What Legal Steps Can Domestic Abuse Victims Take in Canada?

Domestic violence is recognized as a punishable criminal offence. It can take various forms, not just physical. Mental, sexual and verbal abuse from a spouse or family member all fall under the category of domestic violence.

But many victims shy away from taking any action against such acts. The reasons for staying silent about such incidents can vary from being financially dependent on the abuser to fearing the consequences and ripping the family apart.

But this is a crime you must take a stand against right from the start before it spirals out of control.

What Is Abuse?

The term ‘abuse’ covers a lot of territory, and people from every stratum of life have found themselves in abusive relationships. It comes in different forms and is so common primarily because the perpetrator sometimes doesn’t even realize their actions are hurtful and wrong. Or they simply enjoy the process of dominating and bullying the other person. The abuse can be physical, mental, financial, sexual, psychological or a case of neglect. Being in an abusive relationship can leave long-lasting scars and diminish your confidence and self-worth.

Domestic violence isn’t limited to spouses and partners. It can also be perpetrated against children and older family members in the home. In other words, anyone who’s somehow dependent on the abuser is in a position to be victimized.

When a person does anything to limit your freedom or rights, or hurts you physically, that’s abuse. In such a situation, you’re within your rights to seek legal solutions.

How to Find Help

Based on where you live, there are several ways to find help within your community before you decide to take legal steps.

  • In remote/rural areas where emergency services aren’t easily accessible, your neighbours can be a great help. Share your plight with people you trust within your community and you’ll hopefully come across those willing to help.
  • Family violence helplines differ by province and territory. Keeping those numbers at hand is helpful. Stay updated with provincial and territorial phone numbers by visiting government websites, or check your local telephone directory.
  • Legal service telephone numbers in your area will help you seek legal advice regarding your situation. You can even find a family lawyer who can assist you to get out of such a situation quickly.
  • Be aware of victim service organizations in your region that aid those who have suffered from crime, violence or accidents. They work closely with police services and show you the right direction to seek justice. Besides practical support, they can also become an emotional support system for victims beyond friends or family.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Abuse?

The following are a few preventive measures that you can take to prevent physical as well as mental abuse:

  • Know your rights and recognize situations that are considered domestic violence/abuse.
  • Stay in touch with people who support and care for you as they can help in a crisis.
  • Keep yourself engaged in meaningful activities that can prevent you from becoming traumatized and depressed. This will also help you stay focused and confident.
  • If you feel depressed and don’t feel like interacting with others or don’t have anyone to talk to, seek help from social services.

Laws for Victims of Abuse

Irrespective of the type of abuse you or someone you know is facing, there are several basic legal steps you can take against your abuser:

  • Access order

If your partner is abusive towards your child, you can appeal to have the court deny them access, or only under supervision. According to Ontario law, the court must consider a complaint of violence to make an access order regarding the custody of a child.

  • Restraining order

A victim of domestic violence/abuse can have a restraining order taken out against the abuser. Such an order states that the abuser is subject to legal penalties if they come within a certain distance. This can include your home, workplace, place of worship, children’s school or any other place where they’re likely to try to visit.

Dealing with Domestic Violence as an Immigrant to Canada

In cases where one half of a couple is an immigrant, there are specific Canadian laws that give justice to the victim of domestic violence:

  • If you’re the permanent resident being victimized by your immigrant spouse, you can consult a family lawyer and withdraw their sponsorship.
  • If you have children and report the crime or leave the partner who assaulted you, you will not lose any rights over them, including custody.
  • If you’re an immigrant who chooses to report domestic violence and leave the relationship, you won’t be deported or deprived of your residential status. Consult a lawyer who can help you to get welfare in such a situation.
  • If you don’t have permanent status, then it can be difficult. According to Canadian immigration laws, newcomers can, under special circumstances, apply to live in Canada temporarily on “humanitarian and compassionate” grounds.

Under no circumstances should domestic violence be tolerated. When you know the basic legal factors associated with this situation, you can come out of such tough emotional situations and live a healthier life.