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Need Help

If you are in immediate DANGER or fear for your safety, please CALL 911. If you are not in immediate danger, call VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808 for information about all services that are available throughout BC.
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Overview

Need Help information is for you or someone you know who may be experiencing violence or abuse. In this section, you will find information that:

  • Explains the types, dynamics, and impacts of violence against women
  • Explains many known risk factors
  • Tells you who to call in an emergency
  • Describes the kinds of services that are available to help you
  • Tells you about safety planning
  • Provides links to other resources and information

There is a lot of other information you will read as you take steps to increase your safety and to heal, such as what to expect if the police and courts get involved, what the psychological consequences are from experiencing abuse or how to apply for victim compensation. You will learn those things from the victim support service that you contact. It is their job to give you information about what you need to know as you start to get help and increase your safety.

You don't need to live with violence or abuse

Violence and abuse is never acceptable. You are never to blame for violence or abuse that someone directs at you. Whether it is physical, sexual, emotional, or financial, it is not okay and it is not your fault.

There are services available to help. You can go to a community-based program that specializes in helping women who have experienced violence and, if you are interested, they can assist you in talking to police. Remember, you are not alone. There are people available in communities throughout BC who understand what you are going through and who are there to help.
What is violence against women?

Violence against women is a term used to refer to violent acts that are primarily committed against women. Similar to hate crimes, this type of violence targets specific groups, in this case, women.

The United Nations defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

There are many forms of violence against women, including sexual assault, physical assault, or emotional abuse by an intimate partner; physical or sexual abuse by family members or others; sexual harassment and abuse by authority figures (such as teachers, police officers, employers). Systematic sexual violence in conflict situations is another form of violence against women.

Gender-based crime

Violence against women in relationships, sexual assault and other forms of violence against women are gender-based crimes. This means that:

These crimes most often happen to women and girls
Men are most often the ones who commit these crimes
These crimes are usually based on dynamics of power and control – men, who have most of the power, use these forms of abuse to control women, who have less power. This is true even when the male doesn’t know the woman, like in a sexual assault by a stranger.

Please note: We use the term she/her when referring to the person being abused and he/him when referring to the abuser. This is because by far the vast majority of sexual and intimate partner violence is perpetrated by men against women. We do wish to acknowledge that men can and have been victimized by women and that violence and abuse in the context of same sex relationships is also a reality.

We know that women are sometimes arrested in domestic violence/spouse assault situations when they shouldn’t be. Police are required to conduct a “Primary Aggressor Assessment” to determine the history of the violence in a relationship, but this doesn’t always happen. If this has happened to you, you can get help from a community-based victim support program.

Finding Help

If you are in immediate DANGER or fear for your safety: CALL 911

If your community does not have a 911 service: Look for your local police emergency phone number on the first page of your phone book under ‘Emergency’.

If you are looking for information on how to contact services that may help you:

If you are not in immediate danger but you want to get help and don’t know where to find it, you can call VictimLink at 1-800-563-0808.

VictimLink can help you find out what services exist in your community and how to contact them. VictimLink is a toll-free, province-wide help line, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week that offers services in several different languages. It will provide you with information and referral services, and immediate crisis support if you are a victim of family or sexual violence.

Click here to find a service in your area of BC »

Keeping Your Children Safe

This section covers many different forms of violence against women. It does not cover child abuse, but it does include ways in which you can keep your children safe if you are being abused by your spouse or intimate partner.

For information about child abuse: please go to the Ministry of Children and Family Development website.

Click here for information about Safety Planning »

Community-Based Victim Services

Nearly 70 Community-Based Victim Services (CBVS) in BC specialize in providing services to victims of sexual assault, violence against women in relationships, child abuse, stalking or criminal harassment, and adult survivors of childhood abuse.

If you go to a CBVS you can expect to receive free, highly specialized:

  • Emotional support in person or over the phone
  • Practical assistance and advocacy, such as creating a safety plan and assisting with police and child protection authorities
  • Information and assistance regarding peace bonds or restraining orders, including getting it registered in the Protection Order Registry (POR) so police have 24-hour access to the content and status of your order
  • Accompaniment to the hospital or other health care and other appointments related to the violence and abuse
  • Accompaniment to the police and support during the police investigation
  • Information on the status of the police investigation
  • Liaison with Crown counsel
  • Information about the criminal justice system and the court process, including the role of the various players and the practicalities of testifying as a witness
  • Accompaniment if you go to court and assistance with preparing for court
  • Help to prepare a Victim Impact Statement
  • Notification on the status of your court case and updates on court appearances
  • Notification of the provincial custody status of the offender
  • Information about and help with applications for financial assistance or benefits, such as Crime Victim Assistance
  • Referrals to other agencies and services such as to counselling, transition houses, support for children, etc.

Some CBVS programs provide support to survivors of violence who have specific needs, such as Aboriginal and multicultural communities, male surviviors and survivors of child abuse.

Click here to find a list of CBVS programs in BC »

Stopping the Violence Counselling Programs

There are over 100 Stopping the Violence (STV) Counselling programs in BC. These programs specialize in providing counselling for adult women survivors of sexual assault,intimate partner violence, and childhood abuse. If you go to one of these STV Counselling programs, you can expect to receive free:

  • Counselling and support
  • Information
  • Referrals to other services
  • Liaison with other services that you are dealing with, including the criminal, family law, social service, or health care systems

Click on this link to find a list of STV Counselling programs in BC »

Stopping the Violence Outreach & Multicultural Outreach Programs

There are close to 70 Stopping the Violence (STV) Outreach and Multicultural Outreach programs in BC communities. These programs support adult women and their dependent children who have experienced or are at risk of violence, to identify and access the services they need. If you make use of an STV Outreach or Multicultural Outreach program, you can expect to receive free:

  • Supportive counselling
  • Referral to other community services
  • Assistance with systems such as child protection and family court
  • Assistance with local transportation
  • Accompaniment to other services or appointments
  • Advocacy to help ensure that you get the help that you need
  • Specialized multicultural services in various languages and with specialized cultural expertise.  These services are provided in up to 24 languages to help ensure that you are assisted by service providers who speak your own language and are familiar with your culture.

Click on this link to find a list of STV Outreach and Multicultural Outreach Programs in BC »

Sexual Assault Centres

Sexual Assault Centres were established in BC throughout the 1970s to provide crisis intervention, hospital and police accompaniment, counselling and advocacy for women and girls dealing with sexual assault and historical child sexual abuse. While funding was cut to the 23 centres in 2003, many of these programs still exist through Community-Based Victim Assistance program funding and other fundraised resources.

Click here to find a list of CBVS programs in BC »

Transition Houses, Safe Homes, and Second Stage Housing

Transition Houses, Safe Homes, and Second Stage Houses exist throughout BC to provide safe temporary shelter for women and their children leaving abusive relationships.

  • Transition Houses provide safe, temporary shelter 24-hours a day, seven days a week at no cost to residents. Many but not all Transition Houses have a 30-day limit for stays. Other services such as supportive counselling and referral are also provided.
  • Safe homes provide free, safe, temporary short-term shelter within private homes.
  • Second-stage houses provide safe housing for you and your children for up to 18 months. These houses can help you to make plans for independent living after you have left an abusive relationship.

Click here to find a list of safe shelters in BC »

Children Who Witness Abuse Programs

There are more than 90 Children Who Witness Abuse Counselling Programs in BC that provide free individual and group counselling to children three to 18 years old who have witnessed violence against a parent, usually their mother. The program helps children cope with and heal from the trauma of living in a violent family situation and to learn about healthy relationships.

Click here to find a list of Children Who Witness Abuse programs in BC »

Police-Based Victim Services

There are over 90 Police-Based Victim Service (PBVS) programs in BC, operating out of RCMP detachments and municipal police departments. These programs work directly with police to provide services to victims of all kinds of crime. If you contact a PBVS program, you can expect to receive free:

  • Emotional support in person or over the phone. Although this does not include counselling, staff can make referrals to counselling services in your community.
  • Practical assistance
  • Information and assistance regarding peace bonds or restraining orders, including getting it registered in the Protection Order Registry (POR) so police have 24-hour access to the content and status of your order
  • Crime prevention information and assistance
  • Support during the police investigation
  • Information on the status of the police investigation
  • Liaison with Crown counsel
  • Information about the criminal justice system and the court process, including the role of the various players and the practicalities of testifying as a witness
  • Accompaniment if you go to court and assistance with preparing for court
  • Help to prepare a Victim Impact Statement
  • Notification on the status of your court case and updates on court appearances
  • Notification of the provincial custody status of the offender
  • Information about and help with applications for financial assistance or benefits, such as Crime Victim Assistance
  • Referrals to other agencies and services.

If there is a CBVS in your community, PBVS are mandated to refer you there for specialized support services.

Click here to find a list of PBVS in BC »

What if the services you are receiving are not meeting your needs?

Sometimes you may feel that the services you are receiving are not giving you what you need. Perhaps they are not the kinds of services you need right now. Sometimes a particular service provider is not a good fit for you and you may find it hard to work with that person.

If this happens, it’s okay to tell service providers what you are feeling and discuss with them what your options are. You can tell a service provider what you are looking for and ask if they can provide that. If they can’t, or if you are feeling that you’re not getting what you need, it’s okay to ask for a referral to another service provider or another service or just change services and try something else.

Our Use of Gendered Terms

Please note: We use the term she/her when referring to the person being abused and he/him when referring to the abuser.  This is because by far the vast majority of sexual and intimate partner violence is perpetrated by men against women. We do wish to acknowledge that men can and have been victimized by women and that violence and abuse in the context of same sex relationships is also a reality.