Love doesn’t hurt

“Love doesn’t bruise,” says a feminist slogan brandished to denounce domestic violence.

While reading the disturbing report by my colleague Gabrielle Duchaine on violence in a romantic context among young people, multiple variations on the same theme came to mind.

Love doesn’t track anyone by geolocation.

Love does not threaten anyone with releasing their intimate photos in the event of a breakup.

Love doesn’t constantly ask, “Where are you?” With whom ? Call me on FaceTime for me to check. »


Collage of the collective of feminist “gluers” from Quebec City

All these behaviors have nothing to do with love. It is in fact a form of violence which does not cause any bruises either, but which is no less serious. We are talking about coercive controlling behaviors that form the backbone of stories of domestic violence. A sort of invisible leash that includes monitoring the movements of the “loved” person, tactics of isolating loved ones, threats in the event of disobedience to a violent spouse, episodes of humiliation, etc.

Knowing how to recognize its manifestations saves lives. Because it is an illusion to believe that if there are no blows, there is no danger for the victim. Contrary to popular belief, femicides are not necessarily preceded by other episodes of physical violence. In many cases, the first blows are also, inevitably, the last.

Hence the urgency to act well before the blows. Long before the worst happened.

After the tragic death of Daphné Huard-Boudreault, an 18-year-old young woman killed by her ex-partner whom she had nevertheless reported to the police, coroner Stéphanie Gamache recommended more training for police officers called to intervene with victims domestic violence1.

A “punctual reminder” concerning the behaviors that characterize cycles of domestic violence would possibly have allowed the police to detect the red flags that they had in front of them, underlined the coroner in her report made public in May 2020. The fact that the ex-partner leaving with Daphne’s cell phone and using her Facebook account without her knowledge should have been considered alarming signs of coercive control.

The coroner also recommended that Quebec launch a campaign to raise awareness and promote egalitarian relationships and that it be extended specifically to all high school students.

Following the report Rebuilding trust, the government is committed to following up on these recommendations and several others. In response to the coroner’s recommendation following the death of Daphné Huard-Boudreault, awareness initiatives adapted to young people were included in the 2022-2027 government strategy.

Officially, the prevention of domestic violence is part of the curriculum in all secondary schools in Quebec. In secondary four, the sexuality education course aims in particular to enable young people to recognize manifestations of violence in a romantic context.

From the next school year, as part of the Quebec Culture and Citizenship program intended for 15 and 16 year old students, the legal framework for love and sexual life will also be part of the compulsory themes covered in class. We will address, among other things, issues relating to cyberviolence and the non-consensual sharing of intimate images.

These are certainly steps in the right direction. But the testimonies collected by shelter workers, who offer free awareness workshops in secondary schools, show that there is still a lot to do, even if some schools remain reluctant.

After each of the workshops – which are not part of the school curriculum – the shelters receive calls for help from many adolescent girls who realize that they are victims of violence, underlines Annick Brazeau, president of the Regroupement des maison pour women victims of domestic violence.

“There are centers that offer support groups for young girls after the workshop. The TES [techniciennes en éducation spécialisée] tell us that it awakens things and that young people come to see them more in their office. During the presentations, we also see young people leaving the class crying. »

With adolescents, we do not talk about “domestic violence”, but rather about violence in romantic relationships or toxic relationships – words which resonate more with what they are experiencing and which challenge them more. “Domestic violence is for women! »

That said, whether we are talking about domestic violence suffered by “madams” or violence in romantic relationships suffered by young people, we are talking about the same violence that is still too often trivialized. We talk about the same stubborn myths that keep it going2. Hence the importance of focusing on more prevention from an early age. When will there be a major societal campaign on the subject?

1. Read “Murder of Daphné Huard-Boudreault: a recommended awareness campaign”

2. Read “Domestic violence: stubborn and dangerous myths”

Where to ask for help

SOS Domestic Violence offers help and a referral service to shelters in your region, through its telephone line (1 800 363-9010) and its website.

Visit the SOS Domestic Violence website

Shelters for women victims of domestic violence also offer services to adolescent girls, including support groups and individual meetings.

Visit the Étincelles project website

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