The Resources to Protect Against Domestic Violence
October 13, 2022
Cases of police-reported family violence involving children, intimate partners, and seniors have increased to record highs in recent years. This is in part due to the pandemic and the related lockdown measures. These lockdowns, school closures and job losses put a lot of stress on people and may have contributed to an increase in family violence.
Unfortunately, family violence is not always recognized, and those impacted do not know how to address or get out of the situation. By being better informed and having access to resources, those that experience domestic violence might be able to get the help they need.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic abuse occurs between those within an intimate relationship or domestic setting, such as a marriage, intimate partners or cohabitants. Domestic violence, or family violence, also involves violence against children, parents, and the elderly.
Domestic violence can take many forms, such as:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Financial abuse
Who Are the Victims of Domestic Violence?
Globally, the victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women. It is estimated that 1 in 3 women will be subject to domestic violence at some point in their life. While domestic violence can happen to anyone, violence against women is statistically higher.
1 in 7 men will experience violence by their intimate partner at some point.
Elder abuse is estimated to occur in 3% to 10% of the population.
Gay and transgender individuals in intimate relationships also experience domestic violence at high rates, thought to be similar to those of heterosexual women. Transgender victims are approximately two times more likely to experience physical violence.
Recognizing the Warning Signs of Abuse
Sometimes it can be difficult for individuals in a domestic violence situation to recognize the signs themselves, or they may not be able to vocalize it. This could be due to fear, embarrassment, or they feel they have nowhere to go. This is why it is important for everyone to recognize the signs of domestic abuse so others can get help.
If a person is in a domestic violence situation, you might notice changes in their behaviour or physical signs, such as:
- Frequent injuries or bruises
- Anxiety or depression
- Irritability, anger and sadness
- Low self-esteem
- Fearfulness, for example, flinching at sudden movements or sounds
- Lack of interest in hobbies or activities
- Suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide
- Withdrawn from family and friends
- Hinting about abuse
- Not making even simple decisions without their partner
- Limited access to money
- Alcohol or drug abuse
Speak Up if You Suspect Domestic Violence or Abuse
Many factors limit those who are experiencing domestic abuse from seeking help. For example, they are fearful of the repercussions, they are embarrassed about their situation, or they just don’t know how to ask for help. So, what do you do if you suspect someone you know is experiencing domestic violence?
Do not view it as a ‘private’ matter in which you shouldn’t get involved. Your intervention could help improve the situation. However, it is important to contact the victim in a way that is safe for everyone involved. Choose a time and place where you can have a private conversation with the individual. You should also be careful about how you communicate with the individual because a voice message, text or email could be found and put them in danger.
Communicate with them about their situation and offer your support. Listen respectfully to what this person needs; don't try to take over. If the person doesn't want to talk, say you are available whenever they want help. You can also find services in their area that might help if and when they are ready.
You should never confront the abuser or do anything that makes you or the victim feel unsafe. Also, you should never feel like you have all the answers.
What to Do if You're Being Abused
If you are experiencing domestic violence, there are different resources and supports available for victims of family violence to access. The resources are there to support you, and you can reach out wherever you feel most comfortable.
Shelters can give both temporary support and somewhere safe to stay. In addition, staff at local shelters receive special training to deal with family violence victims and can give you advice.
A family doctor or hospital
Hospitals have emergency staff who are there to help you if you are hurt. They may also have special knowledge in addressing family violence cases. It is always best to tell the health care practitioners the truth.
Friends, family & neighbours
Reach out to friends, family and neighbours. They may be able to provide support and solutions to get out of your situation. If you need to get out of a domestic violence situation, you may be able to ask a trusted family member or friend if you can stay with them while you work out what to do next.
There are several helplines available in Alberta if you are experiencing abuse or neglect, or if you suspect someone is being abused.
For example, the provincial Abuse Helpline can connect you with resources, supports, services and referrals to address your concerns.
Helplines are also designed to keep you anonymous.
You can report domestic violence incidents to the police. So, if you feel unsafe or have been injured, contact the police; they are there to protect you. If you do not need immediate assistance but wish to file a complaint, you can still contact your local police department.
Alberta also has a police-based victim services unit, which can assist those experiencing domestic abuse. Programs offered by Victim Services provide information, support and local referrals for victims of crime and tragedy based on the provincial guidelines outlined in the Victims of Crime Act, the Victims of Crime Protocol, and the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.
Victim services and legal supports
There are laws and legal services in place in Alberta to protect the victims of domestic violence. For example, if you feel that you may experience intimate partner violence, you can apply under Clare’s Law to find information on your partner if they have a previous criminal record.
The following links will take you to useful websites where you can find more information about domestic violence in Alberta: