Whether or not you choose to believe it, domestic violence is incredibly, incredibly common.
Here are some Canadian statistics:
- In 2006, 12% of all criminal prosecutions in BC were domestic violence cases;
- Only 28% of victims of spousal violence will actually report these incidents to police;
- 30 to 40% of children who witness abuse on their mother will also experience physical abuse;
- Of those children who were physically or sexually assaulted by someone, in 60% of the cases, the parents were the abusers; and
- 1/3 of all reported violent incidents committed against elderly adults were committed by a family member.
Clearly, for many, many individuals, those people who are supposed to be their best friends are their worst enemies…
I have seen many people who are victims of family violence and, it is awful. Some people are so incredibly scared that they burst out in tears at the thought of being with their abusive partner; AND, at the same time, they burst out in tears at the thought of being without their abusive partner.
So, if you are one of these people who desperately need protection, what should do you?
Well, first and foremost, you should call police. Police are of course, there to protect us, right? And, if you feel any threat to your safety, then absolutely call police.
Often, though, women (or men) who call police (initially) are not cooperative with police after they attend. As a result, criminal convictions against the abusers are often difficult to get.
Consider this: if the primary and only witness in a domestic violence case does not want to give evidence (against the abuser) in the trial, how can there be a trial? How can the Crown Prosecutor get a conviction against the abuser?
Now, what else can someone do other than call police?
Well, for one thing, they can apply to court and get a protection order. On television, these are common referred to as ‘restraining orders’.
In order to get a protection order, you need to go to court and convince a judge of two things:
- You are a family member of the abuser, which includes a child, parent, or spouse or ex-spouse/partner (of the abuser); and
- There is a risk that you will be hurt.
If you can convince a judge of these two things, then you will get a protection order.
Convincing a judge that you are a family member is usually very easy: it is typically as simple as explaining that you are the ex-spouse, child, or parent of the abuser.
The next step, though, isn’t quite as easy…
In order to convince a judge that you will be hurt, you need to describe the recent threatening conduct of the abuser. This includes past police incidents, past incidents of abuse, and past stalking behavior. Be prepared to describe the dates and events of abuse for the judge.
I can hear you thinking, “So what? What good is a protection order?”
Well, the answer is that it is an incredibly powerful document that can be shown to police if the abuser violates the order in anyway. In fact, it is a crime to violate a protection order.
Imagine this: you get a protection order against your former spouse, which says that he/she cannot have any direct or indirect contact with you. Now, let’s say that your ex-spouse sends you multiple Facebook messages.
Without the order, what would you do? Would you call police and tell them that you are getting Facebook messages?
How likely is it that the police will be able to do much against this person? After all, they aren’t committing a crime, right? They are just sending Facebook messages…
But, with a protection order, your ex-spouse IS committing a crime and the police have some ‘teeth’ to speak to the abuser and do whatever else they deem fit to ensure that your ex-spouse leaves you alone.
Here’s the bottom-line: if you are being abused, contact your police department, your local YWCA, a women’s shelter, or any other service that you choose.
You don’t have to live with abuse and there are services and people waiting to help you.
**The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.