14 criminal offenses in contexts of intimate partner violence

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14 criminal offenses in contexts of intimate partner violence

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Intimate partner violence (IPV) takes many shapes. While all forms of IPV contribute to the hold that a partner has over the other and that they all have significant consequences on the victim, not all are recognized in the criminal code of Canada.

Hard to identify

Stereotypical images of criminal violence, as it is depicted in movies and the very numerous “CSI” series, can be detrimental to identifying criminal violence in situations of IPV. Just like all other forms of IPV, criminal violence can be very subtle. For example, we have become accustomed to recognizing physical abuse when it hits or when it inflicts physical injuries, but it may be difficult to recognize that holding someone's arm against their will, pinning them against the bed or pulling their hair are also manifestations of physical criminal violence.

In addition, although they may appear striking from the outside, it is important to know that criminal forms of violence, like all other forms of IPV, can be very difficult for the victim to identify as being violent. 

The following are the criminal offenses most frequently seen in situations of IPV and post-separation violence.


Stalking / Harassment

Calling, texting or following the victim in person or virtually, incessantly and repeatedly; Showing up at the victim's home or work when it is clear that it is against their will; Spying on the victim; etc.


Unauthorized use of a computer

Installing software to track the victim's computer or to intercept communications; Activating geolocation functions on a cell phone without the victim’s knowledge, to track them in real time; etc.


Uttering threats

Threatening to cause death or bodily harm to the victim or to a third party; Threatening to burn, destroy or damage property; Threatening to kill, poison or injure a pet; All of this, even if the threat was received by another person (e.g., one's children), etc.


Sharing intimate images

Publishing, sharing or selling intimate images without the consent of the person in the image; If the victim is under 18 years of age, this constitutes the production/possession or distribution of child pornography, regardless of the victim's consent.


Sexual assault / voyeurism / indecent acts

Touching the victim's private parts without consent; Forcing the victim to have sex without consent; Initiating sex when the victim is unable to give consent (e.g., while sleeping); Continuing sexual activity when the victim withdraws consent; Removing a condom without consent; Filming or photographing the victim in a sexual context without consent; Sending photos of one’s private parts to the victim without prior consent; etc.


Physical violence

Spitting, biting, hitting, pinching, pushing, restraining, squeezing arms or pulling hair; Administering a drug, medication or dangerous substance without the victim's knowledge; Striking with an object, inflicting bodily harm or choking the victim; Pretending to hit the victim; etc.


Human trafficking

Using the pretext of a romantic relationship to exploit the victim, usually for sexual purposes or forced labor; Forcing the victim into prostitution or pornography; Selling the victim's sexual services to others; Forcing the victim to perform domestic tasks for others without pay and against their will; etc.


Theft, fraud and extortion

Stealing property or money; Lying to obtain a loan from the victim; Extorting money from the victim by threatening retaliation if they do not comply with demands, often by threatening to publish intimate images (sextortion) or to reveal sensitive or compromising information; etc.


Forgery and identity theft

Imitating the victim's signature; Impersonating the victim on social networks; Accessing the victim's personal accounts on the Internet (email, suppliers, bank, social networks, etc.); Selling the victim's personal information to a third party; etc.


Kidnapping and false imprisonment

Preventing the victim from leaving a room, vehicle, home, or any other place where they do not wish to be; Seizing or moving the victim against their will; Refusing to return a child at the end of a visitation, with the intent to deprive the other parent of that child; etc.



Breaking or damaging something that belongs to the victim, or for which the victim is responsible: slashing tires, punching a hole in a wall, tearing clothing, breaking a cell phone or computer, breaking glasses, a cane, a walker or a wheelchair, burning photos; Changing passwords to social media or email accounts or deleting the accounts themselves; Deleting documents or the contents of a computer or of another device; etc.


Public mischief

Lying to a police officer or any other peace officer for the purpose of leading them to investigate and charge the victim with a crime; Making a false statement to the court; etc.


Violation of a court order, peace bond or probation order

Refusing to return a child at the end of a right of access; Showing up at the victim's home (or work) or contacting them (or their relatives) despite an order prohibiting any contact; etc.


Attempted murder, murder

Pressing charges

If you have experienced any of these forms of violence, you have the right to report it to the police so that a complaint can be filed. There is no time limit to do so, but the sooner you report it, the easier it is for authorities to prove the situation beyond a reasonable doubt. The denunciation made at the time of pressing charges is the cornerstone of the process and cannot be changed once filed. It is recommended to document the events and obtain the support of a worker who is specialized in IPV to prepare your denunciation and to be accompanied during the process. 

In case of emergency, do not hesitate to call 911.

To speak with an IPV advocate or with a lawyer, please don't hesitate to contact us.

To ask your questions about your situation directly to a Crown Prosecutor, contact the DPCP Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Hotline at 1-877-547-DPCP (3727). This service is free and confidential.

Other behaviours, other recourses

Beyond the acts recognized in the Criminal Code of Canada, other behaviours may be subject to legal recourses. For example, the notion of "defamation" refers to an infringement, through verbal or written comments, of the right to honor and reputation. In Quebec, this right is codified  in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and in the Civil Code of Quebec. A civil action can then be brought to demand that the behaviour cease or to obtain compensation for any damages caused to the victim

A huge thank you to our colleagues from the Rebâtir legal information helpline, for their contribution to the writing and validation of the legal information contained in this article.

Related content

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To learn more about the criminal justice system

Bien que la violence conjugale touche majoritairement des femmes, elle peut aussi toucher les hommes et les personnes issues de la diversité sexuelle et de genre. Les services de SOS violence conjugale sont offerts à toutes les personnes touchées par la problématique.

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How to erase your browsing history?

When you browse the Internet on a computer, tablet or cell phone, your activities are automatically recorded by the browser you are using (explorer, safari, firefox, chrome, etc.). Unfortunately, this means that your partner could track all the sites you have visited, by consulting your browsing history . It is possible to erase the traces of your passage on our website. We advise you to consult this page to learn how to do so. 

In certain situations, it may be preferable to consult our website on a device to which your partner does not have access: at a friend's, at the office, in a public library, etc. Your safety is important.