Family Violence Initiative
Who can help?
Help is available
There are people who can help you if you are being abused. You may be tired of telling your story, but keep trying to get someone who can help you to listen.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. If your area does not have a 9-1-1 service, call your local police emergency number. The police are trained to help you deal with dangerous situations. They are there to investigate and can also help you to get a peace bond. They can also refer you to victim services*. Victim services or a lawyer can help you get a non-criminal protection order* to keep the person who abused you away from you.
If the situation isn't dangerous right now, you can also call a health centre, victim services, community organization, shelter, or the local police and tell them about the abuse. They can help you to figure out what to do next.
When you ask officials like the police, a social worker or a lawyer for information, you can ask them to keep your concerns confidential.*
The list below can help you find people or groups that might be able to help you with information, support or emergency assistance.
These numbers or links may change. Remember to keep them up to date.
Many community organizations provide social services. These organizations may have someone who can listen to you and talk about your choices. They may be able to refer you to a lawyer if you need one or refer you to other services such as financial assistance. Some of these community organizations may have services in your first language. Multicultural or immigrant serving organizations may be able to give you information and refer you to helpful services. See also, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Directory of Newcomer Services.
Family doctor or public health nurse
Your family doctor can give you advice on what to do if you are being abused. They can help you with your physical or psychological injuries or can refer you to someone who can. Many provinces and territories also have 24-hour health telephone help.
Call your provincial or territorial government for information about health and social support services in your community or ask your local community centre for advice. They may be able to offer information, counselling and provide referrals to social workers. You can look in your phone book or on the Internet for your local number.
Friends, family, neighbours
Speak with someone you trust about the abuse. People cannot help you if they do not know what is happening to you.
There are many telephone services (sometimes called crisis lines) that you can call for free 24 hours a day without giving your name. The person who answers the phone will listen to you and can help you make important decisions to stay safe and to keep your children safe. Look in your phone book or on the Internet for phone numbers. If you choose not to call for help right away, then keep a list of these phone numbers in a safe place you can get to easily.
If you have serious injuries, you should go to a hospital. Hospitals have emergency staff who are there to help you if you are hurt or having a health emergency. They may also have special knowledge about family violence. It is best for you to tell the doctors and nurses the truth about what happened.
If you are not a Canadian citizen, you may still have access to health care. If you are legally entitled to be in Canada – as a refugee, a permanent resident or a sponsored spouse – you may be entitled to free health coverage after three months under provincial or territorial health insurance. Refugee claimants may have access to health care coverage from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Tourists or temporary visitors can buy health insurance. For any questions regarding your health coverage, see your province's or territory's health information Internet site or call your provincial or territorial health service. You may also go to the internet site of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
Legal help may be available from a lawyer or a legal aid office.* Contact a lawyer referral service, a legal aid office or a public legal education and information association to find out where you can get legal help and if you can get help free of charge.
Many police officers are trained to respond to family violence. Many police services across Canada have special domestic assault units with police officers and other professionals who will listen and try to help you. The police can also refer you to victim services. Check the first few pages of your telephone book for the phone number. Call 9-1-1 or your police emergency number in an emergency.
Public legal education and information programs
These programs can provide general information about the law, the legal system, and your rights. See more information on family violence on the Department of Justice Canada's Family Violence Initiative Website.
If there is someone at your place of worship whom you trust, tell them what is happening.
If you or your children are in danger, a shelter can give you temporary help and somewhere safe to stay. Staff there have special training to deal with family violence victims and can give you advice on what to expect and how to stay safe and keep your children safe.
Victim services organizations work with the police to help victims of crime. They can help you develop a plan and find ways to protect yourself. They can connect you with services for food, clothing and shelter and may be able to provide interpretation services so you can speak with someone in a language you are comfortable in. See the Victim Services Directory on the Policy Centre for Victim Issues website to find services across Canada.
IMPORTANT—if you call any phone number in the list above and your phone has a re-dial feature, then call some other number after calling the police, crisis line, women's safe shelter or victim services worker. Or if you called from a cell phone, don't forget to clear the number from your list of past calls. That way the abusive person won't know what you're doing or planning.
What if your friend or relative tells you they are being abused?
Listen to them. Be aware that the situation might be more complicated or more dangerous than you think. Suggest that they get some help and that there is no shame in getting professional help.
It often takes someone a long time to decide to do something about abuse. Keep listening. Offer to go with them to see a counsellor. Give them some phone numbers of crisis lines or help lines*. People who are abused often feel isolated, powerless, emotionally drained and lost. You are helping them just by being supportive.
There are many services to help victims and abusers. Police services often have or can refer you to special domestic violence services. If the situation is dangerous, call 9-1-1 or your police emergency number. Do not confront the abuser directly—it may be dangerous for you or the person being abused.
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