What is Family Violence?

Law

Family violence (also called “domestic violence” or “domestic abuse”) is abuse of power by one person toward other people that the abuser has a relationship with. See the sections below for information about:

  • What family violence looks like
  • Different types of abuse (including physical abuse, emotional abuse, and financial abuse)
  • Different situations where abuse can happen (including dating violence, partner abuse, elder abuse, child abuse, animal abuse, and abuse of people with disabilities)
  • When abuse is a crime in Canada
  • How to get help if you or someone you know is a victim of family violence

Choose the Process tab above for steps you can take if you or someone you know is being abused.

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: May 2017
How to be safe on the internet

It is helpful to know how to look at things on the internet safely. You might not want someone else to see what you are looking at. Or you might want to learn how to delete your internet history, which shows which sites you have looked at. You might also not feel safe looking at family violence information, especially if you are in an abusive relationship and are afraid of your abuser.

For instructions on how to look at things on the internet safely and how to delete your browser history, see the Safe Browsing page.

For more information and tips about how to be safe on the internet, see the following resources.

Web Safe Browsing Tips: Computer, Phone and Tablet
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Protecting Your Email
domesticshelters.org
English

How to be safe on the phone

It is also helpful to know how to be safe when using the phone. Sometimes, when you make calls, the call history can be seen on your phone, or someone can hit “redial” to see who you last called. Or, you might just not want someone else to hear what you are talking about or asking for help about. This is especially true if you are in an abusive relationship. You may be afraid that the abuser will find out who you have been talking to. You might not feel safe calling for help—even in your own home.

For more information and tips about how to call for help safely, see the following resources.

Web How to Call for Help Safely
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

Web How to Spy Spyware on Your Phone
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Apps Help Survivors' Messages Stay Secret
domesticshelters.org
English
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page is for any person who is interested in learning about family violence (also called “domestic violence”).

You may:

  • be in this situation yourself;
  • suspect your relationship is becoming abusive; or
  • know someone who you think is in this situation.

Sometimes you might be in an abusive relationship and not realize it. This Information Page can help you identify what is a healthy relationship and what is not. For example:

  • Maybe your relationship was good in the beginning but has gradually becoming controlling, mean, or dangerous.
  • Maybe you know you are abused, but the abuser always apologizes and says that they love you.
  • Maybe you are being abused in a way that is not physical abuse. This can be harder to identify. For more information, see the “Emotional or verbal abuse” section below.

Even if you are not in an abusive relationship, it is a good idea to learn about family violence, warning signs, and steps you can take to protect yourself.

Family violence is not just abuse between romantic partners. Family violence also includes abuse against children, animals, elders, and people with disabilities. There are also many different types of abuse (such as physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, and financial).

Be Aware

This Information Page has much helpful information, such as tips and recommendations. But that does not mean they are the only ones. Also, they may not be “right” for your situation. Each person’s situation is different. You must also follow your instincts and do what is best for you. The information you will find here only includes some of the ways to educate and protect yourself and others against family violence. This Information Page will also link to other helpful Information Pages and resources.

In general, the law discussed on this Information Page is for families who live in Alberta.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says about family violence in Alberta. 

Click on the Process tab above for:

  • what to do if you are experiencing family violence; and
  • tips on how to protect yourself.

There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The topics on this page are listed in the order they are generally considered. The first topic is What the words mean. Please read this section even if you think you already know what the words mean. In order to understand the resources on this page, you will need to understand the legal terms.

Below is a list of other Information Pages related to family violence that you may want to read.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

family violence (also called “domestic violence” or “domestic abuse”)

Abuse of power by one person (the “abuser”) toward one or more other people that the abuser has a relationship with. It is a pattern of behaviours within a relationship of intimacy, dependency, and/or trust.

It is most common to think of family abuse happening in romantic relationships (such as dating, living together, and marriage). However, abuse can also occur in other relationships, such as those between parents and children, adult children and their parents (seniors), siblings, extended families, or people and their pets.

abuser

A person who uses their power in a relationship to control and/or harm a person with whom he or she has a relationship. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or financial. Abusers can be anyone, whether a friend, parent, romantic partner, adult child, or caregiver.

victim

The person who is controlled and/or hurt by someone else (the “abuser”). Victims can be anyone who is in a relationship with the abuser, such as a child, an elder, or a romantic partner. Victims may also be called “survivors.”

shelter

A safe place where victims of domestic violence can go to live on a temporary basis.

criminal law

The system of law that involves punishing people who do things that harm people or property, or threaten to harm people or property. Property includes pets.

civil law

Civil law is the law that deals with disputes between individuals, such as family law and personal injury law.

physical abuse

Physical abuse involves your body. This could be any unwanted contact with any part of your body, such as punching, biting, pulling hair, slapping, pinching, pushing, or even caressing. Physical abuse includes sexual abuse, medication abuse, and neglect.

These different types of physical abuse are described in detail in the “Physical abuse” section below.

emotional abuse

Emotional abuse happens when someone uses words or emotions to hurt you. It is sometimes called verbal abuse or psychological abuse. Emotional abuse is intended to scare you, make you feel bad about yourself, and/or control you.

There are different types of emotional abuse. These are described in detail in the “Emotional or verbal abuse” section below.

financial abuse

Financial abuse happens when someone tries to use or control your money. This type of abuse can include:

  • controlling what you buy;
  • using your bank accounts without your knowledge or consent (including credit cards, debit cards, or cheques);
  • taking your money for themselves;
  • not letting you work, or limiting how many hours you work;
  • forcing you to sign legal documents that deal with money; or
  • abusing a Power of Attorney.

This type of abuse is described in detail in the “Financial abuse” section below.

partner abuse

Partner abuse happens when someone causes injury or harm to the person who they are in a romantic relationship with. This type of abuse can happen between people who:

  • are currently dating, married, or living together; or
  • used to date, were previously married, or were previously living together.

child abuse

Child abuse includes any action or inaction that puts a child’s safety and well-being at risk. It is generally a pattern of behaviour rather than a single incident. The abuser could be anyone who is responsible for the care of a child, including a parent, guardian, relative, or other trusted adult.

The 4 main types of child abuse are: neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.

elder abuse

Elder abuse is an action or lack of action which causes harm to the safety, health, or well-being of an older adult.

animal abuse

Animal abuse occurs when someone mistreats an animal, either through action or inaction, and puts that animal’s safety and well-being at risk as a result. Neglect is one form of animal abuse.

safety plan

A plan that helps you prepare and stay safe in family violence situations. A safety plan can be used in many different situations, whether you are a parent, child, partner, elder, or pet owner.

elder

An older person.

Be Aware

On this website, if elder is spelled with a capital “E” (“Elder”), it refers to an Aboriginal Elder. An Elder is a person chosen by the Aboriginal community, and who is recognized for his or her spiritual and cultural wisdom. Aboriginal communities usually ask for help and advice from Elders. An Elder does not have to be an older person.

The laws that may apply to you

As you work through and learn more about family violence, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply. The laws included on this Information Page are:

Web Criminal Code
Government of Canada
English


Web Family Violence Laws
Government of Canada
English

Web Les lois sur la violence familiale
Government of Canada
French
Family violence: The basics

It can be helpful to have some background about family violence. This section discusses:

  • How is family violence defined?
  • Why does family violence occur?
  • Abuse is never the victim’s fault
  • Why do people stay in abusive relationships?
  • Family violence is more common than you think
  • Getting help

How is family violence defined?

Family violence (also called “domestic violence”) is abuse of power by one person (the “abuser”) toward one or more other people that the abuser has a relationship with. This can occur in any kind of relationship. It is most common to think of family abuse happening in romantic relationships. However, it can occur in other relationships as well, including relationships with children, elders, siblings, and pets.

Be Aware

If you were forced to get married or are being forced to marry someone, that is also a form of family violence. Forced marriages are not valid marriages. For options on how to end the marriage, see the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Why does family violence occur?

People use violence because they want to have power and be in control. Abusers will use different tactics to try to control another person. These may include:

  • physical abuse, such as slapping or punching;
  • sexual abuse such as unwanted sexual contact (even between couples);
  • emotional abuse, such as name-calling and criticizing; and
  • keeping the victim away from friends and family so that they will be more vulnerable.

All of these tactics are ways for abusers to try to control their victims and manipulate them. For more information about the different types of abuse, see the “Different types of abuse: An introduction” section below.

Sometimes, a person might become abusive when they drink alcohol or do drugs. However, not all abusers drink or do drugs. For more information on the connection between family violence and substance abuse, see the following resources.


Web Why We Can't Blame Abuse on Alcohol
domesticshelters.org
English

For more general information about how an abuser might try to use power and control in a relationship, see the following resources.

Web What is Abuse?
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Am I Experiencing Abuse? Resources to Help Answer This Important Question
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Power & Control Wheel
Women's Outreach
English

Web The Power and Control Wheel
loveisrespect
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web About Family Violence
Government of Canada
English

Web La violence familiale
Government of Canada
French

Web Cycle of Violence
Edmonton Police Service
English

Video Domestic Abuse
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Profile of a Domestic Abuser
Stop Violence Against Women
English


Web “Wheels” Adapted from the Power and Control Wheel Model
National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
English

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you an overview of the resource, and you can find the full text at libraries across Alberta. For more information about using these libraries, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Surviving Your Divorce: A Guide to Canadian Family Law
Michael G. Cochrane
English
Access the full book from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta LibrarySee Chapter 14.
 

Abuse is never the victim’s fault

Abuse is wrong, and it is not acceptable in Canada. No one ever deserves to be abused. You should not feel ashamed or embarrassed about abuse. The responsibility belongs only to the abuser. See the following resources for more information.

Web 3 Myths About Survivors of Domestic Violence
domesticshelters.org
English

Web What is 'Victim Shaming'?
domesticshelters.org
English

Why do people stay in abusive relationships?

Leaving an abusive relationship is a difficult process. There may be many reasons why someone will not be ready to leave the abusive relationship. These reasons may be related to safety, finances, not knowing where to get help, and more.

The following resources list many possible reasons why someone might stay in an abusive relationship.

Web Why Do People Stay?
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Domestic Violence: Why Victims Stay
Government of Alberta
English


Web Why Doesn't She Just Leave?
New Choices
English


Web Why Doesn't She Just Leave?
domesticshelters.org
English

PDF You Can Help Protect the Safety of People and Animals
Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Vous pouvez contribuer à la sécurité des personnes et des animaux
Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web 3 Myths About Survivors of Domestic Violence
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Male Victims of Abuse Face Stigmas
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Spousal Abuse
Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime
English

PDF Fifty Obstacles to Leaving, a.k.a., Why Abuse Victims Stay
The Colorado Lawyer
English
This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

 

Leaving an abusive relationship is also a dangerous process because the abuser might become angry if they find out that the victim is leaving or planning to leave. Therefore, it is a good idea to make a safety plan for dangerous situations. For more information, see the Safety Planning & Preparing to Leave Information Page.

Family violence is more common than you think

Family violence is quite common and widespread. In Canada in 2013, there were about 88,000 victims of family violence who reported the violence to the police. In Calgary, 4 out of 10 people surveyed reported that they have been in abusive relationships.

However, these numbers do not represent all of the cases of family violence that actually happen. Many people do not report being abused. This may be because they are afraid, ashamed, or do not realize that they are being abused. For instance, in 2013, less than 30% of female victims reported partner abuse to the police.

Family violence can happen to people in all parts of society. It does not matter:

  • how old they are;
  • whether they are female or male;
  • what their ethnic background or religion is; or
  • whether they are rich or poor.

For more general information, see the following resources.

PDF Ethno-cultural Communities (Information sheets and audio about family violence)
Government of Alberta
Arabic, Blackfoot, Chinese, Farsi, French, Plains Cree, Punjabi, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Urdu, Vietnamese

Web Understanding Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

Presentation Family Violence and the Faith Community
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

PDF Family Violence: Myth vs. Reality
Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter
English

For more statistics about family violence in Canada, see the following resources.

Web About Family Violence
Government of Canada
English
See “How widespread is family violence in Canada?”

PDF Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2013
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.


PDF Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Relationship Abuse
Connect Family & Sexual Abuse Network
English

PDF Family Violence Hurts Everyone: A Framework to End Family Violence in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 4 and p. 12-13.

Web Statistics: Domestic Violence
Government of Ontario
English

Web Dispelling the myths about sexual assault
Government of Ontario
English

French resources:

Web La violence familiale
Government of Canada
French
Voir “Quelle est l'étendue de la violence familiale au Canada?”

Web Statistiques : Violence familiale
Government of Ontario
French

Getting help

If you are being abused, you are not alone. There are many people who can help you. Talk to a family member, friend, teacher, doctor, community leader, Aboriginal Elder, clinic, counsellor, or the police. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Abuse: Adults
Government of Alberta
English

PDF A Self-Help Guide for victims of Domestic Violence
United Cultures of Canada Association
English
Start on p. 63.

You can contact the Family Violence Info Line for more information about services and support in your community. Their toll-free phone number is 310-1818, and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 170 languages.

For information about what you can do about abuse, click on the Process tab above.

For more resources to help, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

Why is it important to know about family violence?

It is important to know about family violence in case it ever happens to you or someone you know. Family violence can sometimes be hard to identify. Therefore, if you realize that it is happening to you or someone else, you will want to act quickly and take steps to protect yourself or your loved one the best that you can. By learning about family violence, you can help raise awareness that abuse is wrong and help yourself and others stay safe against violence.

If you feel like you are in immediate danger, call 911.

Be Aware

All phones work for calling 911. This is true even if your phone doesn’t have a service plan, you don’t have any minutes, or you don’t have a SIM card.

Sometimes you might be in an abusive relationship and not realize it. This Information Page can help you identify what is a healthy relationship and what is not. For example:

  • Maybe your relationship was good in the beginning but has gradually becoming controlling, mean, or dangerous.
  • Maybe you know you are abused, but the abuser always apologizes and says that they love you.
  • Maybe you are being abused in a way that is not physical abuse. This can be harder to identify. For more information, see the “Emotional or verbal abuse” section below.

For more information, see the following resources.


PDF Talking about family violence
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Victims of Family Violence: Information and Rights
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 4.

Web The Facts About Violence Against Women
Canadian Women's Foundation
English, French
Cette ressource est aussi disponible en français. Il vous suffit de cliquer sur le mot “français” sur le côté supérieur droit de l'écran, à côté de la barre de recherche.

Web Recognizing the Signs of Domestic Violence
Psych Central
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Time Doesn't Heal All Wounds
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Domestic Violence: Is There a Risk of Death?
Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children
English

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereChoose your language, then see topic #4.

Web 3 Myths About Survivors of Domestic Violence
domesticshelters.org
English
Different types of abuse: An introduction

There are many different kinds of abuse. Often, when people think of abuse, they think of only the physical kind—the kind that leaves bruises, such as slapping, punching, and biting.

However, in addition to physical abuse, there is also emotional abuse and financial abuse.

All of these kinds of abuse are described in the sections that follow.

For more detailed information about all kinds of abuse, see the following resources.

PDF Talking about family violence
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Am I Experiencing Abuse? Resources to Help Answer This Important Question
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Victims of Family Violence: Information and Rights
Government of Alberta
English


Web Beyond a Bruise
domesticshelters.org
English

Video Domestic Abuse
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Types of violence and abuse
Government of Canada
English

Web Types de violence et d'abus
Government of Canada
French

Web What is Family Violence?
Government of Manitoba
English

Web Qu'est-ce que la violence familiale?
Government of Manitoba
French
Be Aware

If you were forced to get married or are being forced to marry someone, that is also a form of family violence. Forced marriages are not valid marriages. For options on how to end the marriage, see the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Physical abuse (including sexual abuse, medication abuse, and neglect)

Physical abuse involves your body. This could be any unwanted contact with any part of your body, such as punching, biting, pulling hair, slapping, pinching, pushing, or even caressing. It can also be failing to take care of your physical needs or your health. Even though the abuse is physical, there may not actually be any signs of abuse left on your body.

There are different kinds of physical abuse, including:

  • sexual abuse;
  • medication abuse; and
  • physical neglect.

These are described in more detail just below.

For more general information on different types of physical abuse and some ways to protect yourself, see the following resources.

PDF Abuse is wrong in any language (available in English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, and Urdu)
Government of Canada (via Your Legal Rights)
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu, Other languages
Choose your language and then see “Physical abuse.”

PDF Dating Abuse Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

Web Is this Abuse? Types of Abuse
loveisrespect
English

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse happens when someone tries to make you do something sexual that you do not want to do. This type of abuse includes:

  • rape or attempted rape;
  • kissing or touching someone who does not want to be kissed or touched;
  • engaging in sexual activity with someone who cannot say no because they are unconscious, drugged, or drunk; and
  • preventing someone from using protection, such as a condom or birth control.

There are many different forms of sexual abuse. You can be sexually abused as a child or as an adult.

Be Aware

A person can be sexually abused by their spouse or partner. Just because you are married or living in a committed relationship does not mean that your partner can force you to have sex if you do not want to. If you do not consent, it is sexual assault (even if you are married).

For more information on the different types of sexual abuse and what you can do if you have been sexually abused, see the following resources.

Web Sexual Assault
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web When Abusers Use Sexual Abuse to Control
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Abuse is wrong in any language (available in English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, and Urdu)
Government of Canada (via Your Legal Rights)
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu, Other languages
Choose your language and then see “Sexual abuse.”

PDF Dating Abuse Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

Web Types of Abuse: Sexual Abuse
loveisrespect
English

Web He's Forcing Me to Get Pregnant
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Can He Rape Me if We're Married?
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Canadian law only changed 26 years ago
The Globe and Mail
English

Web I Do, But I Don't Have To: Marital Rape
The Trauma & Mental Health Report
English

PDF Fact Sheet: Sexual Assault Evidence Kit - Evidence Collection
Native Women's Association of Canada
English

PDF Sexual Assault: How Much Do You Know?
Native Women's Association of Canada
English

PDF Sexual Assault: Fact Sheet
Native Women's Association of Canada
English

Medication abuse

Medication abuse happens when someone fails to properly provide medication for another person. Medication abuse can include:

  • giving someone too much, too little, or no medication;
  • taking someone’s medication to use or sell;
  • refusing to refill someone’s prescription; or
  • changing the amount of medication someone should get without their permission or the doctor’s permission.

For more information about medication abuse, see the following resources.

PDF Abuse of Persons with Disabilities Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 2.

PDF Abuse of Persons with Disabilities
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 2.

Web Types of Abuse
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Medication Abuse.”

PDF Domestic Violence Handbook for Police and Crown Prosecutors in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. See p. 144.

Physical neglect

Physical neglect happens when a person fails to provide for the physical needs of a person they are responsible for. This includes things like food, shelter, and clothing. For example:

  • Parents might be physically neglecting a child if they do not feed them.
  • A caregiver is physically neglecting an elder who need medication if they refuse to get the required medication or bring the elder to the doctor.

For more information about neglect, see the following resources.

PDF Abuse is wrong in any language (available in English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, and Urdu)
Government of Canada (via Your Legal Rights)
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu, Other languages
Choose your language and then see “Neglect.”

PDF Abuse of Persons with Disabilities
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 2 and p. 4.
Emotional or verbal abuse

Emotional abuse happens when someone uses words or emotions to hurt you. It is sometimes called verbal abuse or psychological abuse. Emotional abuse is intended to scare you, make you feel bad about yourself, and/or control you.

Even though you might not see physical signs of this type of abuse (such as cuts and bruises), emotional abuse is also wrong. It can be just as damaging as physical abuse, or even more so.

The resources listed below give examples of what emotional abuse can look like.

Emotional abuse can take some very specific forms, including:

  • stalking;
  • digital abuse;
  • spiritual or religious abuse;
  • forced marriage; and
  • emotional neglect.

Each of these are described in more detail just below.

For more general information about emotional abuse, see the following resources.

PDF Abuse is wrong in any language (available in English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, and Urdu)
Government of Canada (via Your Legal Rights)
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu, Other languages
Choose your language and then see “Emotional abuse.”

Web Types of Abuse: Emotional/Verbal Abuse
loveisrespect
English

Web Emotional Abuse Help Guide
theSingleMother.com
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What is considered emotional abuse?
Legal Line
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Emotional / Psychological Violence: Fact Sheet
Native Women's Association of Canada
English

Stalking

Stalking happens when someone is constantly following or watching you. Stalking may also be called “criminal harassment.” A person being stalked is afraid for their safety or the safety of their loved ones. A person can be stalked or “criminally harassed” in person or online. There are laws that protect someone from being stalked.

For more information and examples of stalking and how to protect yourself, see the following resources.

PDF Abuse is wrong in any language (available in English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, and Urdu)
Government of Canada (via Your Legal Rights)
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu, Other languages
Choose your language and then see “Emotional abuse.”

Web Stalking
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Stalking Behaviour and the Crime of Criminal Harassment
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

PDF Stalking is a crime called criminal harassment
Government of Canada
Chinese, English, Punjabi, Spanish


Web A Handbook for Police and Crown Prosecutors on Criminal Harassment
Government of Canada
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more hereSee Section 1.6: Using Technology to Criminally Harass.

Web Harcèlement criminel : Guide à l'intention des policiers et des procureurs de la Couronne
Government of Canada
French
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. See Section 1.6: La technologie au service du harcèlement criminel (cyberharcèlement, harcèlement criminel en ligne et cyberintimidation).

PDF Help Starts Here
Government of British Columbia
Chinese, English, French, Punjabi
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereSee “Stalking (Criminal Harassment)” and choose your language.

Web If You're Being Stalked
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web 19 Stalking Signs
domesticshelters.org
English

Web High-Tech Stalking Tactics
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Living Through Extreme Stalking
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Digital abuse

Digital abuse happens when someone is abusing you online. It can include things like:

  • writing hurtful things about you;
  • writing things about you that are mean, or spreading rumors about you, on your social media platforms;
  • posting photos of you that you do not want others to see; and
  • taking photos of you that you are not comfortable with.

Many people might think that digital abuse only happens between strangers on the internet or teenagers. This is often called “online bullying” or “cyberbullying.” However, digital abuse can also happen between family members. This is especially true during difficult times (such as divorce), when people can be very emotional and upset.

For more information about digital abuse and online bullying, see the following resources.

Web Abusers Go Online
domesticshelters.org
English

Web How Can I Stop My Cyberstalker?
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


Web Advice for Adult Victims of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying Research Center
English

PDF Fact Sheet: Cyber Bullying
North Queensland Women’s Legal Service
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


Web Cyber Bullying
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

PDF Electronic Dating Violence: A Brief Guide for Educators and Parents
Cyberbullying Research Center
English
This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Cyberbullying
Sudbury-Wayland-Lincoln Domestic Violence Roundtable
English

PDF Technology, Teen Dating Violence and Abuse, and Bullying
Urban Institute
English
This resource is from outside Alberta and can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

Web Cyberbullying
Calgary Police Service
English

Web Get the Facts
A Thin Line
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Spiritual or religious abuse

Spiritual or religious abuse happens when someone:

  • does not let you practice your religion;
  • does not allow you to go to your place of worship; or
  • forces their own religion or spiritual beliefs onto you.

For more information, see the following resources. Many of these resources talk about spiritual abuse as part of elder abuse. However, spiritual abuse can happen in all kinds of abusive relationships.

PDF What You Need to Know About Elder Abuse
Government of Ontario
English
See p. 2.

Web Family Violence Laws
canadianlawsite.ca
English

Web Legal Definitions of Elder Abuse and Neglect
Government of Canada
English
See “2.3.3 Types of abuse.”

Web Définitions juridiques de la négligence et des mauvais traitements envers les aînés
Government of Canada
French
Voir “2.3.3 Les types de mauvais traitements.”

PDF Aboriginal Elder Abuse in Canada
Aboriginal Healing Foundation
English
See p. 4.

Web Elder Abuse in Canada: A Gender-Based Analysis—Summary
Government of Canada
English
See p. 11.

 

Forced marriage

If you are being forced to marry someone, that is also a form of family violence. Forced marriages are not valid marriages.

For more information about the consent that is required for a marriage to be valid, see the Getting Married Information Page.

For options on how to end a forced marriage, see the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page

Emotional neglect

Emotional neglect happens when a person does not give emotional support to someone they are responsible for. For example: parents are emotionally neglecting a child if they never spend time with them or do not show the child any love or affection. This can put the child’s psychological health and well-being in danger.

For more information about neglect, see the following resource.

PDF Abuse is wrong in any language (available in English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, and Urdu)
Government of Canada (via Your Legal Rights)
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu, Other languages
Choose your language and then see “Neglect.”
Financial abuse

Financial abuse happens when someone tries to use or control your money. This type of abuse can include:

  • controlling what you buy;
  • using your bank accounts without your knowledge or consent (including credit cards, debit cards, or cheques);
  • taking your money for themselves;
  • not letting you work, or limiting how many hours you work;
  • forcing you to sign legal documents that deal with money; or
  • abusing a Power of Attorney.

Financial abuse can also include “identity theft.” Identity theft happens when another person uses your personal information (such as your name, contact details, and social insurance number) to pretend that they are you in order to get a financial benefit. For example: the person can get a credit card, a loan, or a mortgage in your name, but use it for himself or herself.

For more information on identity theft and what you can do to protect yourself, see the following resources.

Web Identity Theft in Abusive Relationships
National Domestic Violence Hotline
English

Web How to Protect Your Identity
domesticshelters.org
English

For more general information on different types of financial abuse and what you can do, see the following resources.

PDF Abuse is wrong in any language (available in English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, and Urdu)
Government of Canada (via Your Legal Rights)
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu, Other languages
Choose your language, then see “Financial abuse.”


Web What does the law say about... (different types of abuse)
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Financial/Material Abuse.”

Web Understanding Financial Abuse & Safety Planning
Battered Women's Support Services
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Background Paper: Financial Abuse of Seniors: An Overview of Key Legal Issues and Concepts
Canadian Centre for Elder Law
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.

PDF Financial Literacy for Seniors: Recognizing Fraud
Alberta Council on Aging
English

Web Types of Abuse: Financial Abuse
loveisrespect
English

Audio Financial abuse
Government of Alberta
English

Web Are You the Victim of Financial Abuse?
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Financial Abuse Help
theSingleMother.com
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Is abuse “against the law”?

Some people think that abuse that takes place in someone’s home is their own private matter. This is not true. In Canada, there are criminal laws against abuse.

Criminal law is the system of law that involves punishing people who do things that harm people or property, or threaten to harm people or property. Property includes pets. For example, the Criminal Code of Canada protects against certain types of abuse such as assault, sexual assault, criminal harassment (stalking), and uttering threats.

There are also some “civil law” remedies that can help a person who has been abused. A civil remedy is often in the form of money, which is paid to the victim. There are also certain protective orders available under the civil law, which can help keep the abuser away from the victim.

For information about what is considered a crime in Alberta and Canada, see the following resources.

Web What does the law say about... (different types of abuse)
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Introduction to Canadian Law
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Criminal Law."

Web It's Not Allowed
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English



Web Elder Abuse - Frequently Asked Questions
Advocacy Centre for the Elderly
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereChoose your language, then see topic #4.

Presentation Criminal Law and Violence Against Women: Basic Concepts
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Elder Abuse: Failing to Provide the Necessaries of Life to Older Adults is a Crime
Advocacy Centre for the Elderly
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For more information about how criminal and civil law can help in different situations of family violence, see the Family Violence: How Criminal & Civil Law Can Help Information Page.

For information about contacting the police, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Different situations where abuse can happen

Family violence (also called “domestic violence”) is not just violence that happens between couples living together. Family violence also happens to people in many other different types of relationships, and may include:

  • dating violence;
  • partner abuse;
  • elder abuse;
  • child abuse;
  • the abuse of a family pet or family livestock; and
  • abuse of family members with disabilities.

These are described in more detail just below.

Dating violence

Dating violence can happen to people of all ages and from all backgrounds. You may not realize that you are in an abusive relationship, even if you have been dating someone for a long time. The abuse may develop gradually, and people may not realize it is happening to them right away.
Therefore, it is important to learn about:

  • what dating violence is;
  • what the warning signs are; and
  • how to protect yourself and others from dating violence.

For more general information, see the following resources.

Web Dating Violence
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Dating Abuse Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Dating Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

Web Teen Relationship Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

Web Domestic Violence: Teen Relationship Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

Web Dating Violence - Say NO!
Government of Canada
English

Web Dating Basics
loveisrespect
English

PDF Love and Respect: Teens helping teens develop safe relationships
Government of New Mexico
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Help Starts Here
Government of British Columbia
Chinese, English, French, Punjabi
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereSee “Dating Violence” and choose your language.

Web Teens: Are You In an Unhealthy Relationship?
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

If you are a parent and think your child may be involved in dating violence, see the following resources.

Web When Your Teen is Dating an Abuser
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Teaching Teens About Dating Violence
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Dating Abuse: Tools for Talking to Teens
Jewish Women International
English, Spanish

PDF Dating Abuse: Facts & Conversation Guide
Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women & Children
English

 

Partner abuse

Partner abuse happens when someone causes injury or harm to the person who they are in a romantic relationship with. Sometimes the abuse still continues after the relationship has ended. The abuser may continue to abuse their ex-partner using the same physical, mental, or financial tactics. They may also start stalking their ex-partner. For more information about stalking, see the “Emotional or verbal abuse” section above.

Partner abuse can happen to anyone, whether you are:

  • young or old;
  • a man or a woman;
  • rich or poor;
  • dating, living together, or married; or
  • heterosexual or LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer).

For more information on partner abuse, including warning signs and where someone can get help, see the Partner Abuse Information Page.

Be Aware

If you were forced to get married or are being forced to marry someone, that is also a form of family violence. Forced marriages are not valid marriages. For options on how to end the marriage, see the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Elder abuse

Elder abuse is an action or lack of action which causes harm to the safety, health, or well-being of an older adult. The abuser may be the victim’s child, adult child, “friend” or neighbour, caregiver, professional, or romantic partner. Elder abuse can also happen at the care facility where a senior lives. This is called “institutional” elder abuse.

Be Aware

Even a child, teenager, or young adult can be abusive. For more information, see the following resource.

For more information on elder abuse, including warning signs and where someone can get help, see the Elder Abuse Information Page.

Child abuse

Child abuse includes any action or inaction that puts a child’s safety and well-being at risk. It is generally a pattern of behaviour rather than a single incident. The abuser could be anyone who is responsible for the care of a child, including a parent, guardian, relative, or other trusted adult.

The 4 main types of child abuse are: neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. For example, a parent or guardian is neglecting a child if they do not bring the child to the doctor when they need to see one. Or, someone might emotionally abuse a child by constantly criticizing the child.

For more information on child abuse, including warning signs and where someone can get help, see the Child Abuse Information Page.

Animal abuse

Animal abuse happens when someone mistreats an animal, either through action or inaction, and puts that animal’s safety and well-being at risk as a result. Neglect is one form of animal abuse.

Animal abuse can also be a sign that the animal abuser might become abusive toward people. Abusing an animal in front of someone who cares about that animal is also a form of emotional abuse.

For more information on animal abuse, including warning signs and where someone can get help, see the Animal Abuse Information Page.

Abuse of people with disabilities

Abuse happens to people of all different genders, ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, and relationships. Just like the other types of abuse, people with disabilities are often abused by someone they know, such as:

  • a family member;
  • a caregiver; or
  • a professional that the person deals with.

People with disabilities are usually at a greater risk of being abused. Also, depending on their disability, they can have many more challenges when trying to deal with abuse.

For more information about why people with disabilities might be at a greater risk of abuse, and what they can do to protect themselves, see the following resources.

PDF Abuse of Persons with Disabilities
Government of Alberta
English


Web Abuse: Persons with Disabilities
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Abuse of People with Disabilities for Service Providers
People's Law School
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web The Deaf Endure Domestic Violence More Than Hearing
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


PDF Abuse of People with Developmental Disabilities by a Caregiver
National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life
English
Signs of abuse

There are many signs of abuse that you can recognize in both the abuser and the victim.

Behaviours you might see by the abuser

Did you read the sections above about the different types of abuse? They describe some ways abusers treat their victims, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, and financial abuse.

There are also some general behaviours that are common among abusers. Some of these behaviours can be present without the relationship necessarily being abusive. We all make poor choices in behaviour sometimes. However, repeated examples of these behaviours is often a sign that the relationship might be becoming abusive.

See the following resources for examples of how an abuser may act. Note that these are only some of the warning signs of an abuser. There may also be warnings that are not listed anywhere, so it is important to trust your feelings as well.

PDF Is someone you know being abused? Do you know the warning signs?
Government of British Columbia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Signs of Domestic Violence
Government of Alberta
English


Web Profile of a Domestic Abuser
theSingleMother.com
English

PDF Talking about family violence
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Domestic / Relationship Violence: Fact Sheet
Native Women's Association of Canada
English

Web Warning Signs of Abuse
Kanawayhitowin: Taking Care of Each Other's Spirit
English


Web Profile of a Domestic Abuser
Stop Violence Against Women
English

Web Helping Abused Women
Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children
English
See “Warning signs of abuse” and “Signs of high risk.”

Behaviours you might see in someone being abused

There are different signs of abuse depending on the type of abuse a person may be experiencing. For example, signs of physical abuse will look different than signs of emotional or financial abuse.

See the following resources for many examples of behaviours and warning signs that someone is being abused. Note that these are only some of the warning signs that someone is being abused. There may also be warnings that are not listed anywhere, so it is important to trust your feelings as well.

Web Warning Signs of Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Is someone you know being abused? Do you know the warning signs?
Government of British Columbia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Signs of Domestic Violence
Government of Alberta
English

Interactive Domestic Abuse: Check Your Symptoms
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Abuse of Persons with Disabilities
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 3.

Web Warning Signs of Abuse
Kanawayhitowin: Taking Care of Each Other's Spirit
English


Web Helping Abused Women
Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children
English
See “Warning signs of abuse” and “Signs of high risk.”

PDF Domestic / Relationship Violence: Fact Sheet
Native Women's Association of Canada
English

Even if someone does have one of the listed signs of abuse (for example, missing work more often than usual), that does not mean that they are in an abusive relationship. They may have that symptom because of other reasons.

Family violence and immigration considerations

Family violence can also happen to people who are not Canadian citizens, including temporary foreign workers and those in the process of immigrating to Canada.

If you are new to Canada, domestic violence can be even more complicated. For example, asking for help may be more difficult if English is your second language. Some immigrant victims might also think that violence is normal and allowed in Canada.

If you are experiencing abuse, you are not alone. This can be a scary situation because you might be afraid about how the abusive relationship will affect your immigration status. For places and contacts that can help with family violence in the immigrant community, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

Be Aware

If you were forced to get married or are being forced to marry someone, that is also a form of family violence. Forced marriages are not valid marriages. For options on how to end the marriage, see the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

For more information on family violence and immigration, see the “IRCC options when there is family violence” section of the Family Breakdown & the Immigration Process Information Page and the following resources.

Web Rose's Story
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Tools to Help (Immigrant women)
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English


Web Honour Based Violence
Indo-Canadian Women's Association
English


Web A Spotlight on Family Violence and Immigrant Women in Canada
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Webinar Immigration Status and Relationship Breakdown: What Women Should Know
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Fostering healthy families
Islamic Family and Social Services Association
English


Web The Barriers for South Asian Survivors
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Audio Family Violence Information Line: 170 Languages
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Immigrant Power and Control Wheel
National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
English
Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

Aboriginal cultures may be different in how they approach family violence. For example, they may not want to punish the abuser and keep them away from the victims and families. Instead, some Aboriginal communities value a “holistic” approach to addressing family violence. This means that the community may value healing not only the victim, but also the abuser. These communities may also need resolutions that will help balance the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the whole community, which includes both the victim and the abuser.

However, each Aboriginal community is different, and the healing approaches will be different depending on the particular community.

To learn more about family violence and healing in Aboriginal communities, see the following resources.

Video The Right To Be Safe
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Video Home Fire - Ending the Cycle of Family Violence
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

PDF Home Fire Ending the Cycle of Family Violence: DVD Discussion Guide
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web Aboriginal Families
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Aboriginal Journey to Healing Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Aboriginal Domestic Violence in Canada
Aboriginal Healing Foundation
English

PDF Creating Healthy Personal Relationships: An Information Booklet for Aboriginal Women
Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Créer des Relations Personnelles Saines
Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Safety Planning
Kanawayhitowin: Taking Care of Each Other's Spirit
English

Web Warning Signs of Abuse
Kanawayhitowin: Taking Care of Each Other's Spirit
English

PDF Am I in an abusive relationship?
Native Women's Association of Canada
English

PDF Natural Life Supporting Power
South Dakota Coalition Ending Domestic & Sexual Violence
English

There are special services that are available for Aboriginal people dealing with family violence. For information about the services available in your area, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

You can also call the Family Violence Information Line from anywhere in Alberta. Their toll-free phone number is 310-1818, and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some Aboriginal communities or reserves might have their own domestic violence programs or services that the Family Violence Information Line can tell you about.

Generally, Aboriginal people are treated in the same way as anyone else under the law. However, there may be some differences if you live on a reserve. For more information, see the Family Breakdown if You Live on Reserve Information Page.

Safety planning

It is a good idea to make a safety plan. A safety plan has personalized information about ways you can protect yourself in dangerous situations. Safety plans usually include lists of:

  • safe places to go;
  • contact information for people you trust; and
  • items to take with you if you decide to leave.

If you have children, they can have a safety plan as well to know what to do in case of an emergency.

For more detailed information about safety planning, see the Safety Planning Information Page.

For more information about things to consider if you want to leave an abusive relationship, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

If you think that you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 911.

If you think you might be abusive

Sometimes you might be abusive and not even know it. Or, you might know you are abusive and want to change, but you aren’t sure how to stop it or where you can get help. It is important to know that violence is wrong and nobody deserves to be abused.

For more information, see the If You Think You Might be Abusive: Learning to Stop the Cycle of Abuse Information Page.

Process

Learn more about what to do in situations of family violence, including:

  • What will happen if you call 911
  • Who can help victims of abuse
  • Who can help if you want to leave an abusive situation

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: May 2017
How to be safe on the internet

It is helpful to know how to look at things on the internet safely. You might not want someone else to see what you are looking at. Or you might want to learn how to delete your internet history, which shows which sites you have looked at. You might also not feel safe looking at family violence information, especially if you are in an abusive relationship and are afraid of your abuser.

For instructions on how to look at things on the internet safely and how to delete your browser history, see the Safe Browsing page.

For more information and tips about how to be safe on the internet, see the following resources.

Web Safe Browsing Tips: Computer, Phone and Tablet
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Protecting Your Email
domesticshelters.org
English

How to be safe on the phone

It is also helpful to know how to be safe when using the phone. Sometimes, when you make calls, the call history can be seen on your phone, or someone can hit “redial” to see who you last called. Or, you might just not want someone else to hear what you are talking about or asking for help about. This is especially true if you are in an abusive relationship. You may be afraid that the abuser will find out who you have been talking to. You might not feel safe calling for help—even in your own home.

For more information and tips about how to call for help safely, see the following resources.

Web How to Call for Help Safely
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

Web How to Spy Spyware on Your Phone
domesticshelters.org
English

Web Apps Help Survivors' Messages Stay Secret
domesticshelters.org
English
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page has information about family violence. In general, the processes described on this Information Page apply to people who live in Alberta.

Tip

If you are just starting out with this topic, it’s a good idea to begin on the Law tab of this Information Page. There you will find basic information about what the law says, what the words mean, and other issues that will help you understand abusive relationships.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page, which has information about steps you can take if you are suffering from family violence, and tips on how to protect yourself. There is also important information in the Common Questions, Myths, and Law tabs above. In particular, if you have not already done so, you may want to review the “What the words mean” section of the Law tab.

Immediate danger: Calling 911

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, you should call 911. If you can’t call 911 before the abuse happens, you can call 911 as soon as possible after the abuse happens, or when it is safe to do so.

Be Aware

All phones work for calling 911. This is true even if your phone doesn’t have a service plan, you don’t have any minutes, or you don’t have a SIM card.

When calling 911, there are a few important things you should mention over the phone.

  • The person who answers will ask you whether you want the fire department, the police, or an ambulance. If you don’t know which service you need, explain your situation to the person who answered the phone and they will help.
  • Say your name
  • Give them your address or location
  • Tell them why you need help with as much detail as possible
  • If it is safe to do so, don’t hang up the phone

For more tips about calling 911, see the following resource.

What will happen if you call 911

If you call 911 to report family violence, the police will ask you for information about what has happened.

The more information you can give the police, the better. For example:

  • what exactly is happening;
  • which people or animals are being threatened or hurt; and
  • whether there are any weapons involved.

The police will then let you know if they can come out to the place where the violence is happening, and how soon. They may have other instructions for you.

When the police come out, they will likely have more questions for you about what happened. The police might decide to charge the abusive person with a crime if they believe that a crime was committed.

For more information about what can happen if you call the police, see the following resources.

Web When They Show Up (Getting the Police Involved)
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Domestic Violence: How the Police Can Help
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF It Starts Today
Today Family Violence Help Centre
English
See “Contacting the Police.”

Web Getting the Police Involved
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
This resource deals specifically with elder abuse, but the information applies to other kinds of family violence as well.

PDF Getting Help from the Police or RCMP
Legal Services Society
Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Punjabi, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

 
Be Aware

In situations of physical violence, it is natural to try to physically protect yourself. This can result in “hitting back.” Although this may be natural, it can cause big problems. Specifically, you could be charged with a crime (such as assault). Even just a slap (as we might see in a movie) can result in an assault charge. If you are charged with assault, it can make your family issues much more complicated and can cause a great deal of difficulty.  For more information about this, see the following resources.


Web How Self-Defense Can Go Wrong
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Domestic Violence Handbook for Police and Crown Prosecutors in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 69-70.

Web Can I also be charged?
Community Legal Education Ontario
English, French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Is Mutual Abuse Real?
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

 

For more information on how the police and criminal law system can help, see the Family Violence: How Criminal & Civil Law Can Help Information Page and the following resources.

Web Domestic violence
Calgary Police Service
English

PDF Abuse is wrong in any language (available in English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, and Urdu)
Government of Canada (via Your Legal Rights)
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu, Other languages
Choose your language, then see “What happens if you call the police?”

Web Domestic Abuse and Your Legal Rights
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Getting The Police Involved.”
What you can do if you are a victim of family violence

Remember that abuse is always wrong and it is never the victim’s fault. No one ever deserves to be abused. Talk to someone you trust, whether a friend, family member, counsellor, or health care professional. You are not alone.

You can always call the Family Violence Info Line for help. Their toll-free phone number is 310-1818, and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 170 languages.

For information about what to expect when you call a hotline for help, see the following resource.

Web Calling a Hotline: What You Can Expect
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

There are also some other steps you can take to keep you and your family safe. The rest of section has information about these steps, including:

  • Safety planning
  • Breaking your lease
  • Documenting abuse
  • Resources to help

Safety planning

It is a good idea to make a safety plan. A safety plan has personalized information about ways you can protect yourself in dangerous situations. Safety plans usually include lists of:

  • safe places to go;
  • contact information for people you trust; and
  • items to take with you if you decide to leave.

If you have children, they can have a safety plan as well to know what to do in case of an emergency.

For more detailed information about safety planning, see the Safety Planning Information Page.

If you rent: Breaking your lease without penalty

Leaving an abusive relationship often means that you must leave the home you shared with your abuser. If you signed a lease for the home, you may be concerned about your legal responsibilities if you leave.

Alberta’s Residential Tenancies Act has recently changed. Now victims of abuse are allowed to break their lease early, without a financial penalty. To do this, you must give your landlord a certificate from the Alberta government’s Safer Spaces Processing Centre. The Safer Spaces Processing Centre can give you this certificate if you give them one of the following:

  • a copy of a protective order from a court (such as an Emergency Protection Order, Queen’s Bench Protection Order, restraining order, or peace bond); OR
  • a letter from a “certified professional” confirming that you or your children are in danger.

For more information about who is a “certified professional” and other rules that apply, see the following resources.

PDF Renting and Domestic Violence: Ending Your Lease Early
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Safer Spaces certificate to end tenancy
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Information for Tenants
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 12.

Documenting abuse

It is important to document abuse if it happens. Having a record of what happened can be important, even if you are unsure about what you might want to do about your situation. Later, you may need this information as evidence in court, or to get compensation for your losses.

Some things you can do to document abuse include the following.

  • Keeping notes about what exactly happened for each incident
  • Taking pictures of any injuries
  • Getting medical attention and a copy of the medical record
  • Saving emails, texts, and voicemails that prove abuse

For more information about why and how to document abuse, see the following resources.

PDF Gathering Evidence of Abuse
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Why You Should Document Abuse
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Smartphone Apps that Help You Document Abuse
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about how to include this evidence in your court documents, see the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page.

Resources to help

There are many different programs, services, and shelters for victims of domestic abuse. You can find information about who can help women, children, older adults, and men. There is also information for victims who are Aboriginal, immigrants, or LGBTQ. For lists of people and places that can help you, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

There is also more information in the sections below that start with “Support for victims.”

Tip

If you have been injured as a result of domestic violence, you may be able to get financial benefits. For more information, see the following resources.

PDF Financial Benefits for Victims of Violent Crime
Government of Alberta
English

Web Compensation for Crimes
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF It Starts Today
Today Family Violence Help Centre
English
See “Financial Benefits Available.”

More information

For information about what you can do, see the following resources.

Web What Can You Do?
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF If You're Thinking of Leaving
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF It Starts Today
Today Family Violence Help Centre
English


PDF (Victim Support Handbook)
Women's Outreach
English


PDF Victims of Family Violence: Information and Rights
Government of Alberta
English

Audio/Web What to do if you are in an abusive situation
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Domestic Abuse: Home Treatment
Government of Alberta
English

Web If You're Being Stalked
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Explaining Violence to Kids
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web When Your Abuser is a Police Officer
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Am I a Victim of Family Violence?
Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Suis-je victime de violence familiale?
Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web When No One Believes You
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
What you can do if you think someone might be a victim of family violence

If you think that someone is in immediate danger, call 911.

If you think someone you know is being abused, you can contact the Family Violence Information Line from anywhere in Alberta to ask them how you can help. Their toll-free number is 310-1818 and they are available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, in over 170 different languages.

You can also go to their website and chat online. The online chat is available every day from noon until 8:00 pm. The online chat is anonymous, which means that the person you speak to will not know who you are and you will not know who they are. The online chat is only available in English. If you would like to speak to someone in another language, it is best to talk to a staff member over the phone. See the following resource to start a chat session.

Web Find Supports and Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more general information and first steps you can take if you think someone is being abused, see the resources that follow. These resources are listed in the following groups:

  • General information
  • Children witnessing partner abuse
  • Parents concerned about dating violence
  • Helping an abuse victim make important decisions
  • Family violence and the health care community
  • Family violence and the workplace
  • Family violence and faith groups

For general information about what you can do as a concerned person, see the following resources.

Web Help a Friend or Family Member
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web SNCit Conversation Framework: SEE it - NAME it - CHECK it
Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children
English


PDF Domestic Violence: How Can You Help?
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

PDF Is someone you know being abused? Do you know the warning signs?
Government of British Columbia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Domestic Abuse: Home Treatment
Government of Alberta
English
See “If you know someone who may be abused.”

Web Domestic Violence: How to Help
Government of Alberta
English

Web Helping Abused Women
Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children
English

PDF Alberta Women's Shelters: A Path to Healing
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

Audio/Web Suspected Family Violence
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Friends and Family
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Audio/Web 
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Interactive Free Bystander Training Programs Available
Avon Foundation for Women
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


Interactive How would you help?
loveisrespect
English

PDF Spotting the signs - Before someone dies
Jocelyn Coupal
English

Web Domestic Violence Survivors at Higher Risk for Suicide: Watch for these warning signs
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For more information about helping an abuse victim make important decisions, see the following resources.


For more information specific to family violence and the health care community, see the following resources.



Web Health Care Community
Government of Alberta
English

For more information specific to family violence and the workplace, see the following resources.

PDF Family Violence and the Workplace Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family Violence and the Workplace
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Family Violence and the Workplace
Government of Alberta
English

Audio Family violence in the workplace
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Domestic Violence & Your Workplace: A Guide for Supervisors
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

PDF Domestic Violence & Your Workplace (Employee Brochure)
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

Web Domestic Violence and Your Workplace
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters
English

Web Warning Signs at Work: How to tell if a coworker is facing abuse at home
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.




Web Multinational Employers and Domestic Violence
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For more information specific to family violence and faith groups, see the following resources.


Web Faith Communities
Government of Alberta
English

There are many different programs, services, and shelters for victims of domestic abuse. You can find information about who can help women, children, older adults, and men. There is also information for victims who are Aboriginal, immigrants, or LGBTQ. For lists of people and places that can help, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

What you can do if you think you or someone you care about is abusive

If you think that you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 911.

You might be worried that someone you know is abusive. You might not be sure what to do, or if you should do anything at all. Or, you may be worried that you are abusive or are becoming abusive.

For information on what you can do if you think a person you know is abusive, see the following resources.

Web How to Talk to Men Who are Abusive
Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children
English



Web Survivor Story: Anna: Enduring dating abuse in her 20s influenced what she wants her kids to know now
domesticshelters.org
English
See “Concerned friends and family of domestic violence perpetrators.”

 

For information on what you can do if you think that you are abusive, see the If You Think You Might be Abusive: Learning to Stop the Cycle of Abuse Information Page. Although that Information Page is intended for abusers wanting to change, the information might also be helpful if you think that someone you care about is abusive. There may be relevant resources to help you through your situation or the situation of someone you care about.

Safety planning

Leaving a violent relationship can be very dangerous. Therefore, it is a good idea to have a safety plan so that you know:

  • where you can go;
  • who you can talk to; and
  • what you need to take with you.

Safety plans can be used even if you do not plan to leave the relationship right away. It is always good to know what to do if you are ever in danger, or in case you ever do need to leave. You can never be too prepared or too safe.

Having a safety plan will prepare you and your children for a situation where you need to be protected. For detailed information, see the Safety Planning Information Page.

Support for victims: Shelters, housing, and financial help

Finding a shelter

A shelter is a safe place where victims of domestic violence can go to live on a temporary basis. There are many different shelters throughout the province. Certain shelters may only be for women, for women and children, or for men. There are even shelters for seniors who are being abused. For contact information, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

For a list of things to think about to help decide which shelter will be best for your situation, see the following resources.

Web Escape Plan: How to Find a Safe Place
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Important Questions to Ask a Shelter
domesticshelters.org
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

If you rent: Breaking your lease without penalty

Leaving an abusive relationship often means that you must leave the home you shared with your abuser. If you signed a lease for the home, you may be concerned about your legal responsibilities if you leave.

Alberta’s Residential Tenancies Act has recently changed. Now victims of abuse are allowed to break their lease early, without a financial penalty. To do this, you must give your landlord a certificate from the Alberta government’s Safer Spaces Processing Centre. The Safer Spaces Processing Centre can give you this certificate if you give them one of the following:

  • a copy of a protective order from a court (such as an Emergency Protection Order, Queen’s Bench Protection Order, restraining order, or peace bond); OR
  • a letter from a “certified professional” confirming that you or your children are in danger.

For more information about who is a “certified professional” and other rules that apply, see the following resources.

PDF Renting and Domestic Violence: Ending Your Lease Early
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Safer Spaces certificate to end tenancy
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Information for Tenants
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 12.

Financial help

Abusive people often control the family’s money and finances. Therefore, after you leave an abusive relationship, you may find that you need financial help to rebuild your life or get back on your feet. For an overview of your options, see the following resources.

PDF If you Leave...Your Guide to Financial Support Options
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF It Starts Today
Today Family Violence Help Centre
English
See “Financial Benefits Available.”

To apply for help from the Alberta Works Supports for Albertans Fleeing Abuse program, see the following resources.

PDF Supports for Albertans Fleeing Abuse
Government of Alberta
English

Web Alberta Works Contact Centres
Government of Alberta
English

For more information on other services that Alberta Works provides, see the following resource.

Web Alberta Works
Government of Alberta
English

To apply for the Victims Services Financial Benefit Program, see the following resources.

PDF Financial Benefits for Victims of Violent Crime
Government of Alberta
English

Web Compensation for Crimes
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

There may be community services in your area that can help you set up your new home. See the following resources for more information.


Web About Connect: How Connect Works
Connect Family & Sexual Abuse Network
English

Interactive 211 Alberta
211 Alberta
English
Support for victims: Police escorts and getting a protective order

Police escorts

Many people have to leave an abusive situation quickly and do not have time to take anything with them. If you are afraid of going back to the abusive home that you left, you can ask the police to escort you there while you go get some of the personal belongings that you left behind. It might not be safe going back to the home alone, but might be safer with a police officer.

Be Aware

A police escort is for personal belongings that you need right away. For example: medication, clothing, toiletries, and things you need for work. The police might also be able to tell you what you are allowed to take with you and what you aren’t allowed to take with you.

For more information about what types of service might be available in your area, contact your local police force.

Web Police services
Government of Alberta
English

Web Police Agencies in Canada: Alberta
myPolice.ca
English

Protective orders

If you are afraid that your abuser will continue to hurt you, you can apply for a protective order. Depending on what kind of protective order you want, the police may be able to help with this. There are different types of protective orders depending on your situation.

For detailed information about your options, see the Protective Orders Information Page.

Support for victims: Emotional help and other community help

Emotional help

Even after you’ve left the abusive relationship, you might still get nightmares, or be depressed, scared, or anxious because of the abuse that you suffered.

You might need to talk to a therapist about what you have been through. Or, you might want to talk with a friend or an anonymous hotline. It is possible to heal from the effects of abuse and even to have new healthy relationships in the future.

For more information on community supports, such as counselling or mental health lines, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

Other community help

There are many people and places in Alberta that can help you. They can help you before you leave, and with issues that come up after you leave.

There also are organizations in Alberta that serve specific groups. You can find information about who can help women, children, older adults, and men. There is also information for victims who are Aboriginal, immigrants, or LGBTQ.

The Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page will point you to places that can help with:

  • making a safety plan;
  • finding a shelter;
  • pet safekeeping if you can’t take your pet with you;
  • emergency transportation;
  • financial help and setting up a new home;
  • legal help with things like protective orders and family law matters;
  • parenting help with things like safe visitation and monitored exchange; and
  • emotional help.

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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