Domestic Violence: Frequently Asked Questions

What is abuse?
What options are available to me if I have been abused by a partner or ex partner?
What happens at the hospital? Does it cost money?
Will you tell anyone or call the police?
Why don't people leave an abusive relationship?
What help is available to children living in a violent home?
What can I do if police don't lay a charge but I want to lay a complaint or get a Peace Bond?
What can I do about stalking behavior?
How can I help my friend who is in an abusive relationship?


What is abuse?
Abuse can take many forms.
It can be verbal and emotional abuse where one person says things that are cruel, insulting or degrading to another.
It could be physical, where one person hits, pinches, pulls hair, kicks, burns or any other contact that causes pain or discomfort.
It could be sexual where one person forces or pressures another to participate in sexual activity that they do not want to do.
It could be economic where one partner denies access to family funds to another.

Most often it is a combination of these, but the overall goal of domestic violence is for the abusive partner to establish and maintain power and control over another person. Domestic Violence is very serious and has numerous health and societal consequences.

What options are available to me if I have been abused by a partner or ex partner?
At St. Joseph's Urgent Care Centre or at any emergency department in the city, you can ask to see the domestic violence nurse on call. She will come to the hospital to discuss your options:

  • You may choose to have the nurse to document a detailed description of your injuries, this may include writing and drawing them on a diagram, as well as photographs if you wish. The documents and photographs can be given to the police or stored confidentially at the hospital for safekeeping or until you are ready to give them to the police.
  • You may also choose to have "safety planning" which is talking about things that can help you to stay safe.
  • The domestic violence nurse can help you find a safe place to stay if you do not want to go home.
  • Referrals are available to community agencies, if you desire.
  • Look in the front of any phone book to access services of agencies that can help you as well as 24 hour crisis phone lines for information and support.

You can choose to do all, some or none of the domestic violence consultation. If you decide, after speaking with the on call nurse, that this service is not for you, you are free to leave at any time.

What happens at the hospital? Does it cost money?
If you have been physically assaulted, even if there are no visible injuries, you can go to the St. Joseph's Urgent Care Centre or any emergency department, and request to see the domestic violence nurse. After you are seen by the emergency physician, the domestic violence nurse will take you to a quiet, private area of the hospital. There she will explain your options (see above). When the examination is complete, you can decide to go home or the nurse can help you find a safe place to go.

There is no charge for any of our services.

Will you tell anyone or call the police?
We will respect your right to privacy. However, there are times that we are obligated, by law, to turn over information. The information from the visit can be subject to warrant, which means the court can make us hand over your record, without your permission. We also, by law, must inform Children's Aid Society when we feel a child is not in a safe situation. Children's Aid will work with you to help your children stay safe. Removing children from the home is always the last resort. In all other cases, we must have your written permission before we give out any information about you or your visit.

Why don't people leave an abusive relationship?
There are many reasons why women and men stay with abusive partners. By understanding these reasons, people can explore their options for living a violence-free life. We understand that you are the expert of your life and circumstances and we respect your choices.

Issues women consider:

  • Fear they will be beaten more severely if they leave or call police.
  • Threats to kill or harm them, their children, and other family members if they leave.
  • Dependency on their partner for shelter, food, and other necessities.
  • Isolation (no one understands and believes them).
  • They desire to keep the family together.
  • They have religious beliefs about separation and divorce.
  • Their partner has threatened to commit suicide if they leave.
  • They believe that things will get better.
  • Fear of rejection or not being believed by family and friends.
  • Feel ashamed, embarrassed, and humiliated and don't want anyone to know what is happening.
  • Believe others will think that they are stupid for staying as long as they already have.
  • Fear that they will be deported or that their children will be taken out of the country.

It is a myth that people don't leave violent relationships. Many leave an average of five to seven times before they are able to leave permanently. Women are in greater danger from their partner's abuse when they leave. Only they can decide what is best for them and their children. Whether they decide to remain with their abusive partner or leave, it is important to plan for safety.

What help is available to children living in a violent home?
Children's Aid Society of London is available to help children who witness or are victims of violence. The Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System of the London Family Court Clinic is a nonprofit agency in London, Ontario, Canada, which advocates for the special needs of children and families involved in the justice system.

What can I do if police don't lay a charge but I want to lay a complaint or get a Peace Bond?
Restraining Orders, Peace Bonds and Terms of Release are issued when a court believes one person may cause injury to another person and/or to members of her family, or when the court sees that a person has "reasonable fear" of another person. They are sometimes called "no contact orders".

These orders restrict the behavior of the person who is threatening or stalking you. The court may order that this person:

  • Stay away from you and/or your family members
  • Not communicate with you and/or your family members in any way at all
  • Not possess firearms, ammunition, etc.

A Judge or Justice of the Peace needs certain information before they can grant you one of these court orders. You should:

  • Document every time the person stalked you or threatened you
  • Keep evidence of abuse such as hospital records, photographs, etc.
  • If applicable, evidence of his mistreatment of your children
  • Document every time the person damaged your property (or threatened to); take photographs, if possible.

For more information, please visit the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General Violence in the Family web site or seek professional legal advice.

What can I do about stalking behavior?
See the above information about Restraining Orders, Peace Bonds, and Terms of Release.

In addition, If you have left the relationship:

  • Change to an unlisted phone number and screen your calls.
  • Save and document all contacts, messages, injuries or other incidents involving the abuser
  • Change your locks, if the abuser has a key.
  • Avoid staying alone.
  • Have someone check on you in person or by phone each day. Set up a "code word" where you can alert them if you need help.
  • Call 911 if you or your children are in danger.
  • Plan how to get away if confronted by an abusive partner, make a plan for home, work and other places you frequent.
  • If you think your children are in danger, call Children's Aid Society for help.
  • If you have to meet your partner, do it in a public place.
  • Vary your routine, take different routes home from work or school.
  • Consider having a friend or family member with you.
  • Call a women's shelter for help.

How can I help my friend who is in an abusive relationship?

Let her know:

  • You care and want to help
  • Let her know that you believe her story
  • Her and her children's safety are always the most important issues
  • Domestic violence is a crime
  • She is not to blame for her partner's behaviour
  • She cannot change her partner's behaviour
  • Abuse is not about losing of control, it is a way of controlling others
  • Violence is never deserved or okay

What to do:

  • Listen to her. Do not judge or give advice
  • Talk to her about her options
  • If you believe she is in danger, tell her. Help her make a safety plan. Refer her to a Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre or a local woman's shelter. If these services are not available in your community, there are many web sites available that can help you to do this. See our "Community Partners and Links" page
  • Respect her right to confidentiality
  • Share information on how abuse increases over time without intervention
  • Allow her to make her own decisions

What not to do:

  • Don't tell her when to leave, stay with, or to return to her partner
  • Don't place yourself in danger by confronting the abusive partner
  • Never recommend joint family or marital counseling in situations of emotional or physical abuse. It generally is dangerous for the abused partner and will not lead to a resolution that is in her best interest. Encourage separate counseling for the man and woman, if they want counseling
Last updated: Fri, 2018-03-16 12:05