Domestic violence is a serious issue and a serious crime. There is no particular crime for abusing your spouse, but crimes of assault, sexual assault, forcible confinement, making threats, or criminal harassment can be laid. The types of violence that are considered criminal are physical acts; psychological and emotional abuse are also extremely serious but are not included in the Criminal Code.
If you are suffering from physical or sexual abuse, you should contact the police who will call the Victim Crisis and Referral Services (VCARS) on your behalf. VCARS is an organization that helps victims emotionally and can give you practical advice and referrals. Police in Ontario must press charges if they have reasonable grounds to believe that domestic violence has taken place.
If you do not wish to contact the police, you should still speak with a lawyer who can help you understand the implications of domestic violence and can tell you how best to protect yourself and your children.
Domestic Violence Courts
We also have a specific court with resources for victims of domestic violence. The Domestic Violence Court (DVC) specializes in giving people the resources they need when they are going to court as victims of domestic violence. The DVC is available in most parts of Ontario. A team of police, crown attorneys, and other specialized agencies work together to improve support for victims, prosecute cases and prevent the cycle of violence. Even in areas where there is no DVC, the prosecutor’s office can help in getting your case settled in a speedy and safe way.
For first-time offenders who plead guilty, the DVC is able to resolve the case quickly if offenders agree to take a 16-week Partner Assault Response (PAR) program.
If you are afraid for your safety, you can also ask a judge for a peace bond. The peace bond requires your spouse to keep the peace and offers other conditions.
Restraining orders and access orders
If you or your children have been the subject of abuse, you can ask the court to make an order that they stay away from you or that they have no access or supervised access to your children.
If you get a restraining order, it must be served on your spouse as soon as possible (someone else can serve it). After it is served, you may call the police if your spouse tries to violate the order.
Exclusive possession of the family home
If your spouse is violent, you can get a court to grant you exclusive possession of the family home. In other words, you can ask your spouse to leave your home so you can stay there regardless of who has title to the home.
In making an order for exclusive possession, a judge will look at a few factors: was there abuse in the relationship? Is there another suitable place for you to live? Is it best for the children to remain in their home? What is your financial position?
Who do I contact?
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you should contact the Victim Support Line at 1-888-579-2888, or 416-314-2447 in the Greater Toronto Area. The Victim Support Line can help you by giving you personal information and connecting you with appropriate services. If it is an emergency, call 911.
If you require any assistance with legal matters related to domestic abuse, please contact your Toronto divorce lawyer.