Protective measures are intended to help a person who is a victim of conjugal violence prepare to deal with a violent episode or a possible separation. Since victims are often isolated, it is important that they have access to information that allows them to protect themselves during key moments such as episodes of violence or separations.
SOS Violence Conjugale can help victims of conjugal violence at various points during a relationship. This organization also finds available spaces in shelters according to the victim’s needs: short term (a few nights or weeks), long term (several months or years), with or without children. This service is offered in all regions of Québec.
Violent episodes occur frequently in situations of conjugal violence, and they tend to intensify over time: this phenomenon is referred to as the cycle of violence. Because these incidents tend to recur, people who experience this violence may be able to anticipate it and attempt to protect themselves when the episodes are about to occur.
The most important consideration in these situations is the safety of the victim and of the children. The measures outlined in this section are intended to help people protect themselves when they are in the midst of the cycle of violence and when they are experiencing frequent episodes of violence.
Be prepared to leave the house quickly
Some episodes of conjugal violence are more intense than others. For example, a victim may have to leave the house quickly to protect their health or life and the health or life of their children. Victims sometimes leave their home for a few hours, a few days, or for even longer, possibly forever, depending on where they are in the process.
Since this type of situation can occur at any time, here are four possible ways to help victims prepare to leave the house quickly:
- Make sure to have change or cash on hand (in your purse or in a hiding place) to take a taxi.
- Implement a code word with children so that they know they have to leave the house.
- Tell children what safe place to go to if you say the code word.
- Teach children to call 9-1-1 and to give their address in case of emergency (e.g. if they or a parent are assaulted, if they feel unsafe, etc.).
SOS Violence Conjugale (1-800-363-9010) provides support services and can suggest protective strategies and measures that fit each victim’s particular situation. The helpline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and offers bilingual services.
Avoid getting trapped
When an episode of conjugal violence occurs, victims are forced to make crucial decisions in a fraction of a second. Often, their first instinct to protect themselves is to isolate themselves in a closed room (such as the bathroom or bedroom). However, these places can be dead ends because they have no emergency exit (no windows, a second-floor window, etc.).
Going around the house ahead of time to identify dead-end rooms and the best escape routes will help victims make safe decisions when an episode of conjugal violence occurs.
Identify people who can be trusted
Having allies can make a big difference in managing an episode of conjugal violence. Identifying people who can be trusted (friends, colleagues, family members, support staff or others) is an important step in protecting themselves and their children.
Trusted allies can help in a number of ways:
- Listen to the person and reassure them.
- Provide a safe location.
- Come and get the person quickly.
- Contact the police for the victim (using a code word).
Talking to someone about a difficult situation can also give victims a sense of relief because they know that help is available in moments of crisis.
Separation is a defining moment in an abusive relationship, since it’s usually a source of considerable anxiety for the person who wants to leave a violent partner. Victims may fear their partner’s reaction, be afraid of their future actions (threats, custody battles, etc.) or fear reprisals from those around them.
Here are some suggested preparations to help make separation easier.
Prior to separation
The decision to separate is never an easy one to make, even when it comes to conjugal violence. People who leave an abusive situation may be extremely worried about the future and about their safety.
In this case, the most important thing to remember is not to tell your partner about the separation until just before leaving. While not required, it is best to have made some preparations before leaving an abusive environment:
- Identify a safe location to shelter (a friend’s house, with family, a shelter, etc.).
- Have cash on hand for public transit or to take a taxi.
- Prepare a bag containing clothing, a set of house keys (if necessary), and a photo of their partner to assist police in identifying them (if necessary).
- Leave the bag in a safe, secret location (a friend’s house, with family, a shelter, etc.).
- Explain the plan to their children, adjusting the level of detail to their age.
SOS Violence Conjugale crisis line staff can also help victims develop protective measures and find a shelter. Simply call 1-800-363-9010.
During the separation
Timing when to inform an abusive partner about the separation should not be at random. To protect the person leaving the relationship, it is preferable to choose a safe location (a public place, a friend’s house, etc.) or to have someone with them (friend or family member) to tell their partner the news. It is also absolutely an option to inform them by phone, letter, or email.
A separation (or divorce) may take some time to become legal. In the meantime, the abusive ex-partner will probably try to find the person who left. Changing or adopting certain habits and behaviours can help ensure their safety. For instance:
- Change the places they go, their weekly appointment schedules, etc.
- Block their ex-partner’s phone number and social media accounts.
- Keep a cellphone with them at all times.
- Keep their new address secret (if possible).
- Travel on busy streets and in public places.
Once the separation is official, the ex-partner may still engage in violent or intimidating behaviour toward the victim. If a victim fears for their life, they can apply to the court for a protection order, which prohibits the ex-partner from contacting or approaching them.
Conjugal violence can continue even after separation. If a person fears for their safety after separation, they can contact the police or SOS Violence Conjugale . It is also important that they have easy access to:
- their cellphone
- divorce and child custody documents
- documents related to any other court orders
If the person who has left the relationship needs to return to their former home to retrieve personal belongings, they can ask the police to accompany them to ensure their safety.
Help and resources
- If you need immediate help, dial 9-1-1.
- Helpline for victims of sexual assault and sexual exploitation
- Free bilingual, anonymous and confidential service, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across Québec
- Crime Victims Assistance Centres (CAVAC)
- Available in all regions of Québec, providing access to trained intervention professionals
- Live chat service (from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., 7 days a week) and telephone helpline (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
- SOS Violence Conjugale
- Offers telephone support, psychological support, immediate intervention and referrals to shelters (SOS Violence Conjugale can make the call for you)
- Centre d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (Sexual Assault Centres, CALACS)
- Offers direct help for women and female adolescents who have been sexually assaulted, as well as telephone support, support groups, accompaniment and support services for victims (police, hospital, etc.) and services for close friends and family members of victims
- The Director of Youth Protection (DPJ)
- Possibility of reporting a situation to the DPJ by telephone or written report, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (CDPDJ)
- Provides services free of charge to individuals whose human rights or youth rights have not been respected. Complaints can also be filed online
- Contact information for organizations part of the ESPACE Program (families and children)
- Program offering various workshops for children and operating a telephone helpline
- À cœur d’homme
- Offers referral, intervention and counselling services offering support to partners and fathers with violent behaviours
Last update: October 9, 2020