Department of Justice

Victim Services / Family Violence Prevention Unit

What can you do if you are abused?

Making Choices - What can you do about it?

You may feel scared or helpless. Most women do if they are being abused. But if you want things to get better, somehow you need to make changes, even though you are afraid. It may be very hard. But try to remember, you are not alone. You can get help along the way.
Many women who have been faced with these choices have decided that they didn't deserve to be abused, so they left for a while or for good. This can be a difficult decision, but everyone deserves to be safe and to be treated with respect. Whatever choice you make, there are people, organizations, and agencies that can make sure you get some support and help.

Talking About It

A lot of women find it really helps to talk to someone about what is happening. You may find it helps to talk with someone you can trust – a friend or relative, a spiritual leader or elder, a doctor, or a counselor.
Lots of women don't know anybody they can talk to. But you could talk to someone at the transition home nearest to where you live. You don't have to be staying there in order to get help and support.
You could also look in the phone directory, or the directory at the back of this book, to find someone to help you.
A good resource is the Family Violence Prevention Unit (in Whitehorse) at 667-3581, or toll free 1-800-661-0408.
After business hours, you can call the transition home closest to you. All Yukon transition homes accept collect calls and are accessible 24 hours a day.

Kaushee's Place (Whitehorse) 668-5733
Dawson City Women's Shelter 993-5086
Help and Hope for Families (Watson Lake) 536-2711
Carmacks Safe Home 863-5918 or after hours
Magedi Safe Home (Ross River) 969-2722

You might feel ashamed to ask for help for something that seems so private. Maybe you can remember that all of us need help sometimes. It's okay to ask for help, even though it might be hard or embarrassing. It takes a lot of courage to reach out for help.
Most women have done a lot to try to make things work, to reduce the violence, to protect the children. But you also need to see when you have done everything you can. Think of all the things you have already done! Try to remember how strong you can be.

What if you stay?

You may decide to stay with your partner, at least for now. Perhaps you feel there is still a chance to keep things together. You may feel that your relationship is really important and you've put a lot into it. Many women do. But you should know that while things may get better for a while, unless he gets help the abuse tends to get worse later in most cases.

Setting Limits and Protecting Yourself

If you do decide to stay, you may need to set some limits. You can decide what has to change and what behaviour is acceptable if you are going to stay. And you can decide how long you will give the abuser to make these changes. If changes don't happen in the time you set, you may ask the person to leave, or, depending on the situation, you may decide to leave.
If you do decide to stay with your partner, your safety and the safety of your children come first. Protect yourself. You should have an emergency and personal safety plan.
Important: Keep in mind that when you attempt to set limits and make safe choices for yourself, there is a possibility that your partner will respond negatively. He could react with more violent behaviour. Be prepared for this, and have a safety plan in place.

Know What to do in an Emergency!

If you do have to act quickly, you should be prepared. Here are some things to think about:
  • Where can you go in an emergency? You will need to have somewhere safe.
  • How will you get there? Is there someone who can come and get you? Can you take a car, taxi, or bus?
  • Is there someone you can call to tell what is happening and where you are going?
  • Is there someone you can leave your pets with?
  • If you need to go to a transition house, do you know how to get there?
  • Do you know the phone number? See the Phone Directory for Help.

Make an Emergency Plan 

  • Make photocopies of all your identification and important documents and keep them in a safe place where you can find them quickly. This is extremely important, and will save you a lot of time and inconvenience later.
  • Establish an escape route. (Know where you can go to be safe, if only to make a phone call.)
  • If you've been abused before, make sure the police are fully aware of the situation.
  • If it is safe to do so, have emergency numbers programmed into the phone (Transition Home, friends, those who will help you).
  • Speak with your friends and people you can trust, let them know what's going on so they can be watching out for you.
  • Make safe arrangements for the care of your pets transition homes do not normally allow you to bring pets there.
  • Call a transition home and talk to the staff. You may want to work out a code word so they know who you are if you have to call them in a crisis.
  • Hide some money away if possible (you may need emergency taxi fare, although some transition homes, i.e. Kaushee's Place, will pay the fare for you).
  • Talk to the children. They need to know which neighbour to run to in an emergency.
  • Pack an emergency bag in case you need to leave quickly.
  • You can't take everything! Just take what you'll need for a few days. You can leave the bag with a friend if you have to.

If you don't feel safe doing that, you can make a list of things to take and make sure you know where to find them in an emergency: identification, important papers (birth certificates, marriage certificates);

  • documents, if any, relating to the custody of your children;
  • health cards for you and the children;
  • First Nation status card;
  • immigration/citizenship papers, passports;
  • money, bank books, credit cards;
  • clothes for you and the children for a few days;
  • any medicine you or your children may need;
  • house keys, car keys;
  • the children's favourite toys and books;
  • copies of your lease, mortgage, or other deeds;
  • your address/phone book;
  • car registration, driver's licence, car insurance; and
  • your favourite possessions/books (things that give you comfort – don't forget your treasured family photos: these can never be replaced if they are stolen from you or ruined by an angry partner).
It's probably a good idea to get legal and other advice now, even before there is an emergency.

How to get Help in an Emergency

You may get help by screaming. It may be safer for you to run outside where other people can see and hear you. Try to get to a phone. If you are in Whitehorse, call 911. All 911 calls are recorded and kept as evidence.
If you live in a Yukon community other than Whitehorse, call your local RCMP detachment. If there is no answer there, your call will automatically be dispatched to 911 in Whitehorse. When you dial the 911 number it takes about four seconds to connect. In an emergency that may seem like a long time. Stay on the line – do not hang up and dial again. You may not have long to talk, so try to be clear.
Tell them:
  • your name;
  • the location you are at;
  • that you are being attacked;
  • that you are afraid you are going to be hurt or you are afraid for your life; and
  • where your attacker is and whether he has a weapon or access to weapons.
It is illegal for anyone to assault you, and the RCMP have to come. If you are afraid of being killed, tell them. It should make them come faster. But remember, you don't have to be afraid for your life to seek assistance or support.
If you or your abuser are new Canadians, your call to the police may not mean the abuser will be deported and it may not affect his immigrant status. But your abuser may use this as a threat to keep you from calling.

What happens when you call the RCMP?

When the police come, they will do what they can to stop any abusive behaviour that is occurring, and ensure your immediate safety.
Then they will question you, and the abuser.
They should not talk to the two of you at the same time or in the same room.
Tell the police what happened. Give them details. Show them any injuries or damage to you, your children, your belongings, or your home.
Tell them about anyone who might have heard or seen anything.
They may interview neighbours or friends or medical staff. The police may arrive with a camera and take pictures of you and of the scene. Or they may ask you to go to the police station to have photographs taken. These pictures may be used as evidence and help prove the case.

What Happens if the Police Lay Charges?

If the RCMP believe that there is any evidence that either spouse has been physically assaulted by the other, they must lay criminal charges. They will arrest and remove the abuser. If this does not happen, ask why. Their main concern should be for your safety and the safety of your children.
Note: It's not up to you to decide whether or not to charge your abuser, and the RCMP will not remove charge(s) at your request. They have a "zero tolerance" policy toward assaults of this nature.
If the police lay charges, they may need your cooperation in collecting evidence that will help your case:
  • Notify police as to the location of any torn or bloody clothing and any weapons that he may have used to harm or threaten you.
  • If you are hurt, go to the hospital, to a doctor, or to your community nursing station. Tell them you have been physically assaulted.
  • Make sure they make a record of your injuries. (You will be required to sign a release so that the medical report can be used as evidence in court.)
  • Try to get a friend to take photos of your injuries, or broken furniture, or any other damage. Remember to have your friend sign and date the photos as this may be important evidence in a trial.
  • Save any threatening telephone answering machine messages, letters, etc. Keep a record for yourself. Record times and dates as well as what the abuser did to you.
Important: Be careful about where you store the information. Put your records in a safe place where they cannot be found and/or destroyed!
The RCMP will require an audio or a videotaped statement from you. The testimony of the victim is the most important evidence in any court case.
This statement will probably be taken under warning. The purpose of the warning is twofold:
  • First, if at a later date you have returned to the relationship, and decide to recant your statement at the trial, the statement may be presented as evidence.
  • The second purpose of the warning is to ensure that you understand that it is a Criminal Offence to lie during testimony in court. When police take an abuser into custody, it is usually overnight, and sometimes only for a few hours.
Let the RCMP know if you want a "no contact order" put in place upon his release.
If the Whitehorse RCMP charge the abuser, they can refer you to their Victim Assistance Volunteer Program (this program provides support for victims 24 hours a day). They may also refer you to Kaushee's Place, whether you decide to leave at this point or not.
The Victim Assistance volunteers and/or the transition home staff can give you more information about community resources. They can also offer emotional support.

What if you're still afraid of him?

If the RCMP don't take the abuser into custody, and you are afraid to be alone with that person, tell them. Tell the police if you think he will beat you again when they leave.
If you decide not to leave, get their names, in case you need to contact them later. If you want to leave, ask the police to wait while you get your things. Get them to take you to a safe place like a transition house. If you have children who are in danger, you have a right to take them with you.
The police will not help you remove the children later without a court order which specifically directs the RCMP to assist you.
If you have to leave in an emergency and you decide not to go back for a while, the RCMP can go with you later to get your most important personal necessities only. They will protect you, and in doing so, may be too busy to help you carry your belongings. You may want to prepare for this by bringing a friend along to help you.

What happens when he's charged?

If the abuser is charged with a criminal offence like assault or uttering threats, he may have to sign an undertaking before he is released. An undertaking is an official document whereby an accused person is required to appear in court, as well as abiding by certain conditions.
Some of the conditions may be:
  • that he is not to have any direct or indirect contact, or communication with you;
  • that he is to stay away from your home or work address; or
  • that he is to abstain from alcohol.
Note: Failure on the abuser's part to abide by any conditions set out in the undertaking results in a criminal offence. Report any violations to the RCMP.
If there is no Victim Services agency in your community, ask the police to notify you when he will be released. Ask if he has been required to sign an undertaking setting conditions on his release.
If the RCMP or the court don't give you a copy of the undertaking, you can ask for one. Contact the police who made the arrest, or Victim Services. When criminal charges are laid, you will probably be required to go to Court later to testify, if he pleads not guilty.
It would help to call Victim Services 667-8500 in Whitehorse (toll free 1-800-661-0408, extension 8500) for advice about this. You may be able to ask for someone to attend court with you for support.
Following guilty pleas or trials where the partner is convicted, you can submit a Victim Impact Statement to let the judge know the effects the abuse has had on you and your family. You can also comment as to the conditions which would best benefit you (i.e. a "no contact order" for the abuser).
Note: If your first language is not English, the RCMP will make every effort to find an interpreter to assist you in making a statement, and giving other information. (You will definitely be provided with an interpreter if you need to go to court).
If you are a Francophone woman, you can call French Language Services in Whitehorse (667-3775) to get more information about this.

Deciding to Leave 

Most women have had to leave an abusive situation in an emergency more than once.
It's important to remember that you can also decide to leave even if it's not an emergency situation.
You can choose to leave for a while, or for good. This can be a very hard decision to make. Some women find that going away for a while works for them. It may show the abusive person that they are serious about the need for change. Other women find that despite promises to change, the abuse continues and the only way to stop it is to leave the relationship for good.
It might help to talk to someone you can trust or a person at the local transition house. They can give you support. You can talk to them on the phone. You don't have to give your name. You don't have to stay there to get their help.
You can also talk to counselors at the Family Violence Prevention Unit in Whitehorse 667-3581 or toll free 1-800-661-0408. This agency has staff trained to counsel women who have been (or are being) abused, as well as men who abuse.
Whatever you choose to do, believe in yourself.

Where can you go to be safe?

You need to go somewhere safe.
Would he look for you?
Where might he look for you?
Think about locations where you, and perhaps your children, could go where your safety is ensured. It may be possible for you to go to the home of a friend or relative. However, when your safety is at risk, the best option may be to go to a transition home.

Transition homes: how they can help you?

Transition homes are emergency shelters for women – whether or not they have children – which provide services in a supportive environment. There are shelters in some Yukon communities and transportation can usually be arranged to get a woman to the nearest shelter when one does not exist in her community.
All shelters in the Yukon take children. Yukon transition homes, except the Dawson City Women's Shelter, are accessible to wheelchairs. Transition homes do not normally allow pets.
Remember: You do not have to be physically abused to come to a transition home. There are many forms of abuse from which women suffer.
There are shelters in Whitehorse, Watson Lake, Carmacks, Dawson City and Ross River. Although in the Yukon the addresses of the shelters are not a secret, there are security measures in place at each home so women can be safe there. You can come to the transition home on your own, with a support person, or the police may bring you to the home if they are involved.
The Yukon transition homes are accessible 24 hours a day by phone and if you tell the operator that you are a woman in need, your collect call will be accepted:

Kaushee's Place (Whitehorse) 668-5733
Dawson City Women's Shelter 993-5086
Help and Hope for Families (Watson Lake) 536-2711
Carmacks Safe Home 863-5918 or after hours
Magedi Safe Home (Ross River) 969-2722

At the transition home you will be safe. There will be someone there to listen to you. The shelter provides a setting where a woman can begin to make decisions for herself and regain control of her life. Everything will be private. They will not talk about your situation with anyone else unless you want them to.
Note: Certain professionals who suspect that a child is being abused and/or neglected MUST report it to Family and Children's Services.
This includes transition home staff, social workers, medical professionals, counselors, teachers, child care workers, and RCMP.
There will probably be other women and children at the shelter. It can help just to talk with someone who has had similar experiences and has had to face the same problems as you.
The length of time you may stay at transition homes in Yukon communities varies.
At the Dawson City Women's Shelter, the maximum stay is two weeks.
At the Watson Lake Shelter and Kaushee's Place, women and children may stay for up to one month.
At the Carmacks Safe Home, the maximum stay is one week (because it is a 'safe home' and not an actual transition home).
In Ross River the length of stay at the Magedi Safe Home is determined on a case by case basis.
Keep in mind that all Yukon transition homes do try to be flexible with their guidelines for the length of time you may stay.
Each woman's situation may be different, and exceptions can sometimes be made. The shelter will provide food, information, referrals, support and encouragement.
You will be expected to help with the cooking and housework and to abide by house rules. In addition, women are expected to be responsible for the care of their own children.
If you are unsure of where to live after you leave an abusive situation, Kaushee's Place in Whitehorse offers longer-term housing options for women who require support and safety services. These apartments can be rented, and the rent is based on a woman's income.
Transition homes have outreach programs and workers who can continue to assist you once you have left the home. If you decide not to go to a transition home to stay, they can still help you with information, referrals, support and encouragement. Kaushee's Place and some other Yukon transition homes also offer a support group for women.