Frequently Asked Questions about Domestic Violence in Relationships

This page covers general information about domestic violence and sexual assault. If you feel you are in immediate danger call 911. To discuss your issues and situation please call the Domestic Abuse Crisis Line Toll-Free at 1-877-977-0007 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. For TTY service call 1-888-987-2829.


Looking at relationship history, a woman’s own perception of her risk levels, the history of the abuser and his access to weapons and firearms, are all significant factors that contribute to identifying a woman’s risk level.
The information provided is for your general information only. We strongly suggest you speak with a community worker who will be able to assist you in identifying risks and making a safety plan that meets your specific needs.


Are You Being Impacted by Violence in Your Relationship?

There are two kinds of warning signs that you should be aware of if you are living in or have left a violent or abusive relationship.  They are:

  • Risk factors for future violence
  • Warning signs that violence is about to happen right now

Risk Factors for Future Violence

There are warning signs that you are generally at risk of experiencing more serious violence. These warning signs are often called risk factors. These include such things as:

  • The person abusing you has a history of violence against you or against other people.
  • The frequency or severity of the violence has recently increased.
  • The person abusing you has history of alcohol or drug use.
  • The person abusing you has violated a court order in the past.
  • The person abusing you is depressed.
  • The person abusing you has threatened, attempted suicide recently or in the past.
  • The person abusing you owns or has access to weapons such as guns or knives.

These are only a few of the warning signs that tell you that you may be in danger of future violence or increasing violence. There are lots of other risk factors that are equally important and that you must take very seriously.


Warning Signs of Violence About to Happen

The warning signs in each situation will vary depending on who the offender is and the type of behaviour patterns that have shown up in the past. Here are some of the more common signs that violence may happen:

  • After the abuser has been drinking or has taken drugs
  • If the abuser has had a bad day at work or unemployed
  • When you return after being out with your friends or a visit with your family
  • If you are paying a lot of attention to your children
  • If you return home later than usual from work
  • If you do something that the abuser has told you that the abuser does not like
  • If the abuser sees you on the street with someone that the abuser doesn’t know
  • When the abuser gets news that is unwanted or does not want to hear i.e.: you have filed for divorce, petitioned for custody of the child(ren), or have a new romantic partner

The list of things that may trigger the violence is endless and none of them are your fault.

If you are aware of what might trigger violence from your partner or ex-partner, you can take extra precautions:

  1. Being out of the house when your partner arrives home
  2. Letting a friend or neighbour know that a violent situation may occur so they can check on you and call 911 if necessary
  3. Have your cell phone in your hand or your pocket so you can dial 911 quickly

Talk to a victim support person about the warning signs in your particular situation and some actions you might take in those circumstances to protect yourself and your children.


Frequently Asked Questions about Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Considerations

Domestic violence and sexual assaults occur across Canada daily. This is a general information guide about various forms of violence and how it can manifest in relationships, actions your can take and consideration for various groups. Click or tap on the headings below to learn more about each one.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault; also referred to as rape, is difficult to talk about but it happens to many people – sexual assault knows no boundaries with respect to age, race, religion, socio-economic status or sexual-orientation.

The fact is, is that sexual assault is an act of violence. It [assault] violates trust, sense of safety and can have far reaching consequences mentally, emotionally and physically. It is never the survivor’s fault, but that doesn’t stop many survivors from feeling embarrassed, blaming themselves and/or feeling shame.

It is important for you to know you are not alone. Sexual assault happens to many people across Manitoba.

Sexual Assault

  • Any form of sexual contact without a person’s consent, including the threat of sexual contact without consent, is sexual assault. This includes anything from unwanted sexual touching to forced sexual acts/intercourse.
  • Most survivors of sexual assault are women however, sexual assault happens to males and to LGBTTQ community members.
  • While most offenders are male, an offender may be a: husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, relative, partner, acquaintance, date or stranger.

Sexual Assault is a Crime in Canada

There are three (3) levels of Sexual Assault in the Criminal Code of Canada:

Level 1 Sexual Assault – any forced sexual contact without bodily harm

Level 2 Sexual Assault – forced sexual contact causing or threatening to cause bodily harm or using a weapon (imitation or real)

Level 3 Sexual Assault – forced sexual contact that causes aggravated bodily harm or endangers the life of the survivor or others

If You Are a Survivor of Sexual Assault

Receiving the emotional support of someone you trust is important whether or not you choose to report the sexual assault to your local police or RCMP detachment. Some options available to you included:

  • Contacting a sexual assault centre or community-based victim service program to receive non-judgmental crisis support, advocacy, information, emotional support, referrals, accompaniment to the hospital in case of injuries, support through police and court processes. and explore your options
  • Talking to family, friends or someone you trust
  • Seeking medical assistance from your family doctor, a clinic or hospital (sexual assault services are available in some hospitals that offer specialized care)
  • Contacting the police/RCMP – in some cases the police/RCMP can take your statement at the hospital (depending on your community resources)
  • Seeing a counsellor to get help with the very real psychological impacts from sexual assault

Go To the Need Help? for more information about the types of service providers in Manitoba.


Violence Against Women in Relationships

Violence that happens in relationships like dating, common–in–law, live-in arrangements or marriage is not a private matter nor a family affair. Relationship violence is a crime and it happens to many people across Manitoba regardless of age, race, religion, socio-economic status or sexual-orientation. The abuser may be a boy/girlfriend, partner or husband/wife. Violence in relationships may also be called domestic violence, family violence, battering, spousal abuse or intimate violence. Violence in relationships also includes violence that happens after the couple has separated or divorced. Violence directed at women specifically often gets worse when a woman tries to leave her partner/spouse. Most violence in relationships involves male abusers and female victims however violence also happens in same-gender/LGBTTQ relationships. In a small minority of cases, the abuser is female and the victim male.

Abusive behaviour and violence includes:

Physical Assault – hitting, punching, choking, etc.

Sexual Assault – any forced sexual contact without consent

Threats – threatening to harm to the spouse/partner/lover/individual, children, pets, family members inside/outside of the household and/or to property

Emotional Abuse – insults, intimidation, neglect, control, isolation, etc.

Financial Abuse – withholding, stealing and/or controlling money, debit cards, bank accounts, etc.

Spiritual/Cultural Abuse – restricting spiritual or cultural practices or beliefs

Forceable Confinement – forcing a spouse/partner/lover/individual to go somewhere with the abuser without consent or confinement to a location i.e.: taking keys, using restraints, threats of harm, assault, etc.

Murder

What to do if you need support against domestic violence:

Receiving the emotional support of someone you trust is important whether or not you chose to report the domestic violence – it is not a private matter or family affair. It is your safety and possibly your children’s safety that is at risk. If you and/or your children are in immediate danger:

CALL 9-1-1

CALL 1-877-977-0007 if you are not in immediate danger, but require information or assistance

Seek medical assistance for physical injuries (hospital, clinic, family doctor)

Some Options Available To You If You Are Experiencing Domestic Violence

Contact a community-based victim services program to receive:

  • non-judgmental practical assistance support on the phone or in-person for emotional support and information
  • information relating to reporting to the police, legal options i.e. restraining orders and peace bonds, financial assistance and Legal Aid
  • referrals to related services including transition houses
  • risk identification
  • safety planning
  • options regarding your children and matters that involve custody and access

If you can:

  • Talk to family, friends or someone you trust.
  • Seek legal advice through Legal Aid assistance to explore the options and referrals available to you and your children

Is Domestic Violence a Crime in Manitoba?

Yes. The justice system in Manitoba is governed by Criminal Codes. These policies direct the justice system to emphasize the criminality of violence within relationships and to take the necessary measures to ensure the protection of those victimized who may be at risk.

Go To the Services Listings of Manitoba for more information about the service providers in your area.


Acquaintance Sexual Assault or “Date Rape”

Acquaintance sexual assault or “date rape”, is a sexual assault that has happened between friends or acquaintances. This includes sexual assault that occurs in the confines of a romantic “dating” relationship i.e.: boyfriend and girlfriend, boyfriend and boyfriend, girlfriend and girlfriend, etc. and was the reason that this type of sexual assault was coined “date rape”. This is a difficult subject to talk about. Acquaintance sexual assault is an act of violence and it is never the survivor’s fault.

Is Acquaintance Sexual Assault is a Crime in Canada?

Any sexual activity without consent; regardless of age, is a criminal offence that is punishable by the Justice system in each province.

The Criminal Code specifically states that 16 years of age is the age at which a young person (minor) can consent to sexual activity; however, this law also states that people in positions of trust like teachers, coaches, babysitters, etc. are not allowed to engage with minors due to their position of authority over young people. Note that ‘sexual activity’ in this instance includes any sexual contact ranging from kissing to intercourse.

The legal age of consent is 18 years old (adult) where the sexual activity involves a relationship of authority, trust or dependency (for example, with a teacher, coach or babysitter).

If You Experience Acquaintance or Date Rape

Some options you may consider include:

  • Contacting a rape crisis centre or community–based victim services program.
    You can expect to receive:

    • non–judgmental crisis support
    • information
    • emotional support
    • referrals
    • accompaniment to the hospital in case of injuries and need of medical attention
    • support if you choose to report to the police or RCMP
    • accompaniment and support in court
    • Contacting the police/RCMP detachment or in some cases the police/RCMP can take your statement at the hospital. (Depending on your community resources.)
    • Seeking medical assistance from your family doctor, a clinic or hospital.
    • Talking to family, friends or someone you trust

Go To the Services Listings of Manitoba for more information about the service providers in your area


Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

The effects of child sexual abuse are serious and long–lasting. Most children do not disclose the abuse or receive help until they are adults. Child sexual abuse includes any unwanted sexual contact ranging from sexual touching to sexual intercourse. This also includes situations that involve a child in pornography or prostitution both of which are sexual exploitation. The abuser may have been a parent/guardian, sibling or other relative, a caregiver, a neighbour, a person in a position of trust, or stranger.

Is Child Sexual Abuse is a Crime in Canada?

Any sexual activity without consent; regardless of age, is a criminal offence that is punishable by the Justice system in each province.

The Criminal Code specifically states that 16 years of age is the age at which a young person (minor) can consent to sexual activity; however, this law also states that people in positions of trust like teachers, coaches, babysitters, etc. are not allowed to engage with minors due to their position of authority over young people. Note that ‘sexual activity’ in this instance includes any sexual contact ranging from kissing to intercourse.

Sexual activity is also considered exploitative based on the nature and circumstances of the relationship and includes such factors as:

  • the child’s age
  • the age difference between the child and their partner
  • how the relationship developed i.e.: quickly, secretly, or over the internet, etc.
  • how the partner may have controlled or influenced the child

For adult survivors of childhood abuse here are some options to consider:

  • Contacting a rape crisis centre or community–based victim services program.
    You can expect to receive:

    • non–judgmental crisis support
    • information
    • emotional support
    • referrals
    • accompaniment to the hospital in case of injuries and need of medical attention
    • support if you choose to report to the police or RCMP
    • accompaniment and support in court
    • Contacting the police/RCMP detachment or in some cases the police/RCMP can take your statement at the hospital. (Depending on your community resources.)
    • Seeking medical assistance from your family doctor, a clinic or hospital.
    • Talking to family, friends or someone you trust
    • Considering counselling and support groups
    • Recognizing that it takes courage and time to heal

Go To the Services Listings of Manitoba for more information about the service providers in your area


Criminal Harassment or Stalking

Stalking is not romantic. It is not a sign of love. These actions can be threatening and can constitute a serious crime: following you, leaving notes or showing up at your home or work uninvited.

What is Criminal Harassment?

Criminal harassment; which is the legal term for stalking, is an obsessive, controlling behaviour directed towards another person. The behaviour might be directed at you or at your family, friends or pets. It includes:

  • Threats
  • Following, watching or tracking
  • Damage and/or vandalizing of property
  • Repeated phone calls, emails or other contact
  • Unwanted gifts

Criminal harassment threatens your physical and emotional safety and forces you to limit or change your life to avoid the harassment. It is important that you know that:

  • It’s not your fault
  • Stalkers act this way to satisfy their need for power and control
  • You did not cause this to happen
  • You are not alone

Is Sexual Harassment is a Type of Criminal Harassment?

Sexual harassment is behaviour that can range from subtle to obscene, from silent gestures to written or displayed images to verbal remarks and can escalate into physical contact.  Know that harassment can include:

  • any unwanted or unwelcome behaviour actions, words, comments or gestures that cause embarrassment
  • that are sexual in nature, offensive or humiliating
  • relating to a person’s sex, sexuality or body parts
  • repeated even after the person has been told to stop

Most victims of criminal harassment are women and most offenders are men. In most cases, the offender is someone that the woman knows, often an ex-spouse or ex-boyfriend.

What You Can Do if You are Being Stalked:

  • Contact a community–based victim service program to get information, support, identify risks and make a safety plan
  • contact the police if you feel unsafe and are comfortable doing so. You can have the support of a community-based victim service worker to assist you.
  • Applying to the court for either a Peace Bond through the criminal court system or get a Restraining Order through the family court – you can go to the police if that person disobeys the orders.
  • Avoiding contact with the stalker
  • Keep track of all activities i.e. phone calls, messages, actions, emails, gifts, etc.
  • Let your family, friends and co-workers know about what is happening – it will break the silence the stalker uses to continue stalking you

Go To the Services Listings of Manitoba for more information about the service providers in your area


Considerations for Aboriginal Women

According to the 2009 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization, nearly 67,000, or 13% of Aboriginal women aged 15 or older who lived in the provinces, self-reported they had been the victim of one or more violent crimes in the 12 months prior to the survey. Violent crimes measured by the GSS include sexual assault, robbery and physical assault.The proportion of Aboriginal women who reported spousal violence by a current or former spouse was about two and a half times higher than the proportion of non-Aboriginal women.Aboriginal women (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) are more than eight times more likely to be killed by their intimate partner than non-Aboriginal women (Violence Against Women Fact Sheet, Status of Women Canada). Some of the obstacles an Aboriginal woman might face are:

  • her mistrust of the mainstream culture due to the history of residential school abuse and separation from families and communities
  • her fear of disclosing the family’s secret violence because of her feelings of guilt and shame, as well as the fear of increased violence
  • her fear of shame and judgment from family members and community
  • her abusive partner may have a position of esteem and power within the community.

Go To the Services Listings of Manitoba for more information about the service providers in your area


Considerations for Disabled Women

Some of the particular barriers that disabled women face in leaving an abusive relationship, dealing with sexual assault and/or facing the legal system:

  • violence may be committed by individuals – such as the husband or family member who is the woman’s primary caregiver and on whom she is quite dependent
  • in many situations, the woman is unable to give free and informed consent
  • because of her dependency on others for her daily needs, the woman may fear the consequences of reporting the abuse.

Go To the Services Listings of Manitoba for more information about the service providers in your area


Considerations for Immigrant Women

Some of the obstacles that an immigrant or refugee woman or child may face are:

  • Fear of Reprisal – the fear of deportation and the belief that existence/remaining in this country depends on the abuser
  • Language Barriers – does not have a working vocabulary of English or French including writen/reading
  • Cultural Isolation – may be unfamiliar with the “outside world” and the dominant culture, navigating the area, social interactions with people outside of ethnic/cultural/religious background
  • Fear of Authority Figures – comes from a background where police and/or government personnel are corrupt or untrustworthy
  • Ignorance of Family Law – may have a complete lack of knowledge about the family law system; fears the partner and loss of child custody or for a child being separated from their family/siblings and placed into social services programs like CFS

Immigrant and refugee women who are abused by their sponsor face particular difficulties in accessing personal safety and protection. Women without Landed Status; i.e.: they have been sponsored to come to Canada by a partner/fiancé/spouse under the family class sponsorship or have claimed refugee status as a dependent, are at risk of deportation upon leaving an abusive relationship.

For example, by leaving the relationship the abused woman may be in breach of a Landing Condition that she be married within 90 days, or she may have an Inland Sponsorship Application in progress that is dependent upon establishing that her marriage is genuine, or she may have made a claim for refugee status based on her partner’s fear of persecution, or she may be an accompanying dependent under the conditions of the entrepreneur program.

In order to leave an abusive relationship, she may need to apply to change her immigration status. A woman can obtain information on immigration matters by using the Citizenship and Immigration Canada Call centres automated 24-hour telephone service at 1-888-242-2100. Call Centre agents are available Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. This information and more is available online at the Immigration Canada Web site http://www.cic.gc.ca/. An immigrant woman should also know that Legal Aid may be available to her for her immigration issues as well as her family law issues. Legal Aid is available in immigration cases where the woman is financially eligible and the proceeding could result in her removal from Canada (deportation).
Go To the Services Listings of Manitoba for more information about the service providers in your area


Considerations for LGBTTQ

Abuse in same-sex or LGBTTQ relationships is often ignored, minimized, or misunderstood by families, friends, social service agencies, health care providers and individuals in the justice system. This has resulted in under-reporting in some demographics. It is never easy to speak about violence in a relationship and when someone feels misunderstood or underrepresented, it is import to have discussion and in some cases, training to help recognize and assist people. Some of the obstacles in coming forward to report are:

  • fear of being ‘outed’ to family, systems and experiencing homophobia, transphobia and other forms of oppression.
  • fear of discrimination for oneself and her abusive partner.
  • fear of isolation from other LGBT/queer people.
  • fear of experiencing abusive tactics from an ex-male partner and that her lesbian identity will be used against her in custody and access disputes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You to the Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (EVA BC) for their generous contributions and willingness to share their expertise for the content on this page.

Together we make a difference.

Please visit EVA BC’s website at endingviolence.org.