Family Violence Initiative
What happens if you call the police?
If someone has abused you, you should tell the police. All provinces and territories in Canada have had police and Crown prosecutor* spousal abuse policies* since the early 1980s. These policies make sure that spousal violence is treated as a criminal matter.
The police might arrest the person if they believe the person has broken the law. The person might have to go to jail for a few hours until the bail hearing* or maybe longer depending on what the judge decides.
If you are afraid for your safety, ask the police to notify you before the person is let out of jail. The judge may set rules for the release of the person who abused you. For example, the judge may order that the person is not allowed to contact you.
If you are afraid of being hurt when the person is released from jail, you may want to find a safe place to stay such as with a friend or at a shelter.
In some provinces and territories you may be able to get a non-criminal emergency protection order, such as a court order that tells the person who was abusive that they must not communicate with you. The order might make the person abusing you leave the family home for a period of time. You can ask for legal information on how to go about this. If an emergency protection order is not available, you may be able to get a peace bond.
What happens if the police charge the person who abused you?
If the person who abused you pleads guilty to a criminal offence, the judge will decide on a sentence.* The sentence may be a fine* or probation.* The person who abused you might also have to get counselling. The judge might also order time in jail. In deciding whether to order a jail sentence, the judge will consider many things. For example, the judge will consider whether this is a first offence and how severe the abuse was.
If you are afraid, tell the Crown prosecutor or your victim services worker. If the person who abused you gets probation, the judge might release them with conditions.
If the person who abused you tells the judge that they are not guilty, then there likely will be a trial. It may be several months before the trial starts. You will have to be a witness at the trial, but there are several things the courts can do to make you more comfortable when you appear as a witness. You may be able to speak to the judge from behind a screen or from another room by closed-circuit television* so that you do not have to see the person who abused you. You may also be able to have a support person near you while you testify. If the person who abused you does not have a lawyer, the Crown prosecutor can ask the judge to appoint a lawyer so that you do not have to be cross-examined* by the person who was abusive.
If the person who abused you is found guilty, the judge will decide on a sentence such as a fine, probation or jail time.
Remember, no one has the right to abuse you
The criminal justice system may scare you, but it is there to protect you and keep you safe. There are people who can help you get through it. Living with abuse is very difficult and can be terrifying. Especially if you are new to Canada, you may be dealing with many other issues at the same time. You may be facing culture shock. You may be experiencing financial stress. You may be worried about your children's future. Getting help is not an easy step to take but it is the best thing you can do for yourself and your children. Your choices are very difficult ones, but you do have choices.
If you are being abused, you are urged to get help. You don't have to face it alone. Help is available. You deserve to be safe.
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