24/7 provincial toll-free crisis line 18779770007

  • Manitoba Association of Women's Shelters

MAWS provides information only. If you are in danger call 911. If you or someone you know is being abused, call the confidential 24/7 provincial toll-free crisis & support line at: 1-877-977-0007

Recognizing and Responding to Gender-Based Violence: A Guide for Everyone

Gender-based violence (GBV) is an alarming and pervasive issue that affects individuals and families in our province and across Canada. It encompasses a range of behaviors that result in physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, or economic harm, driven by power imbalances rooted in gender inequality. Recognizing these forms of violence is crucial for offering support and fostering a culture of empathy.

Here are some tips to recognize and better understand signs of GBV, and to support those experiencing it. Increasing awareness and fostering a collective commitment to prevention and intervention contributes to a safer and more empathetic society.

GBV manifests in various forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and economic abuse. It knows no boundaries, impacting people of any gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion and socio-economic class. Recognizing the signs is the first step toward creating a supportive environment for survivors.

Recognizing Signs of GBV

Signs of Physical Abuse:

  • Unexplained injuries or frequent injuries
  • Changes in clothing or make-up to conceal injuries
  • Visits to healthcare providers with vague explanations for injuries
  • Frequent need to take time off from work due to illness or injuries
  • Isolation from family and/or friends to conceal injuries

Signs of Emotional and Psychological Abuse:

  • Noticeable changes in behavior, such as increased anxiety or depression, hypervigilance
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness
  • Constant fear
  • Constantly questioning oneself/reality and unable to make decisions
  • Unable to form healthy attachments (e.g. becomes overly attached easily, overshares, or else very detached from others, unable to form trusting relationships)
  • Heightened irritability or heightened sensitivity
  • Becomes visibly upset due to small mistakes/issues
  • Frequent and heightened negative self-talk

Signs of Sexual Abuse:

  • Unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections
  • Fear of intimacy or reluctance to discuss sexual matters
  • Signs of sexual trauma or distress
  • Overt displays of sexuality towards strangers, acquaintances, friends, and/or family members
  • Overshares sexual experiences with people they do not have a close relationship with

Signs of Financial Abuse:

  • Limited control over finances
  • Forced economic dependence on another
  • Difficulty accessing resources or employment opportunities
  • Difficulty maintaining employment
  • Fears spending money due to consequences inflicted by another

How to Help

Educate Yourself:
Stay informed about the different forms of GBV and their impact. Understanding the complexities of the issue is crucial for providing effective support. One way to learn more is by following social media pages such as our own that discuss GBV.

Listen Non-Judgmentally:
If someone confides in you, listen without judgment. Create a safe space so they can share their experiences and validate their feelings. Avoid blaming or interrogating; instead, express empathy and concern.

Offer Support:
Let the survivor know they are not alone, and that help is available. Share resources such as helplines, shelters, and support groups. Respect their choices and autonomy throughout the process.

Encourage Professional Help:
Depending on the situation, suggest seeking help from professionals, such as counselors, therapists, resource centers or shelters. Assure them that resources are available to assist them in navigating their circumstances. When suggesting a crisis line, let them know that anonymity may be possible.

Safety Planning:
Work collaboratively to develop a safety plan. This may involve identifying safe spaces and family violence shelters, creating emergency contacts, and establishing a support network. If the individual is not leaving the unsafe situation, a safety plan could involve having a second key made and left in a designated area for emergencies, speaking with a neighbor and making a plan for them to call 9-11 when lights inside are flashing, or planning a route within the household to get to a room with either a lock or a chair accessible that can be secured under doorknob.

Respect Autonomy:
Respect the survivor’s choices and decisions. Avoid pressuring them to take actions they may not be ready for or able to take.

Call to Action

As we raise awareness about gender-based violence, let us commit to being active bystanders and advocates for change. By recognizing the signs, offering support, and promoting a culture of empathy, we can contribute to the collective effort to eradicate GBV. Share this information with your community, engage in open conversations, and support organizations working to combat gender-based violence. Together, we can create a world where everyone is free from the shackles of violence and fear.