Talking to People who Use Abusive Behaviour

Are you concerned about someone you think is being abusive to their partner or ex-partner, but don’t know what to do? This information describes the warning signs and how you can talk to someone who might be perpetrating domestic violence about their behaviour.

Everyone in the community has a role to play in helping to prevent domestic violence. You can reach out to organizations in your community that support people experiencing domestic violence and those who are perpetrating domestic violence.

How to talk to people who use abusive behaviour

How to talk to people who use abusive behaviour

Here is what you can do when you recognize warning signs that someone is using abusive behaviour:

  • Choose the right time and place to have a full discussion.
  • Approach the person who you think might be using abusive behaviour when they are calm.
  • Approach someone who is using abusive behaviour with care and concern, not with anger and judgement.
  • Be direct and clear about what you have seen.
  • Tell the person you believe is being abusive that their behaviour is their responsibility. Don’t validate any attempts to blame others for their abusive behaviour.
  • Tell the person using abusive behaviour that you are concerned for the safety of their partner and children.
  • Tell the person using abusive behaviour that you are also concerned for their well-being and that being abusive will take a toll on them as well as their family.
  • Tell the person that their behaviour needs to stop.
  • Tell the person that help is available and provide them with information about Partner Assault Response Programs. [hyperlink online version to ‘Support for people who want to change their abusive behaviour’
  • Never argue with a perpetrator about their abusive actions. Recognize that confrontational, argumentative approaches may make the situation worse and put someone who is experiencing domestic violence at higher risk.
  • Call the police if the person’s partner, ex-partner and/or children’s safety is in jeopardy.


If the person denies the abuse:

  • People who use abusive behaviour will often minimize the impact of their actions and deny that they have done anything wrong.
  • They may state that it isn’t that bad or blame the victim. This type of behaviour deflects their own responsibility for their actions.
  • Keep your conversation focused on your concerns for their family’s safety and well-being and reiterate that abuse is never an answer.
  • Keep the lines of communication open and look for opportunities to help the person find support to change their behaviour. Start with your local Partner Assault Response Program. 

Always keep yourself safe. Don’t get in the middle of an assault. Call the police in an emergency.

Support for people who want to change their abusive behaviour

Partner Assault Response (PAR) programs, a component of Ontario’s Domestic Violence Court program, are specialized group educational/counselling services offered by community-based agencies to people who have assaulted their partners. Some offenders are ordered to attend the PAR program by the court. PAR programs aim to enhance victim safety and hold offenders accountable for their behaviour.

In an emergency, call your local police service.

Most Ontarians feel a personal responsibility for reducing domestic violence. Recognizing it is the first step.Take the warning signs seriously. For further information visit: