Leaving an Abusive Relationship
Leaving a relationship and starting out on one’s own is difficult enough. When that decision must be made in the midst of the trauma of abuse, it is even more difficult. It is important to understand that leaving an abusive relationship can be dangerous. As you are seeking to regain some control over your life, learn about ways to stay safe and get help.
Making a Plan
If you have decided to leave an abusive relationship there are some strategies that may help keep you safe during this time. When you are making a plan to leave it is important to remember that the abuser may be monitoring your activities. Keep in mind that e-mail and text messaging are not confidential ways to talk to someone about the abuse or your plans for leaving. As well, older models of cordless phones may be easily intercepted. Most cell phones and some landlines will show your call history. Telephone bills can also be used to gain information about your activities.
Online activity can also be easily monitored and it is not possible to remove all the traces of where you have been online. If it is not your regular habit, it may be dangerous to suddenly start deleting your entire history from your computer. If you think your computer activity may be monitored it may be advisable to continue to use it for normal activities, such as the weather or news, and use a safer computer for things like looking for a new job or apartment, or finding information about abuse.
As you prepare to leave you may want to:
- Store a packed travel bag with someone you can trust. Include personal items needed to get you through the crisis if you have to leave immediately. Be sure to include originals or copies of important documents and any required medication. You may want to include something special for your children.
- Keep spare car, house and office keys, debit and credit cards, and some cash where you can easily get to it at all times.
- If possible, get your own bank account and credit cards. Try to set enough money aside to get you through until you are able to organize your financial affairs. Arrange to have bank and financial statements mailed to a post office box or trusted family member or friend.
- Find information about local shelters and support services listed on the Abuse Help Lines pages near the front of your SaskTel telephone directory and locate and record emergency contacts.
If There Are Children
If there are children one thing you will need to decide is whether you will take the children with you when you leave. The law says that where a custody order does not exist, it is an offence for one parent to take the children from the other parent with the intent to deprive them of access to the children. An exception is where the children would be in danger of “imminent harm” if they were left at home.
If you are forced to leave your home for your own protection and take the children with you, contact a lawyer as soon as possible so that the matter of custody may be settled without delay.
If you decide to leave the children in the home temporarily, but ultimately want custody of them, it is important to seek legal advice immediately.
On Your Own
Ending an abusive relationship does not necessarily end the abusive behaviour. In some cases violence may even escalate during this period and may continue even after you have separated. It is important to take steps to protect yourself and any children. You may want to:
- Contact your local police service about crime prevention programs and ideas to secure your home. Change the existing locks and determine other points of entry, such as windows, that need to be secured. Let other people know that your abuser no longer lives with you.
- Get an unlisted phone number. Find out about privacy and security features offered by SaskTel, listed at the front of your SaskTel telephone directory.
- Provide others with a verbal description or picture of your abuser and have a plan to deal with unexpected visits.
- Take different routes to and from regular destinations. Always lock your vehicle doors. Stay alert. Park in well lit areas. Ask a friend or neighbour to escort you.
- Make sure that your children have a safety plan for when you are not with them. Review your plan regularly with your children and make changes as needed. Keep a list of important emergency contacts close at hand.
- Give clear instructions to care-providers, teachers, etc. about who is authorized to pick up or visit your children.
If you fear you may be harassed or abused in the future, and have good reason to believe so, you can get protection from the courts in the form of a peace bond. A peace bond is not a criminal conviction. It is a court order that requires another person to “keep the peace” for a certain amount of time and to obey any other conditions the court may add. As long as the conditions of the peace bond are met, the person will not be charged with a criminal offence. If the conditions of the peace bond are broken, however, the person may be charged and convicted of a criminal offence, be fined or jailed, and will then have a criminal record. For more information see PLEA’s resource Peace Bonds.
Immediate Financial Assistance
Ideally, a victim of abuse should try to save up a private “nest egg.” Even a small amount of money might be enough to buy some time to seek financial assistance or to begin organizing a new life and financial independence. If no money or income is available, emergency financial support may be available at any government office of Social Services, listed in the Government of Saskatchewan blue pages of the telephone book.
When applying for financial assistance, it is important to have the following documents…
- Saskatchewan Health Card
- Social Insurance Card
- personal ID
- birth certificates for yourself and your children
- doctor certificates or prescriptions for special medication if required
Finding a Place to Go
If you decide to leave the family home you may decide to stay with other family or friends, or check into a motel or hotel. An emergency shelter, safe house, or transition house may also be an option. The RCMP or the police, if requested, will escort you out of the family home to any safe place you choose.
The Abuse Help Lines, listed near the front of SaskTel phonebooks, provide information about abuse, counselling and support services, as well as contact information for safe shelters and help lines.
If you want to stay in the home and have the abuser leave help may be available through The Victims of Domestic Violence Act (see below). You may also want to make an application for exclusive possession of the family home.
The Victims of Domestic Violence Act
Saskatchewan has a law that provides additional ways to help fight domestic violence. This law applies to people who live together as a couple or a family. It also applies to parents of a child regardless of whether they have married or whether they have ever lived together. Domestic violence includes physical harm or damage to property, threats that cause a reasonable fear of physical harm or damage to property, forced confinement, and sexual abuse.
The law creates three ways to deal with domestic violence: emergency intervention orders; victim’s assistance orders; and warrants permitting entry.
Emergency Intervention Order
This order gives relief to a victim in an emergency. An emergency intervention order can include an order that…
- the victim have exclusive occupation of the home
- a police officer remove the accused from the home
- a police officer supervise while the accused or the victim takes personal belongings from the home
- the accused not contact the victim and other family members
Special Justices of the Peace are available 24 hours a day to hear an application for an order. Police officers, mobile crisis workers, and victim services coordinators can help victims apply for an order. Before making an order, the Justice of the Peace must determine that domestic violence has occurred. The Justice of the Peace must also be satisfied that the case is serious or urgent enough that it should not wait for a judge to hear it. A Justice of the Peace may give an order without the person accused of committing the violence being present.
After a Justice of the Peace grants an emergency intervention order, the accused must be given a copy of the order. The order does not take effect against that person until they receive a copy of the order.
Because emergency intervention orders are designed for an emergency, they must be confirmed afterwards by a judge. The judge must look over the order and the supporting papers within three working days of getting the documents from the Justice of the Peace. If the judge is not satisfied that there was evidence for the order, the judge can schedule a rehearing of the matter.
A person against whom an emergency intervention order is made may ask a judge to review the order at any time.
Victim’s Assistance Order
A victim’s assistance order is similar to an emergency intervention order, but is designed to be used in non-emergency situations. This type of application is made by the victim to a judge at the Court of Queen’s Bench. When making a victim’s assistance order a judge can include any of the orders that may be made when an emergency intervention order is made, as well as some additional orders. For example, the judge may order the accused to provide monetary compensation because the victim has suffered a loss of money as a result of the abuse. This could cover expenses such as loss of earnings, medical and dental expenses, out-of-pocket losses, moving expenses, or legal expenses.
Warrant Permitting Entry
Warrants permitting entry are designed to be used where there is cause for concern about a person who cannot act on their own and who may be a victim of violence and abuse but individuals are being refused entry to check on them.
A Justice of the Peace may grant a warrant to a police officer only. The warrant may be granted only after a potential abuser has refused access to concerned individuals or the police wanting to check on a person who may be a victim of domestic violence. It gives the holder of the warrant the right to go into the home. They may assist or examine the possible victim and may remove the victim from the home, if necessary.