Menu

Types of Violence and Abuse

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 services that are available throughout BC.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is difficult to talk about but it happens to many women. Many survivors feel embarassed, blame themselves and/or feel shame. It is important for you to know you are not alone.  Sexual assault happens to many women.  In fact, it is conservatively estimated that as many as 17,000 women are sexually assaulted every year in BC. Sexual assault is an act of violence. It is never the survivor’s fault. Sexual assault knows no boundaries with respect to age, race, religion, socio-economic status or sexual orientation. Sexual assault is also referred to as rape.

  • Any form of sexual contact without a person’s consent, including the threat of sexual contact without consent is sexual assault.
  • It includes anything from unwanted sexual touching to forced sexual intercourse.
  • Most survivors of sexual assault are women.
  • Most offenders are male. The offender may be a husband, boyfriend, partner, acquaintance, date or stranger.

Sexual assault is a crime in Canada: There are three levels of sexual assault in the Criminal Code of Canada:

  • Level 1 sexual assault: any forced sexual contact without bodily harm
  • Level 2 sexual assault: forced sexual contact causing or threatening to cause bodily harm or using a weapon (imitation or real)
  • Level 3 sexual assault: forced sexual contact that causes aggravated bodily harm or endangers the life of the survivor or others

If you are a survivor of sexual assault:  Receiving the emotional support of someone you trust is important whether or not you choose to report the sexual assault to police.

Some options available to you include:

  • Contacting a sexual assault centre or community-based victim service program to receive non-judgmental crisis support, advocacy, information, emotional support, referrals, accompaniment to the hospital in case of injuries, support through police and court processes. and explore your options
  • Talking to family, friends or someone you trust
  • Seeking medical assistance from your family doctor, a clinic or hospital (sexual assault services are available in some hospitals that offer specialized care)
  • Contacting the police or in some cases the police can take your statement at the hospital (depending on your community resources)
  • Seeing a counsellor to get help with the very real psychological impacts from sexual assault

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

Violence Against Women in Relationships

Violence against women in relationships is not a private or family affair. Relationship violence is a crime and it happens to many women. The abuser may be a boyfriend, partner or husband. Violence in relationships may also be called domestic violence, family violence, battering, spousal abuse or intimate violence. Violence in relationships also includes violence that happens after the couple has separated or divorced. In fact, violence often gets worse when a woman tries to leave. Most violence in relationships involves male abusers and female victims. Violence also happens in same-gender (lesbian, bi-sexual and gay,) relationships. In a small minority of cases, the abuser is female and the victim male. It includes:

  • physical assault: hitting, punching, choking, etc.
  • sexual assault: any forced sexual contact
  • threats: for example, threats to harm the woman, her children and pets and/or other family members
  • emotional abuse: insults, intimidation, neglect, control, isolation, etc
  • financial abuse: e.g. withholding, stealing or controlling money
  • spiritual/cultural abuse: restricting spiritual or cultural practices or beliefs
  • murder

If you are a survivor of domestic violence:  Receiving the emotional support of someone you trust is important whether or not you chose to report the domestic violence – it is not a private or family matter. It is your safety and that of your children that is at risk. If you and/or your children are in immediate danger:

  • call 911
  • call VictimLink for information for a safe place and support
  • seek medical assistance for physical injuries (hospital, clinic, family doctor)

Some options available to you if you are experiencing domestic violence are:

  • Contact a community-based victim services program to receive:
    • non-judgmental practical assistance support on the phone or in-person
    • information
    • emotional support
    • information relating to reporting to the police, legal options i.e. restraining orders and peace bonds, financial assistance and legal aid
    • referrals to related services including transition houses
    • risk identification
    • safety planning
    • options regarding your children and matters that involve custody and access
  • Talk to family, friends or someone you trust.
  • Seek legal advice, legal aid assistance to explore the options and referrals available to you and your children.
  • Access Stopping the Violence individual or group counseling to understand and deal with the impact of the abuse for you and your children.

Is Domestic Violence A Crime In Canada? Yes. The justice system in BC is guided by the Violence Against Women in Relationships (VAWIR) policy, the RCMP Violence in Relationship policy and the Crown Counsel’s Spousal Assault policy. These policies direct the justice system to emphasize the criminality of violence within relationships and to take the necessary measures to ensure the protection of those victimized who may be at risk.

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

Acquaintance or Date Rape

Acquaintance or “date rape” is sexual assault that happens between acquaintances or friends or between people who are dating. It is also difficult to talk about. Acquaintance rape is an act of violence. It is never the survivor’s fault.

Acquaintance or date rape is a crime in Canada: All sexual activity without consent, regardless of age, is a criminal offence in Canada. In Canada, the legal definition of “child” means anyone under the age of 19.

  • The Criminal Code specifies 16 years as the age at which young people can consent to sexual activity (‘sexual activity’ in this instance includes any sexual contact ranging from kissing to intercourse).
  • However, the age of consent is 18 years where the sexual activity involves a relationship of authority, trust or dependency (for example, with a teacher, coach or babysitter).

If you experience acquaintance or date rape: Receiving the emotional support of someone you trust is important whether or not you chose to report the acquaintance/date rape to the police. Some options you may consider include:

  • Contacting a rape crisis centre or community-based victim services program.  There you can expect to receive non-judgmental crisis support, information, emotional support, referrals, accompaniment to the hospital in case of injuries and medical attention, support if you choose to report to the police, and accompaniment and support in court
  • Talking to family, friends or someone you trust
  • Seeking medical assistance from your family doctor, a clinic or hospital. (Sexual Assault Services are available in some hospitals that offer specialized care)
  • Contacting the police or in some cases the police can take your statement at the hospital (depending on your community resources)

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

Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

The effects of child sexual abuse are serious and long- lasting. Most children do not disclose the abuse or receive help until they are adults. Child sexual abuse includes any unwanted sexual contact, ranging from sexual touching to sexual intercourse.  This also includes situations that involve a child in pornography or prostitution, which is sexual exploitation. The abuser may have been a parent, sibling or other relative, a caregiver or guardian, a neighbour or a stranger.

Child sexual abuse is a crime in Canada:  All sexual activity without consent, regardless of age, is a criminal offence in Canada. In Canada, the legal definition of “child” means anyone under the age of 19.

  • The Criminal Code specifies 16 years as the age at which children can consent to sexual activity (‘sexual activity’ in this instance includes any sexual contact ranging from kissing to intercourse).
  • However, the age of consent is 18 years where the sexual activity involves exploitative activity when it occurs in a relationship of authority, trust or dependency (for example, with a teacher, coach or babysitter).

Sexual activity is also considered exploitative based on the nature and circumstances of the relationship and includes such factors as the child’s age, the age difference between the child and their partner, how the relationship developed (for example, quickly, secretly, or over the internet) and how the partner may have controlled or influenced the child.

If you are an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse: Some options you may consider include:

  • Contacting a sexual assault centre or community-based victim service program.  There you can expect to receive non-judgmental crisis support, advocacy, information, emotional support, referrals, accompaniment to the hospital in case of injuries and medical attention, support if you choose to report to the police, and accompaniment and support in court processes
  • Talking to family, friends or someone you trust
  • Seeking medical assistance from your family doctor, a clinic or hospital.
  • Considering counselling and support groups
  • Recognizing that it takes courage and time to heal

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

Criminal Harassment or Stalking

Stalking is not romantic. It is not a sign of love. These actions can be threatening and can constitute a serious crime: following you, leaving notes or showing up at your home or work uninvited.

What is Criminal Harassment? Criminal harassment, which is the legal term for stalking, is obsessive, controlling behavior directed towards another person. The behaviour might be directed at you or at your family, friends or pets. It includes:

  • Threats
  • Following, watching or tracking
  • Damage and/or vandalizing of property
  • Repeated phone calls, emails or other contact
  • Unwanted gifts

Criminal harassment threatens your physical and emotional safety and forces you to limit or change your life to avoid the harassment. It is important that you know that:

  • It’s not your fault
  • Stalkers do so to satisfy their need for power and control
  • You did not cause this to happen
  • You are not alone

Sexual harassment is a type of criminal harassment. It includes:

  • any unwanted or unwelcome behaviour,
  • actions, words, comments or gestures that cause embarrassment
  • and that are sexual in nature, offensive or humiliating,
  • relating to a person’s sex, sexuality or body parts,
  • or repeated even after the person has been told to stop.

Most victims of criminal harassment are women and most offenders are men. In most cases, the offender is someone that the woman knows, often an ex-spouse or ex-boyfriend.

If you are being stalked, some suggestions include:

  • contacting a community-based victim service program to get information, support, identify risks and make a safety plan
  • contact the police if you feel unsafe and comfortable doing so. You can have the support of a community-based victim service worker to assist you.
  • Applying to the court for either a Peace Bond through the criminal court or a Restraining Order through the family court – you can go to the police if the person disobeys the orders.
  • Avoiding contact with the stalker
  • Keep track of all activities i.e. phone calls, messages, actions, emails, gifts, etc.
  • Let your family, friends and co-workers know about what is happening – it will break the silence the stalker uses to continue stalking you

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

Considerations for Aboriginal Women

According to the 2009 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization, nearly 67,000, or 13% of Aboriginal women aged 15 or older who lived in the provinces, self-reported they had been the victim of one or more violent crimes in the 12 months prior to the survey. Violent crimes measured by the GSS include sexual assault, robbery and physical assault.

The proportion of Aboriginal women who reported spousal violence by a current or former spouse was about two and a half times higher than the proportion of non-Aboriginal women.

Aboriginal women (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) are more than eight times more likely to be killed by their intimate partner than non-Aboriginal women (Violence Against Women Fact Sheet, Status of Women Canada).

Some of the obstacles an Aboriginal woman might face are:

  • mistrust of the mainstream culture due to the history of residential school abuse and separation from families and communities
  • her fear of disclosing the family’s secret violence because of her feelings of guilt and shame, as well as the fear of increased violence
  • her fear of shame and judgment from family members and community
  • her abusive partner may have a position of esteem and power within the community.

Considerations for Disabled Women

Some of the particular barriers that disabled women face in leaving an abusive relationship, dealing with sexual assault and/or facing the legal system:

  • violence may be committed by individuals – such as the husband or family member who is the woman’s primary caregiver and on whom she is quite dependent
  • in many situations, the woman is unable to give free and informed consent
  • because of her dependency on others for her daily needs, the woman may fear the consequences of reporting the abuse.

Considerations for Immigrant Women

Some of the obstacles that an immigrant or refugee woman may face are:

  • she may fear deportation and believe that her whole existence in this country depends on the abuser
  • she does not speak English
  • she may be unfamiliar with the “outside world” and the dominant culture
  • she fears authority figures such as police and/or government personnel because of her experience.
  • she has a complete lack of knowledge about the family law system; she fears her former partner and that she may lose custody of her children.

Immigrant and refugee women who are abused by their sponsor face particular difficulties in accessing personal safety and protection. Women without landed status, i.e. they have been sponsored to come to Canada by a partner/fiance/spouse under the family class sponsorship or have claimed refugee status as a dependent, are at risk of deportation upon leaving an abusive relationship. For example, by leaving the relationship the abused woman may be in breach of a landing condition that she marry within 90 days, or she may have an inland sponsorship application in progress that is dependent upon establishing that her marriage is genuine, or she may have made a claim for refugee status based on her partner’s fear of persecution, or she may be an accompanying dependent under the conditions of the entrepreneur program. In order to leave an abusive relationship, she may need to apply to change her immigration status.

A woman can obtain information on immigration matters by using the Citizenship and Immigration Canada Call centres automated telephone service, speaking with a Call Centre agent, or going to the Immigration Canada Web site at http://www.cic.gc.ca/

An immigrant woman should also know that legal aid may be available to her for her immigration issues as well as her family law issues. Legal aid is available in immigration cases where the woman is financially eligible and the proceeding could result in her removal from Canada (deportation).

Considerations for LGBTQ Women

Abuse in same-sex relationships is often ignored, minimized, or misunderstood by families, friends, social service and health care providers and individuals in the justice system. As a result, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered women face obstacles in leaving an abusive relationship and facing the legal system that other women might not face. Some of the obstacles are:

  • fear of being ‘outed’ to family, systems and experiencing homophobia, transphobia and other forms of oppression.
  • fear of discrimination for oneself and her abusive partner.
  • fear of isolation from other LGBT/queer people.
  • fear of experiencing abusive tactics from an ex-male partner and that her lesbian identity will be used against her in custody and access disputes

Also see LGBTQ.