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You can live without fear, hurt, abuse and violence. Shelters are there for you.

You are not alone. Whether you need someone to listen, to talk with, to give professional expertise, a place to stay, a safety plan— there are supports available for you.

Women’s shelters remain open and ready to help, practicing all precautions to protect clients and their staff during COVID-19.

Whether you:

  • Want to speak to someone
  • Need someone to listen
  • Want professional expertise
  • Are worried about your safety
  • Need a safe place to stay
  • Need a safety plan

Shelters near you can help.

Find a shelter or call our confidential and toll-free line at 1-866-331-3933 to speak with someone at a shelter near you.

If you suspect a child is at risk, you must report it.  1-800-387-5437 (Kids)

Call 911 if you are in immediate danger.

Locate a Shelter

Contact a member shelter near you for assistance.

Find A Shelter

How to call for help safely

A partner can often tell when a woman makes up her mind to stop the abuse. Do not underestimate your partner. Make sure your phone calls don’t leave tracks.

Internet-based telephones, which also go by names like “VOIP”, or “Network Telephony”, keep records of all calls. Web-based telephone systems, such as “Skype”, also keep records.

Cell phones can also keep records of the numbers that have been called.

A local call made on a regular telephone line will not produce a record of the call. However, many telephones have a “redial” button, and you may want to call a friend or other “safe” number after you make any call you don’t want your partner to know about – they could check up on you just by pressing “redial”.

One way to be sure your home telephone uses a regular telephone line is to check your telephone bill. It will come from a telephone company, such as Bell or Rogers. It will not list any local numbers, only long distance. If you still aren’t sure, proceed with extra caution.

The safest way to call or to receive calls from a shelter is from a friend’s phone, a public phone, a work phone, or any telephone that has nothing to do with your partner.

If you are in danger, call 911.

Cover Your Tracks

Quick Exit button – What is this?

If you click on this button it will immediately take you away from the ACWS site. If you are using a computer in a public place, or somewhere that someone might see what website you are visiting, you can use this button to hide what you are doing quickly.

Keep Yourself Safe While Getting the Information You Need

Keeping yourself and your children safe while getting the information you will need to make a smooth transition to a violence-free life is essential. When an abusive partner discovers that the victim is obtaining resources, learning that domestic violence is wrong, threatening to leave, or planning a getaway, the abuse can and most often does increase. Please follow these basic guidelines listed here.

  • DO NOT save this address as a bookmark on your browser (the software that allows you to access the internet). Write the address down and hide it where you know your partner will not find it. You may want to write this address in such a way that your partner will not know what it is. You can also memorize the address.
  • Locate and clear web browser histories on your hard drive. The information in these files is created when visiting web sites. Delete the information in these files. Most often the contents of these files are only computer jargon, but there is a possibility that the web sites you have visited can be traced from these files. Every browser will create and store this information differently.

Types of Abuse

Physical Abuse is the intentional infliction of pain or injury by slapping, shoving, punching, kicking, strangling, burning, stabbing, or shooting; Using a weapon or other objects to threaten, hurt, or kill; or abducting a woman or keeping her imprisoned.

Psychological Abuse describes living with the constant fear of threats of violence against a woman, her children, or her friends and relatives. It includes being harassed at work by phone calls or visits, the destruction of prized possessions, and even suicide threats on the part of the abuser. The intent is to control the behaviour of the woman. Threats of violence are illegal under the terms of Canada’s Criminal Code.

Emotional Abuse is the repeated use of harmful behaviours by a perpetrator to control their victim. It can include a never-ending experience of criticism, name-calling, and put downs alone or in front of friends and relatives. It might include unjust blaming, false accusations about loyalties, and controls on time, activities, and actions.

Sexual Abuse is any form of unwanted sexual activity without that person’s consent. It is being forced against your will to perform sexual acts with anyone, including your partner or husband. It can include forced sexual intercourse (rape), forced pornography or prostitution, sexual harassment, or any unwanted kissing, fondling, touching, oral sex, or threats to do any of these things against your will. As of 1983, sexual assault within a marriage in Canada is illegal. It is a crime for a man to force his wife or partner to engage in sexual activity.

Financial Abuse occurs when a single person controls all the financial resources (money, property, credit) within a relationship and uses this power as a means to exert control over their partner. Perpetrators using financial abuse might not “allow” their partner to get a job, open their own bank account, or contribute to household financial decisions. A woman experiencing financial abuse may appear to live comfortably, but have no control or access to the family’s money.

Identity Abuse is the use of personal characteristics (age, sex, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other identity factors) to demean, manipulate, or control the survivor. This might include using negative feelings about the survivor’s identity as an excuse for abusing them; negatively stereotyping the partner; keeping the partner from connecting with their community; or threatening to ‘out’ their partner.

Cultural or Spiritual Abuse includes using a person’s religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate, dominate, or control them. It may include preventing someone from participating in spiritual or cultural traditions or forcing them to participate in practices that are not their own or ridiculing their beliefs. An abuser might distort religious texts and cultural customs for their own benefit to justify their position of power.

Stalking is repeated and unwanted attention that causes a person to fear for their personal safety or for the safety of someone they know, a definition which qualifies as criminal harassment under the Criminal Code of Canada (s. 264). While stalking, by definition, makes someone feel unsafe, it can take the form of actions that do not include overt threats of physical violence. Examples include threats to divulge sensitive personal information and unwanted romantic advances that make the person feel unsafe, despite not including threats of physical harm. Stalking can encompass a range of behaviours, such as someone waiting outside a person’s home, school, or work; physical or electronic surveillance; damage to property; and various kinds of unwanted communication, as further outlined in the Criminal Code (ss. 372(2) and (3)).

Adapted from:
Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children. Western University. Retrieved from http://www.vawlearningnetwork.ca/our-work/glossary/index.html
Community Initiatives Against Family Violence. Retrieved from https://ciafv.com/about-us/our-definition-of-fv/
Burczycka, M. (2016). Stalking in Canada, 2014. Statistics Canada. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2018001/article/54893/01-eng.htm

Helpful Resources

Get online resources to help you right away.

Reach out.

If you have any questions about potential signs of abuse, ACWS member shelters have answers.

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Additional Resources

ACWS member shelters adhere to the ACWS Ethical Moral Framework, sign an Information Sharing Agreement, and collaborate on evolving promising practices. Additional services to support survivors of domestic violence exist.