Family violence: It’s more than just physical

Legal Aid Alberta lawyer discusses the different forms of abuse and how to spot them

Legal Aid Alberta
January 20, 2023

Family violence is an unfortunate reality for many Albertans – and it happens every single day. Awareness of what constitutes abuse is an important part of keeping victims and loved ones safe. 

But the telltale signs are not always clear, and violence is not always categorized as ‘physical’ says Legal Aid Alberta Family Lawyer Scott Thurmeier. 

“The first thing people think of when you talk about family violence is physical violence – that people are being harmed physically. It’s relatively common that we see, in addition to physical violence, coercive and controlling behaviour.” 

Demand for protection orders never stops 

Legal Aid Alberta (LAA) staff lawyers working within the Emergency Protection Order Program (EPOP) reported 2,267 opened files in the 2021-22 year – a 16 per cent increase from the 1,949 opened files in 2019-20. 

Thurmeier, who often helps individuals seeking these protection orders, says he sees everything from financial abuse to physical and sexual threats to coercive control in the spectrum of family violence. 

Common situations we see is one person limiting someone’s access to finances by taking away their bank card, not allowing them to share a bank account, giving them a very minimal allowance for things like groceries, limiting access to a family vehicle or never having enough gas in the car to allow someone to get very far from home, and more.” 

Elders abuse all too common 

When it comes to family violence, Thurmeier also says that many of the financial abuse situations he sees involve elderly parents and their child. 

“Elderly people are more susceptible to [financial abuse] and just based on demographics, as the population ages, we unfortunately could be seeing more cases come up. 

“There are times when we see parents in their 70s or 80s applying for an emergency protection order against their adult child, who is demanding or stealing money and/or assuming control over their parents’ bank accounts and possessions.” 

What constitutes violence? 

The definition of violence goes beyond physical abuse – but what exactly should people be looking for when it comes to the different forms of family violence? 

According to Thurmeier, violence can include any of the following: 

  • Coercive behaviour 
  • Controlling behaviour 
  • Destruction of property 
  • Financial abuse 
  • Forced confinement 
  • Intimidation 
  • Physical and/or sexual violence threats 
  • Sexual abuse 
  • Stalking 
  • Threats that include damage to property

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911. 

If you require an emergency protection order (EPO), visit our website or call the Emergency Protection Order Program (EPOP): 

Edmonton area: 1-780-422-9222
Calgary area: 1-403-297-5260 

If you live outside of these areas, call the police at any time or visit your nearest courthouse during business hours. 


Related stories: Ask A Lawyer: The spectrum of family violence 

Stay Informed

The latest news from LAA delivered straight to your inbox.