There has been an increase in awareness of spousal abuse in the past twenty years, triggering certain social and legal responses designed to help victims. This article will explain the resources available to those who are dealing with domestic violence issues, including shelters and counseling services, as well as your legal options.

Where to Go: Shelters and Transition Houses

Shelters are designed to provide residential services for women and children who are escaping abusive situations. Transition houses, the most popular type of shelter, provide short-term housing. Roughly half of the 600 shelters in Canada consist of transition houses. While many of these shelters are in existence to provide help for women in various situations, not just women escaping abuse, the overwhelming majority of the women who seek solace in these shelters are victims of domestic abuse.

Because the shelters are designed to keep victims of domestic violence safe, shelter locations are closely guarded. Your lawyer can give you location information about local shelters, and you can find relevant phone numbers at the front of the telephone directory.

Who to Talk to: Counseling Services

If you live in an urban community, there is no shortage of counseling services available to you. There are family service agencies that provide counseling for dysfunctional families and also specialized counseling services for abused women. Unfortunately those living in more rural areas may have more limited counseling options.

With regard to counseling services for abused women, counselors are trained to not only address the victims’ emotional needs but also help them with housing and other financial needs. Of course victim safety is taken very seriously and is assured to the fullest extent possible.

Counseling is also available for the abuser; there are men’s self-help groups specifically for perpetrators of domestic violence. A professionally qualified moderator who is trained to rehabilitate abusers leads these groups. The ultimate goal is to encourage abusers to take responsibility for their actions and develop non-violent methods to deal with interpersonal relationships. These groups are particularly hard to find, there are only roughly 35 in Canada.

What to Do: Legal Resources

While the law provides a myriad of ways to approach domestic violence situations, many women are unfortunately reluctant to use the legal system. Some reasons for this reluctance are:

  • Fear of retaliation or revenge;
  • Fear that police and the courts will not believe the victim, or will blame the victim for the abuse;
  • Desire to keep the family together;
  • Fear of living in poverty or being forced to rely on social assistance; and
  • Lack of information about shelters, counseling, and legal rights.

You should talk with a lawyer to learn more about your legal rights, but be aware that you do have options.

The Province of Ontario offers a Domestic Violence Court that deals specifically with issues related to domestic violence. These courts work with a team of police, crown attorneys, and specialized agencies to prosecute cases, prevent future violence, and also provide support for victims. You can also ask the judge for a peace bond, restraining order, or exclusive possession of the family home should you be concerned for your safety.

Victim Support Line

Lastly, if you are a victim of abuse, the Victim Support Line gives you personalized assistance and connects you with appropriate services. This service is free, multilingual, and they can even register you for automated notification when the offender’s status changes. You can utilize this resource by calling 1 – 888 – 579 – 2888 or 416 – 314 – 2447.