Violence is not a private family matter. When someone assaults or harasses someone else, it's a crime. It's not less of a crime just because a family member has committed it.
Anyone can be abused in a relationship. But no one deserves to be hurt. The police, the courts, and many other agencies are out there to protect you against violence.
Aboriginal families and communities face particular challenges. Women may be afraid that they have to leave their home on reserve if they break up with their partner. Or they may be afraid that someone will contact social workers about them. The information below can help you make the decisions that are right for you and your family.
To find people who can help you, see Who can help.
Abuse and family violence come in many forms. It can range from threats to physical or sexual assault. It may also include harmful financial, emotional, and verbal actions (things they say).
An abuser uses threats and violence to gain power and control over their partner. Often the abuser blames the abuse on the victim. Remember that abuse is the abuser's fault. Abuse against you isn't your fault.
Abuse can be emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, and/or financial. Here are some examples of abuse in relationships.
Certain types of abuse are more harmful than others and are against the law — these are crimes. Assault and criminal harassment are crimes.
There are many reasons why someone stays with an abusive partner. You may be staying for one or more of these reasons:
The idea of leaving might feel very difficult. Abuse makes you feel very isolated (alone). It can make you feel cut off from your friends and family and your childhood community. Sadly, abuse almost always gets worse. If you don't leave your partner, your life could be at risk.
You can do things to make yourself and your children safer. Making a safety plan is a good idea.
A safety plan is made up of steps you can take to protect yourself and your children. Having a safety plan means you know how to get help if your partner is abusing you.
It's a good idea to ask a friend, advocate, or victim service worker to help you make a safety plan. See our fact sheet Safety Planning for detailed information on how to make a safety plan.
You may feel ashamed, afraid, and alone. Abuse in relationships is not a private family matter. You can get help for yourself and your children, whether you want to stay in the relationship or leave. Support services and trained people can help you wherever you live in BC.
When you're ready to begin the journey of emotional healing, it's a good idea to get counselling. You can call your local Aboriginal community centre, social services agency, or friendship centre. They can help you find local counselling or an elder to talk to. If you live on reserve, your band might offer these services.
If you're being assaulted or criminally harassed, call 911. Or call the number for the emergency police or RCMP listed inside the front cover of your phone book. If you live on reserve, you can phone the community police if your band has a detachment. Or you can phone 911.
Police can help when abuse is happening or after it has happened. It's a good idea to have the police or RCMP come to your home, especially if your safety is at risk or if you have children with you.
Sometimes leaving your partner can trigger more violence. It's very important to stay safe. If you're in immediate danger, call 911. To find the nearest victim service worker, safe house, or transition house call VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808 (no charge, 24 hours a day). VictimLink provides services in over 100 languages, including 17 North American Aboriginal languages. See Who can help? at the bottom of the page.
It's also very important to get legal help. Phone Legal Aid right away to find out if you qualify for a free lawyer: 604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-866-577-2525 (call no charge outside Greater Vancouver). Or see the legal help options listed under Who can help? at the bottom of the page.
Some bands have transition houses on reserve that help women and children who are survivors of abuse. If you're off reserve or you want to leave it, there are many more safe houses and transition houses that you can go to.
Throughout BC, there are programs in the community that help survivors of abuse. Some of them mainly serve Aboriginal women.
A victim service worker can also help you deal with police, the welfare ministry, and the courts. Or you can ask an advocate or trusted community member. That helper can come with you to meetings and give you emotional support.
You can also look for Native courtworkers. They can explain legal situations to you or speak on your behalf in court.
As of December 16, 2014, there are new laws that set out who can stay in the family home on reserve when you and your partner break up. For more information, see Your home on reserve.
The new Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act sets out who can stay in the family home on reserve if your relationship breaks up. The new Act applies to you if:
If you've left your home due to family violence, you may still have a right to live in the home. It doesn't matter that you were the one to leave. It also doesn't matter whether you're a band member or status Indian.
100 Mile House & District Women's Centre Society — Call 250-395-4093
BC211 — Helps people in Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley districts to find available shelters — Call 211
Elizabeth Fry Society — Burns Lake — Call 250-692-5720 (24 hours a day)
Elizabeth Fry Society — Prince George — Call 1-866-563-1113 (no charge, 24 hours a day)
Helping Spirit Lodge Society — Spirit Lodge Transition House — Call 604-872-6649
KUU-US Crisis Line Society — Crisis line dedicated to the Aboriginal community — Call 1-800-588-8717 (no charge; available 24/7)
Native Courtworker and Counselling Association — Culturally appropriate support, explain legal situations — Call 1-877-811-1190 (no charge)
Vernon Women's Transition House Society — Call 250-542-1185
VictimLink BC — Counselling, information, and referrals — Call 1-800-563-0808 (no charge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
Women Against Violence Against Women — Counselling program — Call 604-255-6344 — Vancouver
Women Against Violence Against Women — 24-hour Crisis Line — Call 1-877-392-7583 (no charge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) — Across BC
BC211 — Free confidential referrals to help and information — Call 211
PovNet — Information about poverty issues and links to organizations that can help
BC Association of Friendship Centres — Find a friendship centre in your area
Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation — See their A Guide to Aboriginal Organizations and Services in British Columbia for organizations that can help
Aboriginal community legal workers — Give legal information and limited advice services
Legal information outreach workers — Give legal information and provide referrals
Access Pro Bono Law Clinics — Free legal help
Carole James, MLA, Community Office — Free legal clinic, including family matters — Call 250-412-7794
Family duty counsel — Free legal advice — Kwadacha and Tsay Key Dene — Call 1-877-601-6066 (no charge)
Family duty counsel — Free legal advice on family matters — Williams Lake, call 778-395-6200
First Nations and Métis Outreach Program (The Law Centre) — Free legal help, including family matters — Victoria
Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program — Free legal help — Bella Coola
UBC Indigenous Community Legal Clinic — Free legal help on various legal matters — 604-684-7334 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-888-684-7334 (call no charge)
Upper Skeena Counselling & Legal Assistance Society — Free legal help — Hazelton
Victoria Native Friendship Centre — Free legal clinic, including family matters — Call 250-412-7794