Someone’s tone rises, a door slams and there’s a heavy and terrifying silence. The next time, there’s a shove; the time after that a slap. Intimate-partner violence can creep into relationships. Limits are pushed bit by bit, and one day, we wake up in the middle of a toxic storm that we don’t know how to escape. But how do we distinguish between “healthy” partner disputes and domestic violence? How do we determine that someone we love is displaying toxic behaviours? How do we recognize abuse? Emotional blackmail? Humiliation tactics? Control? Bullying? Jealousy? Domestic violence has many faces and knows very well how to hide them.

Emotional abuse is often a precursor to physical abuse. And women, for the most part, take the hits. The statistics are depressing: In Canada, femicide is on the rise. According to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, one woman is killed every two days and one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. Intimate-partner violence affects women’s health and well-being, and consequences include injury, chronic health conditions, mental-health disorders and reproductive-health issues. These repercussions can persist even after the abuse has stopped.

One of the most devastating consequences is loneliness. An abusive partner will use their power to isolate their victim. As a result, the victim no longer knows who to turn to for help, advice or guidance on how to get out of the relationship. It’s a complex situation as violence inflicted on women by their partners is not considered a crime in many countries around the world.

To help young people of all genders recognize the warning signs of intimate-partner violence, Yves Saint Laurent Beauté has created Abuse Is Not Love, an international program whose goal is to raise awareness among more than 2 million people by 2030. Gestures that might seem somewhat harmless—such as deliberately ignoring one’s partner to punish them, threatening to reveal intimate photos or messages, insulting them to make them lose confidence in themselves or deliberately influencing their emotions to get them to act a certain way—are often unhealthy behaviours, and that’s what this initiative wants to highlight.

I’m a mother of two boys, and I’m going to have them read the article on this important subject that you’ll find on our website. I encourage you to read it too and share it with your friends and family—it can change a life.

Photography: Andréanne Gauthier; Stylist, Vanessa Giroux; Makeup artist, Sophie parrot.
S. Banford is wearing a turtleneck (Ssense), jacket (After Me) and jewellery (DRAE Collection).

The March 2023 issue of ELLE Canada will hit newsstands and Apple News+ on February 19, 2024.

Mark Seliger

Lily Gladstone is wearing a dress by Roland Mouret, a net mask by Leila Jinnah and earrings and a ring by Asep Designs. Publisher: Sophie Banford Editor-in-chief: Joanna Fox Photographer: Mark Seliger Stylist: Arianne Phillips Hairstylist: Bob Recine (The Wall Group) Makeup artist: Romy Soleimani (The Wall Group) Manicurist: Casey Herman (The Wall Group) Set designer: Jakob Bokulich Producers: Ruth Levy and Madi Overstreet