

“I went out with this guy a few times. It didn’t work out so I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore. All of a sudden he was everywhere I went: outside my apartment, in the bookstore, even in the coffee shop where I work. He sent me text messages like every hour. I spent months watching over my shoulder. I called the police and asked them what to do, so they would have his name on file. I never left work by myself and I changed my phone number. Eventually he got the message.”

Angela’s Story

“My girlfriend and I hooked up with some guys at a Friday night pub on campus. We drank and danced a lot and then decided to go with the guys to a different party. A bunch of our classmates saw us go. As we were walking there, this one guy kept grabbing at me. I asked him to stop, but he kept on doing it. After I asked him a couple more times and he kept groping me, my girlfriend and I just took off running in the other direction. When I got to class on Monday, I heard that he was telling people he had sex with me. Everybody believes him.”

What is abuse?

Abuse is a pattern of controlling behaviour. In families, an abusive person can use many tactics to gain power over another family member. Parents can often use this power to harm their children. This can include:

  • Name-calling, hurtful words and other forms of verbal and emotional abuse;
  • Hitting, punching, kicking and other forms of physical abuse;
  • Sexual abuse;
  • Neglect;
  • Damaging personal property;
  • Silent treatment;
  • Shaking a baby; or
  • Threatening to harm or harming people or animals

Is your relationship with your parents healthy? Take this quiz to find out.

Dating abuse

Dating can be fun and exciting, but sometimes your relationship can turn into something you aren’t comfortable with. Abuse can happen between people who are dating. Dating abuse can include:

  • Name-calling, hurtful words and other forms of verbal and emotional abuse;
  • Hitting, punching, kicking and other forms of physical abuse;
  • Telling you who you can spend time with or how much time you can spend with other people;
  • Controlling behaviours – deciding what you wear, how you can style your hair, etc.;
  • Threatening to hurt you, destroying your things, and other intimidation tactics; or 
  • Touching you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, not listening when you say “no” or other forms of sexual abuse

If you are being abused, help is available. Talk to a family member, close friend, teacher or counsellor you trust. You can also learn more about dating abuse by reading the dating abuse booklet and information sheet.

Not sure if your relationship with your girlfriend or boyfriend is healthy? Take this quiz to find out.

Making smart choices when it comes to dating can also help keep you safe. Follow these dating safety tips.


Bullying is a form of abuse that is very common among young people. Bullying happens when someone deliberately and repeatedly harasses, injures or threatens another person.

For more information about what bullying is and what you can do to stop it, visit http://www.b-free.ca.

For advice or support about bullying, call the 24-hour Bullying Helpline toll free at 1-888-456-2323.

Modified: 2013-01-02
PID: 15851