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What is Cultural and Spiritual Abuse?

According to Statistics Canada, 44% of women who have been in an intimate partner relationship have experienced some form of abuse. For Indigenous populations, that number jumps to 61%.

There has been an increase in dialogue about the many faces of abuse, including psychological, emotional, physical, verbal, sexual, and financial. However, there are still forms of abuse that too often get left out of the conversation. It’s important to talk about them to understand what the signs are and how to recognize them.

One form of abuse that is too often overlooked is cultural or spiritual abuse. This type of abuse occurs when an abuser uses their partner’s cultural identity or religious/spiritual beliefs as a means to obtain power or control over them (Steeped In Hope).

What does cultural/spiritual abuse look like?

Abuse tactics can vary depending on background or spirituality, but these are some examples:

  • Telling someone they’re “not enough” or “too much” of their culture/religion
  • Using hurtful stereotypes
  • Forcing cultural/spiritual practices upon someone
  • Ignoring or forcing someone to go against dietary constraints
  • Preventing someone from wearing their religious garments
  • Citing/twisting scripture to make someone believe they are going against God
  • Threatening to out someone for their beliefs


There are countless other examples of what cultural/spiritual abuse can look like, depending on a person’s identity. Regardless of how you identify, everyone deserves to be respected for their background, beliefs, and practices.

Whether someone you know is experiencing abuse or you are going through this yourself, there are people ready to help. Taking the first step is hard, but there are services dedicated to supporting survivors. No one has to go through this alone.

CTV has created a list of who to contact for help by province. You can also follow the links cited throughout this post to learn more. If you or someone you know is in need of moving and storage services to flee an abusive household, request a move from the Shelter Movers chapter closest to you.

About Shelter Movers

Shelter Movers is a national, volunteer-powered charitable organization that provides free moving and storage services to people who are fleeing from abuse. We serve clients who are ready to leave an abusive situation either to a shelter or a safe place. Learn more

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