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Domestic or intimate partner violence ranges from emotional or psychological abuse, such as name calling or isolating you from your friends and family, to repeated physical or sexual assaults – even homicide. It can involve threatening or hurting your family or pets. While some people still refer to it as spouse abuse, it can happen between past or current partners, spouses, or boyfriends and girlfriends. It does not discriminate based on age, race, education, or economic standing. It can happen in same-sex relationships. Fear of your partner is the most telling symptom. This form of violence is often cyclical – so a period of abuse is typically followed by excuses and sometimes even a ‘honeymoon’ phase where the abusive partner turns on the charm to ensure you stay in the relationship.

Like other forms of violence against women, domestic or intimate partner violence is about dominance and control. And because it happens in the home, children often learn unhealthy attitudes and patterns of behaviour they repeat in their own intimate relationships.

Recently, the provincial government amended the Labour Standards Act to allow people who are experiencing family violence to take a total of 10 days’ leave from work (3 paid, and 7 unpaid). This will allow people to take time off to get medical attention, receive counselling, find accommodations, or seek legal advice.

Why Don’t They Just Leave?

One of the most common questions people ask about women living in abusive relationships is, why doesn’t she just leave? 

There is no simple answer.

It is dangerous to leave – women and their children are most likely to be seriously injured or killed while leaving or in the months afterwards.

Women stay because they are afraid. They’ve been told their partner will hurt or kill their children, other family members, or pets. They have also been told by their abusive partners that if they leave, they’ll find them. They’ve been told they’re not fit mothers, and they will lose custody of their children.

Abusers work to undermine their partners’ confidence by telling them they deserve the abuse. They isolate them from friends and family. They make them financially dependent.

After living in an abusive relationship for a while, women can begin to see it as normal. This is particularly true for women who grew up in families where violence was the norm.

Women often love their abusive partners, who are often very charming at the beginning of a relationship. And who often revert to that charm between bouts of violence (the so-called honeymoon phase within the cycle of violence). They may have children with their abuser and want to keep their family together. They may believe it’s possible for the violence to stop and the relationship to continue.

Sometimes culture and religious play a role. In particular, women whose first language isn’t English may find it difficult to access the help they need in order to leave.

Women with physical disabilities whose abusive partners are also their caregivers may find it particularly difficult to leave.

What to do if you’re in an abusive relationship

Planning to leave

Ask a trusted family member, friend, or professional to help you create an exit plan.

Contact your nearest shelter. Let them know you intend to leave, and ask them for help with safety planning.

Get legal advice about your rights.

Identify services in your community, like shelters and sources of financial assistance, like the provincial Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour.

Talking to your children

Tell your children that abuse is never right, even when someone they love is being abusive

Tell them the abuse isn’t your fault or theirs. They didn’t cause it, and neither did you.

Teach them it’s important to keep safe when there is violence.

Tell them not to get between you and your partner if there is violence.

Together, pick a safe place in the house where they can hide if violence starts – ideally somewhere with a locked door and a phone the abuser doesn’t know about.

Agree on a code word so they will know when to call for help.

Create a plan to get out of your home safely, and practice with your children.

Teach children how to call the police and stay on the phone until the police arrive.

Have them practice their full name and address and what to say about the violence.

Don’t run to your children as your abuser may hurt them as well.

Prearrange a safe place to meet outside so you can easily find each other.

Don’t talk to your children about your plans to leave or anything else that would provoke your abuser unless you’re sure they won’t share the information with your abuser.

Decide in advance where you will go when you leave and how you will get there.

Park facing the street in a way that you can’t be blocked in. Keep your car’s tank full.

Hide keys, a cellphone, and money where you can access them after you leave.

Hide or remove weapons from your home.

Arrange to have someone you trust agree to look after your children in an emergency.

Gather important documents like birth certificates, social insurance cards, driver’s license, MCP cards, immunization records, passports, court orders, immigration papers, and status cards.

Gather copies of mortgages, leases, loans, assets (e.g., bank statements).

Have money, credit and debit cards, and cheques where they’re easy to grab.

Have your keys, phone, and medications (or at least a list of your and your kids’ medications) where they’re easy to grab.

Have a small bag of toiletries, toys, photos, and sentimental items hidden.

Try not to use a computer at home – use it at work or in a public space like a library.

At home, log out of social media profiles and clear your browser history every time you finish using your phone, tablet, or computer.

Never share your passwords with your abuser.

Keep your social media settings set on private. Don’t use your name, your children’s names, or post personal information. Consider closing your social media accounts.

Have a list of the phone numbers you can call for help.

Know the quickest route out of your workplace. Practice using it.

Know the route to shelters, police stations, hospitals, fire stations, and public places (including stores) that are open 24 hours a day.

Have a code word to use with your children, family, and friends so that they will know to call 911 and get you help.

Arrange with someone to care for your pets temporarily, until you get settled. In St. John’s and Corner Brook, the RNC can help you have your pets fostered through the Pet Safe-Keeping Program if necessary.

Remember to clear your phone of the last number you called to avoid the abuser using redial.

When violence happens

If you believe your abuser is about to become violent, try to move to a part of your home where you can exit the house easily. Avoid rooms where you could be trapped or where there are weapons like knives.

Ask neighbours to call police if they hear or see signs of violence. People reporting domestic violence don’t have to identify themselves to police.

If you are injured, go to a doctor or emergency room. Ask them to document your visit and your injuries (including photographs).

When you’re leaving:

Do not tell your abuser you are planning to leave or that you’re leaving.

Request a police escort or ask a friend, neighbour, or family member to accompany you when you leave.

Leave quickly.

Have a back-up plan to use if your abuser figures out where you are going.

After you leave

Do not return to your home unless you are accompanied by the police. Do not confront your abuser.

Apply to Provincial Court for an Emergency Protection Order.

If you are staying in the home, change the locks and get an unlisted phone number and caller ID.

Block your number when calling out.

Change computer, security system, and other passwords.

Consider applying for a restraining order or peace bond that may help keep your abuser away from you and your children. Keep it with you at all times.

Provide police with a copy of any legal orders you have.

Consider changing any service provider that you share with your abuser.

Carry a photo of the abuser and your children with you.

Take extra precautions at work, at home, and in the community. Consider telling your supervisor at work about your situation.

Think about places and patterns that your abuser knows about and try to change them. For example, consider using a different grocery store.

If you feel unsafe walking alone, ask a neighbour, friend, or family member to accompany you.

Getting an Emergency Protection Order

An Emergency Protection Order (EPO) is a court order that can be granted quickly in the event of domestic violence. To get an EPO, the applicant needs to

  • Have lived in a conjugal relationship with the violent person or
  • Have had a child with the violent person

People who are married, living common law, or are part of a same-sex couple can apply for an EPO.

An EPO can allow police to remove an alleged abuser from the home, take away any firearms or other weapons, give you temporary custody of the home and children, and other conditions that the court deems appropriate

EPOs can be applied for in the following ways:

  • By police 24 hours a day
  • By an individual during regular court hours
  • By a lawyer on an individual’s behalf during regular court hours

Application forms are available from Provincial Court.

Normally, the judge will decide whether an EPO will be granted within 24 hours of receiving the application

An EPO will not last for more than 90 days, and is not a criminal charge.

SOURCE: https://court.nl.ca/supreme/family/violence.html