Family Violence

AuthorJulien D. Payne/Marilyn A. Payne
Chapter 5
Family Violence
One of the best kept secrets of the t wentieth century w as the incidence of
violence in supposedly i ntact families.1 It is only in the la st twenty-ve years
that family v iolence has been recogni zed as a serious soci al and legal prob-
lem that encompasses the abuse of elde rly parents or grandparents as well as
spousal and ch ild abuse.
In the words of MacDonald J, of the Nova Scot ia Supreme Court, in MAB
v LAB:
Domestic violence most com monly refers to a situat ion where an adult
intimate or former i ntimate part ner attempts by psycholog ical, physic al,
nancia l or sexua l means to coerce, domin ate or control the other. is
1 See, general ly, Desmond Ellis, Manag ing Domestic Violence: A P ractical Handbook for
Family Lawyers (Toronto: Lexis Nex is Canada, 2019); Lind a C Neilson, Respon ding to
Domestic Violenc e in Family Law, Civil Protectio n & Child Protection Cases, 2 017 CanLI-
IDocs 2, Febru ary 2017; see als o Linda C Neilson, Br ief to House of Commons Standing
Committee on Justic e and Human Rights on Bill C-78: An Ac t to amend the Divorce Act, e
Family Orders and Ag reements Enforcement Assis tance Act and the Garn ishment, Attach-
ment and Pension Diversio n Act and to make conseque ntial amendments to other Ac ts, 28
November 2018. A nd see Linda C Neilson , “Enhancing Sa fety: When Domest ic Violence
Cases Are i n Multiple Legal Syst ems (Criminal , Family, Child Protec tion): A Family Law,
Domestic Violenc e Perspective,” 2d ed (2013), onlin e: pr/-lf/
famil/enhan-renfo/index.html; Joseph Di Luca, Er in Dann, & Breese Davie s, “Best
Practices W here ere Is Family Vio lence (Criminal L aw Perspective),” onli ne: www.jus-; Luke’s Place, “ What You Don’t
Know Can Hurt You: e Impor tance of Family Viol ence Screening Tools for Fami ly
Law Practit ioners” (Februar y 2018), online: Depar tment of Justice https://www.justice.
Canadi an family law90
violence reveal s a pattern of conduct that may be ver bal, physical or sex ual.
e conduct targets anot her person’s self-esteem and emotiona l well-being.
It can include humi liating , belittl ing, denigr ating, inti midating, cont rol-
ling or isolati ng behaviour. It can include phys ical assaults, sex ual assaults,
sexual hu miliation , sleep deprivat ion, extortion , economic coercion,
threats to har m or kill, d estruction of prop erty, threatened or atte mpted
suicide, litig ation harassment a nd litigation tac tics, manipu lation of chil -
dren, of relative s, of investigation agenc ies and helping person nel, sur-
veillanc e, monitoring, and st alkin g. e abuse and violence i n intimate
partnersh ips has a complex reciprocal dyn amic not found in violence that
occurs between strangers. 2
A sadly neglected aspect of abuse that has come to t he forefront since the
1990s is abuse of the elderly.3 Although such abuse has been found in situa-
tions involving inst itutional care, it more frequently involves younger fam ily
members, often chi ldren or grandchildren.
e most common abuse of the elderly is na ncial abuse, which is often
accompanied by emotional abuse. e ret irement savings of an elderly parent
or grandparent may be squandered by children or grandchildren. Month ly
pension or disability cheques may be with held. Children a nd grandchild ren
may “jump t he gun” on prospective inher itances without any thoug ht for
the impact of such conduct on the elderly pa rent or grandparent. eft of
money or possessions represents more than 60 percent of all cases of abuse
of the elderly. In some instances, resista nce by the elderly person may result
in physical abu se.
It has been estimated t hat at least 4 percent and perhaps as many as 15 per-
cent of the elderly in Canad a are abused nancially, emotional ly, or physically
by their children, grandchi ldren, spouses, or ca regivers. Health and Welfa re
Canada esti mated that more than 315,000 Canadians over si xty-ve years of
age are victims of abuse. However, the incidence of abuse is likely to be much
higher because of the ea se with which it can be concealed by fam ily members.
e character istics of the abused vict im are similar to t hose identied with
respect to the “battered wife syndrome.” Victims of elder abuse feel helpless
and sense that they h ave no place to go in order to avoid the abuse. ey often
2 2013 NSSC 89 at para 20.
3 See, generall y, P Lynn McDonald et al, E lder Abuse and Neglect in C anada (Tor ont o:
Butterwor ths, 1991); see also Ma nitoba Law Reform Comm ission, Report No 10 3, Adult
Protection and Eld er Abuse (Win nipeg: e Commission , December 1999).
Chapter 5: Family Violence 91
have low self-esteem, are de pendent on the abuser, and lack the physical, emo-
tional, and often  nancial ability to withdraw from the abusive environment.
ey are fearfu l of being abandoned or sent to an institution; the y are ignorant
of their legal ri ghts; and they are often isolated or unable to communic ate.
Abuse of the elderly is not a new soci al problem but its incidence is
increasing with the aging of the Canadian popul ation. In 1991, 11.6 percent
of the population of Can ada was over six ty-ve years of age. By 2031 , it will
be more than 22 percent. A lthough federal and prov incial governments, uni-
versities, and socia l agencies are beginning to show some interest in de ning
the boundaries a nd potential solutions to the societa l problem of abuse of the
elderly, no concerted eort has yet been under taken to come to grips with it.
ere is evidence, however, of increased awa reness of the need for change.
A parliamentar y study on abuse of the elderly i n 19934 recommended that
federal fundi ng should be availa ble to provide shelters for elderly victims of
abuse.5 It also recommended that the federal government should work wit h
organizations respon sible for professional standards a nd for the education
of physicians, nurses, social workers, bankers, and lawyers so that abuse of
the elderly could be identied a nd dealt with. It further recommended t hat a
large-sca le federal study should be undertaken to asce rtain the scope of the
problem and the means of deal ing with it.6
Although the expression “spousal abuse” ha s been traditiona lly conned to
persons who are marr ied, it is also frequently used to refer to conduct bet ween
divorced spouses or persons liv ing in a cohabitationa l relationship. “Spousal
abuse” takes var ious forms, but all i nvolve domination or the improper exe r-
cise of power or control over a spouse, divorced spou se, or quasi- marital part-
ner. Spousal abuse may involve physical, sexual , psychological, or economic
4 House of Commons Sta nding Committee on He alth and Welfare, Soc ial Aair s, Seniors
and the Status o f Women, Breaking the Silence on the Abu se of Older Canadians: Ever yone’s
Concern (Ottawa: e Com mittee, June 1993).
5 e rst seniors’ shelt er in Canada was op ened in east-end Montrea l in 1992: Ottawa
Citizen (12 Aug ust 1994) B7.
6 See Canadian Net work for the Prevention of Eld er Abuse, “A Draft Frame work for a
National Strat egy for the Prevention of A buse and Neglect of Olde r Adults in Canad a: A
Proposal ” (7 November 2007), onli ne:;
and “Outlook 20 07: Promising Appr oaches in the Prevent ion of Abuse and Neglec t of
Older Adults in C ommunity Setti ngs in Canada ,” online:
Approaches%20Final%20%202007.pdf. See, genera lly, the Canadia n Centre for Elder Law,

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT