Intimate Partner Violence
Domestic violence is a sensitive matter experienced by many in their lifetime. Although intimate partner violence can include all individuals, it disproportionately impacts women, girls, Indigenous peoples, and others from vulnerable populations. Statistics Canada (2021) found that 4 in 10 women have experienced some form of intimate partner violence: these forms include physical, sexual, psychological, or financial abuse. Many people find themselves “stuck” in these unsafe situations for various reasons. Intimate partner victims are often met with judgment, misunderstanding, and feelings of isolation when reaching out to support. They may also connect their experiences with fear, shame, and embarrassment. Barriers to accessing support differ from person to person but can include financial reasons, fear of harm to the children, fear for safety, limited community resources, cultural reasons, and stigma in the community (among many others).
The first step is learning more about what intimate partner violence is and what signs to look out for. In a relationship, an abuser might use threats and violence to gain power and control over a partner. The relationship might go through periods when things are going well followed by periods of increased violence. These cycles are known as the cycle of abuse which includes tension-building stages, and abusive acts, followed by a honeymoon stage. It is during the honeymoon stage when apologies are given, and promises are offered. Over time, there is a shortening of the honeymoon stage and escalating abuse (Stop Violence Against Women, 2020). The experience of domestic violence is individualized; however, research consistently shows that violence seriously impacts physical, mental, and emotional health even after the abuse has stopped.
What supports are available?
Most domestic violence victims have tried their best to “fix” the relationship or to avoid explosions. It takes time to realize that the responsibility is on the abuser to change their behaviours and to end the cycle of abuse. It may also take several attempts of leaving an abusive relationship for it to be successful. When you are ready to leave, it is important to know what resources are available to you that can support the process.
There are various emergency and crisis support services available in the lower mainland for victims of domestic violence. In moments of crisis or emergency, the safest option is to call 911. There are additional crisis supports, including the Fraser Health Crisis Line which is available to the public all day and night. The crisis line can refer you to resources or connect you to emergency services. You can also call, text, or visit the BC211 website. BC211 can provide information for resources including emergency and crisis support, counselling, victim services, housing, and financial support. Their online directory will help you sort through appropriate supports with contact information for each.
Housing remains to be one of the biggest barriers to women leaving an abusive situation. Women who find themselves in immediate danger or at risk of homelessness can reach out to the various transition houses in their area. Here, you can expect to have an intake with a case worker who will inform you about suitability and availability. Transition houses are specifically organized with your safety in mind, often times confidentially located and staffed with case workers to support you during the challenging time. Transition homes may also be able to connect you with longer-term housing options such as second-stage housing, low-cost housing, and supports in finding community housing.
There are some financial supports including rent banks and housing subsidies for women fleeing domestic violence. Many women find housing with close family or friends who are willing to support them while they rebuild their lives. Various community agencies will be able to support you through the process including with finances (income assistance, child tax benefit, child support, etc.), securing long-term housing, finding employment, or gaining legal support such as legal aid, accessing the parent’s legal centre, or connecting you with appropriate legal advocacy. Victim Link BC is a great resource that can connect you to community, social, health, justice, and government resources, including victim services, transition houses, and counselling services.
Long-term support for the impacts of violence
It is essential for women fleeing domestic violence to reach out for support in their community and social bubbles. Re-building your life is possible with the right information, resources, and support. The above section discusses financial, housing, and legal supports. To further develop healing, there are long-term counselling supports available. Victims benefit from ongoing and continued counselling support to overcome the impacts of domestic violence on their emotional well-being. There are many counselling opportunities for women with lived experience, including counselling services offered through Crossroads Collective. Sliding scales and intern rates provide opportunities at reduced costs for those who need them most. Community agencies may also provide free or low-cost counselling such as Women’s Empowerment groups, Stopping the Violence Groups, and Trauma Groups. If children are involved, there are counselling services available such as Play Therapy in groups or individualized formats. Community programs such as the PEACE program have been specifically designed for children who have witnessed abuse.
When Love Hurts: A Women’s Guide to Understanding Abuse in Relationships by Jill Cory and Karen McCandless-Davis
When Dad Hurts Mom: Helping Your Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse by Lundy Bancroft
Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft
Will I Ever be Free of You?: How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family by Karyl McBride
The Emotionally Abused Woman: Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself by Beverly Engel
Government of Canada, S. C. (2021, April 26). Intimate partner violence in Canada, 2018: An overview. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2021001/article/00003-eng.htm
Prevention, V. S. and C. (n.d.). VictimLinkBC – Province of British Columbia. Province of British Columbia. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/justice/criminal-justice/victims-of-crime/victimlinkbc
Stop Violence Against Women. (2020, March 17). Cycle of Violence. https://www.domesticviolenceinfo.ca/cycle-of-violence/
Written By: Mary Tuhkala