Have you ever heard of the terrors of being at the fist of someone you love?

We have all heard the horrors of domestic violence. However, few of us are aware of how prevalent it is in Canada. In fact, on average, a woman dies at the hands of domestic violence every four days.

Because abuse can occur in different ways, it can be difficult to quantify. Abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, or financial. Furthermore, it is estimated that only a small number of abuse cases are actually reported. Many victims of abuse do not come forward with reports, making it impossible to appropriately identify the number of abuse victims yearly.

Both men and women can be victimized by all types of abuse. However, 7 in 10 reported cases of domestic violence in 2014 were targeting girls and women. Though it is presumed that women are more likely to be the victim of domestic violence, reported statistics cannot be deemed as accurate. Cultural barriers, fear and shame are only a few cited reasons why victims don’t report their abuse. Furthermore, men are considered less likely than women to report domestic violence.

Some common risk factors of domestic abusers include poverty, substance use and a history of family abuse. It is important to note that domestic abuse can be found throughout different races and religions.

Overtime, domestic abuse typically increases in frequency and severity. What may start as small acts of control or rude statements, may snowball into an explosive and highly dangerous relationship.

One of the primary concerns of abuse: it is an incredibly dangerous situation during the relationship. However, it often becomes the most volatile and high-risk once a victim attempts to leave the abusive relationship. Not only can abuse result in possibly fatal situations, but there are a number of effects of abuse. Victims of domestic abuse are increasingly vulnerable to developing mental illness (depression and anxiety) and substance abuse problems.

It’s easy to read the statistics as numbers on the page. After all, that’s exactly what they are – but behind the numbers are real people. Men and women injured by people that they love. Abuse is a violation of trust, love, and ultimately, basic human rights.

If you are in an abusive situation, first and foremost, you have to plan for your safety (and the safety of your children, when applicable). It can be excruciating to talk about the abuse with people in your life, but it’s important that the people you trust are aware of the circumstances.

When you’re in the midst of an abusive relationship, it can be hard to assess the gravity of the situation – or how in danger you really are. By discussing your relationship with a trusted source, you can understand the risks of your relationship. Furthermore, having an outside source of support is incredibly beneficial. If you decide to leave your abusive relationship, you may need a safe place to stay.

The most important thing to remember in ANY situation that involves domestic violence is: you don’t deserve the way you are being treated. Regardless of the circumstances of a relationship, it is entirely unhealthy, unfair and unjust to have any form of abuse present.

People who have been victims of ongoing domestic violence have reported losing self-confidence and having poor self-worth. It is easy to place the blame on yourself. These effects are often ongoing and may require future counselling or work to overcome them. However, the first step is to keep yourself safe.

Within more recent decades, the Canadian Justice System has cracked down on domestic violence. Thankfully, this has given victims the upper-hand over the perpetrators (who once were backed by the justice system). This change in legislation has finally given victims the support they need to overcome their terrifying, and emotionally draining, situation.

There are often a number of local resources that are available to victims of domestic violence. There are women’s shelters that can often offer room and board to women and children who have been in violent situations. For more information on support services, visit here: http://endingviolencecanada.org/getting-help/

Always remember: it is never your fault.

Written by Celina Dawdy