Breaking the hold of intimate partner violence : reclaiming power over your life

Safety First Preparing To Leave

Breaking the hold of intimate partner violence : reclaiming power over your life

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When you are faced by intimate partner violence (IPV) or post-separation violence, you often find yourself in a whirlwind of events and manipulations that makes it feel as if you have no control over what happens in your life. Different strategies for regaining power over one's situation are possible and can help to eventually break the hold of IPV. It is important to know that IPV involves many complicated issues that may block certain avenues for some time. There is no right or wrong choice, no good or bad victim, no healthy or unhealthy way to deal with situations of IPV. The important thing is to make your own choices, to follow your instinct about what is safest for you and your children.

Calling 911 in case of an emergency

It is important to know that you can always call 911 for emergency assistance when violence is occurring, if you are afraid for yourself or fearful for the safety of someone else, including that of the abusive person. You can also call 911 if you want to leave a partner but are afraid of how they will react when you leave the house.

Breaking the silence and finding support

When IPV is present, the abuser often deliberately keeps the victim isolated, to prevent them from having access to moral support and concrete help, and to prevent them from having access to a vision of events in which they are not responsible for the situation. To achieve this, various strategies are usually put in place by the abuser early on in the relationship. It is often difficult to return to loved ones when they have been pushed away, but when it is possible to reconnect with them or to open up about your situation, it can make a world of difference. 

It can also be helpful to have access to a specialized IPV counsellor. This person can offer support and accompaniment, no matter what you want to do with your situation. Anonymous telephone support, one-on-one meetings and support groups are available by calling SOS violence conjugale at 1 800 363-9010.

Making up your own mind about your situation

In situations of IPV, the abuser usually imposes their own view of things and events on the victim. This process is insidious but can make it difficult for you to form and maintain your own view of your situation.

Documenting the situation can already serve as a guide, if you come to doubt your perceptions because of the partner's emotional abuse when he tries to impose his version of events during the remission phase of the IPV cycle. Keeping evidence of what actually happened and what you understood at the time can help counter the abuser's manipulation.

You can also complete the interactive self-assessment tools available on our website to explore the different manifestations of violence and of control that may be present in your relationship.

Documenting violent events

Because of the many issues involved in IPV, it may not be the right time to press criminal charges or to leave your abuser at this time. However, it may be useful to keep a record of the violent events (whether criminal or not) in case you wish to report it to the authorities in the future or if you ever need to have the presence of IPV recognized in divorce proceedings. 

To effectively document an abusive situation, you can:

  • Describe the events in writing: the date, place and time of the events, as well as a detailed description of what happened. This can be done by describing it as if you were an outsider looking in, writing down what you and your partner said and did as accurately as possible.
  • Keep any relevant information that can be used as evidence: writings (text messages, emails, handwritten letters, etc.), recordings (messages or phone conversations, etc.) or photos (injuries, damage to the house, etc.) that show that the event took place.
  • If there are witnesses, keep their contact information and their own written description of what they saw. If children were involved however, it is best to avoid asking them to record their observations as this may be detrimental to their own recovery. You can note their presence and what they were exposed to, but it is better not to ask them to describe it.

When the relationship is still ongoing, care should be taken as to where this information is kept. If possible, it is best to keep it safe outside of your home (at work, at a friend's house, etc.) and to avoid recording it on any electronic device that your partner has access to.

Safety planning

Regardless of the forms of violence you experience, it is useful to create safety planning scenarios to prepare what you can do in a dangerous situation and to improve your physical and psychological safety. Safety planning aims to counteract the risks associated with a decision or with a situation. It can help when making difficult decisions and allows you to prepare to face different situations. 

Protecting yourself against technological abuse

Technological tools have always been used by aggressors to gain power over their partners. What characterizes the current period is that these tools are increasingly numerous, effective, accessible and affordable. Whether via cellular devices, apps, social networks, home automation or anything else, the opportunities for abusers are numerous, and it can be useful to explore different technological self-defense strategies to protect oneself from it.

Knowing your rights

There are many legal avenues available to help defend your rights and integrity. Some help protect you from violence, while others enable you to rebuild as comfortable a life as possible afterwards. It's important to have the right information and to explore the different questions related to family justice in contexts of intimate partner violence, to make the best possible decisions in the context. Since 2021, victims of intimate partner violence have access to 4 hours of free legal support with the Rebâtir helpline, to find the right answers to all their questions and initiate their legal proceedings.

Exploring the idea of leaving the relationship

Breaking up is unequivocally the most difficult decision facing a victim of IPV. Now is often not the best time to leave a violent relationship. The stakes are high and the path is full of dangers. However chances are that someday, you will have an opportunity to do so safely. It is an option that can lead to long-term safety in some situations.

You have the right to explore the idea of leaving your partner, to explore the issues involved, to think about the resources you might use, and to think about ways to mitigate the danger. The more opportunity you have to prepare for this departure, the more likely it is to go as smoothly as possible. You can do this with someone who understands the complexity of the issue and who will not put pressure on your choice by calling on a counsellor in a specialized IPV resource through our services.

Finding safety in a shelter

When you are experiencing IPV, you can go to a shelter to take a step back from your situation, to find a safe space following an abusive event, or during the process of leaving the abuser. In Quebec, there is a province-wide network of first and second step shelters that are available to help ensure your immediate safety and to help plan the best possible future for yourself and for your children.

Filing a criminal complaint

When you have been subjected to criminal offenses in the context of IPV, you have the right to file a complaint no matter how much time has passed since the event. Of course, pressing charges can be a difficult decision to make because many issues are at stake. Because of this, it can be a good idea to explore different questions related to criminal justice in situations of intimate partner violence and to seek the support of a counsellor who is specialized in IPV when considering this option. If you wish, you can also be accompanied when you meet with the authorities. You can also consult a lawyer or a prosecutor anonymously through the Rebâtir and info-DPCP services, in order to weigh the legal stakes of this decision.

Claiming financial compensation from IVAC

In Quebec, whether or not you choose to file a complaint with the authorities, you can apply for compensation for certain forms of criminal violence. In situations of IPV as well as in situations of sexual violence or childhood abuse, you can apply for compensation no matter how much time that has passed since the event. This compensation can cover costs related to the loss of wages, care for a child born from sexual violence, psycho-social or medical care (including for those not covered by medicaid), relocation, alarm systems, etc.

If you wish, you can be accompanied in this claim by a counsellor specialized in IPV in a shelter, or by the interveners of the Crime Victims Assistance Centres (CAVAC).

To get in touch with a counselor who is specialized in IPV, with a crime-victim advocate, with a lawyer, with a prosecutor or to have access to shelters, we are available 24/7 by phone at 1 800 363-9010.

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Bien que la violence conjugale touche majoritairement des femmes, elle peut aussi toucher les hommes et les personnes issues de la diversité sexuelle et de genre. Les services de SOS violence conjugale sont offerts à toutes les personnes touchées par la problématique.

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