What happens next? Information for kids about separation and divorce

Chapter Five: What happens if there is violence?

Tommy’s family finds shelter

Tommy and his two younger sisters

Twelve-year-old Tommy always looked out for his two younger sisters. Being the older brother made him feel very proud. If they were okay, then he was okay too.

When Dad arrived home one night, Tommy knew he had already been drinking. Mom told Tommy to take his sisters to the neighbour’s house. On his way out, Tommy could hear his dad yelling. Julie, the youngest one, began to cry and Amy was sniffling.

After about an hour, Tommy took the girls home and tucked them into bed. He sat with them until they slept. Then the argument got louder and he got really worried when it seemed like his mom might be harmed. So, he slipped outside and called "911" from the neighbour’s house. His dad was gone when the police arrived. They took Tommy, his mom and his sisters to a shelter where they could be safe until his mom decided what to do. Tommy knew that things might be difficult for a while, but he was happy that he wouldn’t have to worry about his mother’s safety.

Sadly, Tommy isn't the only kid who lives in a home where abuse — hitting, punching, yelling and other bad things — happen.

Abuse is wrong!

What does that mean? Some kinds of abuse, like beating someone up, or threatening to beat or kill someone, are against the law. Doing something physical to harm you or someone you know is physical abuse. Most forms of physical abuse are considered an assault, which is a crime in Canada.

Sexual abuse is also against the law. Even if it happens between people who are married — it is a crime. Child sexual abuse is when an adult, teenager or older child uses a young person for a sexual purpose. If someone in your family or one of their friends harms you or does something sexual to you, tell another adult you trust.

Get help. You have a right to be safe and it's ok to want to get help.

Ask someone for help — a teacher, a neighbour or a relative (a grandparent, your aunt or uncle). If the police come to your house, try talking to them.

The police will make sure no-one is hurt. They may separate your parents and take one or both of them away to cool down.

If someone is hurt, the police will likely lay charges. Then, the parent who is violent or abusive will have to go to a type of court called criminal court.

If the judge finds the abusive parent guilty, he or she might send that parent to jail or to a place that can help change his or her behaviour.

It's confusing when you have mixed feelings — like feeling scared of someone and not liking what they do, but still caring about them. Try to find someone to talk with about how you feel and who can help you work out and understand your feelings.

Some kids are hurt by their parents or by the people their parents choose to be around. Adults make bad choices sometimes. It's not your fault. It's their problem. But when violence takes place in families, it affects everyone. Abuse is wrong. Physical and sexual abuse are against the law.

How can the law help?

One of your parents may get an order* or a peace bond* to keep the abusive parent away from the rest of your family. This means the abusive parent might have to stay away from your home, your school or your parent's work place. These orders are legal documents, put into place to protect you and your family.

If the abusive parent disobeys the order or peace bond and tries to go into your home or anywhere else that's not allowed, the police can take the person away.

Your school and after-school program may be out of bounds too. The staff will be told about the order or the peace bond. If it would make you feel safer, you can ask the staff if they know about the order.

The idea is to protect you and your family. Efforts will be made to take care of you and to have someone there to help you. It's a tough time for everyone.

Can you still see a parent who has been abusive and violent?

Kids seem to do better if they can see both parents regularly in a safe place. If you've been allowed to see a parent every week, you will probably be able to continue. But it may take some time for visits to be arranged after the parent has been charged.

If a judge decides it is not safe for you to visit, you may not be able to see this parent for a while. This is done for your protection.

Will you have to see an abusive parent if you are afraid?

If a parent is abusive or violent and you are afraid, you may be able to have someone with you during your visit. This is called a supervised visit. If you can't handle visits with that parent, speak to someone like a counsellor or social worker who is involved in these visits. Tell them how you feel.

Your visits with a parent may be arranged so they take place in a setting away from your home like an access centre if your province or community has such centres. Centres are a safe place where a staff member stays with you during your visit with the parent. Your parents won't see each other. Rules are strict and each parent must agree to them. The visiting parent must arrive before you and your other parent. They can't leave until you are safely gone.

If you have to go to court

If you are a victim or you witnessed the violence you may have to go to court and tell the judge what happened. If this happens you will likely go to the courthouse a few days before you testify*. Someone at the court house will explain what will happen when you talk to the judge and will give you support.


  • If you or someone in your family is in immediate danger or needs help right away, call "911". You can also call your local emergency number, usually listed at the front of the phone book.
  • You can ask someone to call "911" for you.
  • As soon as you can, write down what happened or draw a picture of it. Speak as openly as you can about what has happened.
  • Ask for help and support. You are not alone.

What did one potato chip say to the other?

Answer: Shall we go for a dip?

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