During November, Alberta places special emphasis on raising awareness around familial abuse and is Family Violence Prevention Month in Alberta and across Canada. According to the government of Alberta, the province has the third-highest rate of self-reported spousal violence in Canada. At Fair Legal, we recognizes that the breakdown of family relationships can be difficult emotionally, financially, physically and in some cases even traumatic. We work with clients who have experienced or are experiencing family violence to find the best possible solution to end the incredibly challenging circumstances they find themselves in.
Below are some frequently asked questions on what to do if you’re experiencing family violence, or want to help someone who is in danger.
FAQs: Family Violence in Alberta
What is family violence?
According to the Canadian government, “family violence is when someone uses abusive behaviour to control and/or harm a member of their family, or someone with whom they have an intimate relationship.”
There are many types of family violence, including physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse, as well as neglect. Intimate partner violence, child abuse and neglect, elder abuse, violence to protect a family’s honour, and forced marriage are all classified as family violence.
What should I do if I am a victim of family violence?
Family violence can affect both women and men, and in both cases, it can be hard to accept that your loved one is causing you harm. You may find it easier to keep telling yourself that it is really not that bad, or that maybe you are at fault, or that the abuser’s apologies and promises are this time going to mean something. You may be afraid that doing something about the violence may forever close the door on the life that you have always really wanted. Or worse yet, that doing anything will just make things worse.
If your life is in immediate danger, call 911 and try to provide as much information as possible about your immediate circumstances. You can also call the local police emergency number if your area doesn’t have 911 service. Getting out of harm’s way is your top priority. If you have children, getting them out of harm’s way is equally important – if you have to leave them behind, then take steps right away to ensure their safety.
When the family violence you are experiencing is ongoing, but not immediately life-threatening, knowing what to do is harder. You have safety concerns for you and your children, but you also have concerns about what your life is going to look like. How will you live? What if doing something, anything, might make your situation worse?
If you’re not in immediate danger, you can call The Family Violence Info Line at 310-1818 and receive assistance in over 170 languages. An anonymous web chat is also available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, where trained professionals can help you formulate a plan to escape family violence.
What should I do if I don’t have any place to stay?
When escaping domestic or family violence, there are four types of accommodation you can access if it’s not possible to stay with family, friends, or neighbours:
- Women’s emergency shelters:
Safe locations where women and children can get help and support.
- Women’s second-stage housing:
Short-term affordable housing with help for women and children to start a new life.
- Seniors’ emergency shelters:
A temporary housing arrangement for older adults to get support.
- Men experiencing family violence:
If you are a man experiencing family violence, there are not as many resources available. One place to find help is the Canadian Centre for Men and Families. CCMF Alberta has services and programs to help men.
I want to escape family violence, can I take my children too?
If you or your children are in immediate life-threatening danger, then leave and if at all possible take your children with you – see above for help with getting to safety. If you are not in such immediate danger, then the situation may be more difficult and challenging. Taking your children and hiding from their other parent can be regarded as a criminal offence, but not taking them with you may be regarded as you not protecting them from harm. It is very important to get legal advice as soon as possible. If it possible to get court orders on very short notice, and sometimes without any notice at all, to keep your children safe.
What belongings should I take with me if I decide to leave home?
If possible, you should take the following:
- your house keys
- credit cards
- health care cards
- your passport
- birth certificate
- your driver’s license
- clothing essentials
What can I do about my pets?
The Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has many programs free of charge if you need a place for your pets to stay while leaving an abusive situation.
When can I get a Protection Order (PO)?
If you fear for your safety, you can apply to get a protection order from the court. Protection orders can stop an abusive person from communicating with you, prevent them from coming to your home or place of work, and give you temporary possession of personal property like pets and vehicles, for example.
You can also get an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) if you require immediate protection. You may want to consider strategies to prevent your abusive family member from knowing your whereabouts -- getting an order to prevent them from coming to your home or place of work may not be enough. Just remember that an EPO and PO are only valid within Alberta, so travelling outside the province may compromise your safety.
What is Alberta’s Clare’s Law?
Clare’s Law is an important new tool to protect people from domestic violence. In April, Alberta passed the Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Act or Clare’s Law that allows people who have experienced or are at risk of domestic violence to obtain information from the police about whether their partner has a violent or abusive past. Police can also choose to warn potential family violence victims if they sense they are in danger.
How can I help a victim of family violence?
If you’re concerned someone you know is experiencing family violence, there are a few things you can do to help:
- Check in with them and find out how they are doing.
- Believe them if they disclose information. It takes immense courage to reach out and trust others, and your reaction can have a significant impact on how they proceed.
- Don’t take on the role of the “protector”. Rather, refer them to professional support structures. Family violence can escalate, so experienced supports are necessary to handle the situation.
- If the person isn’t ready to leave, respect their decision and assure them they can reach out for support at any time.
- If the person is ready to leave, encourage them to leave when the abuser is not present to minimize risk of retaliation.
Your Safety Is Our #1 Priority
If you’ve suffered or continue to suffer from family violence, it’s highly advisable to contact a lawyer. Once you are safe, they can help you navigate the legal process of your situation, like guiding you through the court process and making long-term plans for the safety and financial security of you and your children.
Compassion and Experience:
Contact Calgary Family Lawyer Charles Fair
The breakdown of a relationship can be difficult emotionally, financially, physically and in some cases even traumatic. Canada’s family laws are governed by federal and provincial laws. Family lawyers represent their clients in court and negotiate disputes between spouses and family members. Charles Fair has been practicing Family Law for nearly 30 years. Fair Legal handles all types of separation, custody and family legal matters to protect your children, property and you.
Contact us at 1 (403) 239-2249 to schedule a confidential meeting with a member of our legal team.
Give me a call and I can put my years of experience in divorce and family law to work for you.
Calgary lawyer Charles Fair brings over 30 years of experience to Fair Legal in criminal, family and civil litigation. Charles draws on his personal experiences related to each field of law which helps him to understand and relate with each of his clients. He is compassionate, caring, and will always be your champion for justice when life gets messy.