What to do if you are in an abusive situation

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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.

This topic discusses possible actions to take if you are in an abusive relationship.

You are in an abusive relationship if you are subjected to physical beatings, forced sexual activities, threats and mental torment.

The first priority is to ensure your safety and the safety of your children especially where there is physical violence. You should not wait until there is another violent incident. If you stayed in the home after a violent incident, your spouse will not change their ways. If you think that your spouse will leave voluntarily, ask them to leave. Unfortunately, most abusers will not leave the residence freely. You will have to find a safe place to stay for yourself and your children. Never leave your children behind with your abuser. They may take their frustration out on the children or use them as a bargaining tool to force you to come back.

You could go the home of a relative, a neighbor or friend or to a shelter. Always take your house keys, money, credit cards, bank books, health cards, medications, passports or birth certificates, driver’s license and clothing and essentials with you when you leave. You will not be giving up any rights to the property you and your spouse own or to any financial support if you leave the home. Your first priority is to ensure your safety and your children’s safety.

If you are in an emergency situation contact the police immediately. Tell the police that you are being threatened with violence and that you fear for the safety of yourself and your children. It will help if you speak slowly and clearly so that the police can get your name and address. The police can tell you of a safe place to go if you cannot stay with relatives or friends. They will also provide you with information on how to lay charges against your abuser.

Get medical attention as soon as possible. If you have been physically or sexually assaulted or even have bruising or other marks of a beating, you should tell the doctor that your injuries are the result of family violence. Ask the Doctor to take color photographs of any visible injuries. The photographs can be used as evidence to corroborate your story in Court proceedings.

You should contact a lawyer if you have suffered from any family violence. The lawyer can assess your particular situation and provide you with information concerning your particular situation. For example, you can find out about your legal rights to property and financial support, custody and access of your children, and Protection Orders. Contact the Lawyer Referral Service for names of lawyers in your area. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the Legal Aid Society can provide you with one. Legal Aid will pay the lawyer for you, but you will be expected to reimburse Legal Aid once you have achieved a certain level of financial independence.

You may also contact the Alberta Family and Social Services for financial support. They can also assist you in finding counseling and other help to support. If you are in Calgary, Calgary Legal Guidance offers special services for victims of domestic assault. You may call Calgary Legal Guidance at 403-234-9266 for information on their service.