We often hear about domestic abuse in the news when it becomes fatal. The reality is that domestic abuse/violence happens daily, in many forms, and affects families everywhere. Please remember that if you are being abused by your spouse or common law partner, you are not alone. There are services and resources you can turn to that can help you extricate yourself from your situation and ensure that you are safe.

What is Domestic Abuse/Violence?

Simply put, domestic abuse/violence is a crime. There is no specific section dealing with domestic abuse or domestic violence in the Criminal Code of Canada. However, most of the actions and behaviours that commonly occur in abusive relationships are part of the Criminal Code, and are therefore crimes.

Domestic abuse/violence is often thought of as physical violence, emotional abuse, or sexual assault. Certainly, these are acts of family violence. However, domestic abuse/violence takes various shapes and forms, and there are other criminal offences that can be considered domestic violence, depending on the circumstances.

The Government of Canada has listed what it believes to be offences related to family violence, and below are a few examples:

  • The Administration of Justice
    • Disobeying order of court
    • Failure to comply with condition of undertaking or breach of recognizance (for example: when someone is released from custody and are under conditions not to go to the residence of the victim, and then goes to the victim’s residence without a lawful excuse)
    • Failure to comply with probation order (for example: after someone has been tried and punished, and has a probation order that has conditions to not contact the victim, and the person does in fact contact the person)
  • Emotional/Psychological Abuse
    • Criminal harassment (often called stalking)
    • Uttering threats
    • Trespassing
  • Neglect
    • Failure to provide necessaries of life (such as food, shelter, medical attention and protection from harm);
    • Abandoning child;
    • Criminal negligence (for example: a parent leaving a 2-year old on their own while the parent goes to the bar);
  • Financial Abuse
    • Theft
    • Theft by person holding power of attorney
    • Extortion
    • Forgery
    • Fraud

As you can see, financial and economic abuse is also a form of domestic abuse/violence. A partner stealing from you, extorting you, or forging your signature on documents is also considered domestic abuse.

How the Law Can Protect Victims

There are also sections of the Criminal Code that are intended to protect victims. Criminal courts have a wide range of powers to release or detain an accused person when charges related to family violence have been laid. The court can order for there to be “no contact” as part of the release conditions of the accused person when waiting for trial. This is where the administration of justice sections come in. If an accused is ordered to not have contact with the abused individual, and makes contact, that is an offence under the Criminal Code.

If someone fears for their safety when their abuser is released, they can ask the police to notify them when the accused is released so that they are prepared. The police are then also aware that there is the potential for further conflict.

Even where no offence has been committed, but there is a fear that personal injury or property damage may occur, the court can order peace bonds, which require an individual to agree to very specific conditions to keep the peace.

Some provinces have enacted their own family violence legislation, which are civil statutes. These pieces of legislation are meant to complement the protections provided by the Criminal Code. As with the Criminal Code, these pieces of legislation offer more protection for victims of domestic abuse/violence. This includes “emergency intervention orders” which may grant the victim the right to exclusively remain in the home and use the family vehicle. These orders may also restrain the abuser from contacting the victim or members of the victim’s family. Ontario has legislation like this; it is called the Domestic Violence Protection Act.

Services Available for You and your Family

The police are often the best option when trying to get out of an abusive relationship. If you are being abused, call the police. If you feel that you and your children are in danger, call the police.

The first step and most important step is to get yourself and any other people in your home who may be abused out of the situation. Domestic abuse is a serious matter, and police services across Canada have designated officers who deal specifically with domestic abuse cases. The police may arrest the person if they believe that the person has broken the law.

If you do not want to call the police, or fear that calling the police may aggravate the situation, reach out to someone. Speaking to anyone, whether someone you know or even a stranger, may help you gain some clarity and provide you with the support you need.

There are many resources in the community that can be of use to you and your children. Speaking with your doctor can be an option. If you have injuries, they can tend to them and document them in your medical file. These records are often used in court to prove that you had been assaulted or abused. You can also go to the hospital, and they will also be able to treat your injuries and document them.

In Ontario,  Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Care and Treatment Centres across the province are hospital-based centres that provide care to men, women, and children who have been sexually assaulted or who are victims or are survivors of domestic violence. If you do not feel comfortable going to the doctor, you can contact one of these centres.

The Victim Support Line (VSL) is also another option. This phone line can help you get in touch with the right program in your community that can help you.  There is also the Assaulted Women’s Helpline or Fem’aide, which provides support services in French.

Speaking to a family lawyer is also an option. For some cases, this is the best way to start the process of ending the abuse. Lawyers can start the legal process for you by requesting a restraining order or other orders (such as emergency protection orders). Many lawyers offer free consultations. If you are unsure of whether you can afford a lawyer, you can also contact Legal Aid clinics to see if you qualify for their services.

If you are thinking about leaving an abusive relationship, please contact the experienced family lawyers at Borden Family Law. We take domestic abuse very seriously and will handle your case with the utmost care. We want to help you protect yourself and your loved ones. Our compassionate team of lawyers has been helping clients in difficult situations for 17 years. We will fight to protect you and ensure that all legal issues are taken care of so you can focus on moving forward. Call us at 905-576-6090 or contact us online for a consultation.