Support a victim of domestic violence

  1. How can you help?
  2. How people resist
  3. Violence is deliberate
  4. Why do people stay?
  5. Help is available

How family, friends, employers, health care providers and communities can help people experiencing domestic abuse.

  1. How can you help?
    • Acknowledge the strength the person shows by resisting domestic violence.
    • No matter what the victim chooses to do, support them in their decision.
    • Give clear messages:
      • they're not alone;
      • you believe them;
      • they do not cause the domestic violence;
      • their safety and their children’s safety are the most important issues;
      • violence is never okay;
      • domestic violence is a crime;
      • they cannot change their partner’s behaviour; and
      • violence is a choice of the perpetrator. 
    • Encourage and support them to make their own decisions.
    • Don’t put the abuser down (the victim may still have an emotional attachment to abuser).
    • Believe them ‒ don’t judge or lecture.
    • Help make an emergency safety plan.
    • Find out about the resources in their community.
    • Don’t ask why they stay.
    • Don’t buy into common myths about abuse.
    • Be patient and understanding.
    • Let them know there are no simple solutions, but that change is possible.
    • Discuss different options and allow them to decide which is best for them.
    • If you can, let them know you’ll stand by them no matter what they decide.
    • Be patient if they are confused or unsure about what to do.
    • Respect their decisions.
    • Make sure you are also safe.
    • Read the Option, Choices, Changes Booklet.

    Take care of yourself

    Give yourself time to process what’s happened. If you need support or information, contact Victim Services. We can help you:

    • understand how you can support someone; and
    • get support for yourself.
  2. How people resist

    Whenever people are abused, they do many things to oppose the abuse and to keep their dignity and their self-respect. This is called resistance.

    The resistance might include:

    • not doing what the perpetrator wants them to do; 
    • standing up against the abuser;
    • trying to stop or prevent violence, disrespect and oppression;
    • try to end the relationship or to move out; and
    • imagining a better life may also be a way that victims resist abuse.

    What about perpetrators?

    Perpetrators know that victims will resist, so they make plans to try to stop the resistance.  

    Here are a few examples of ways that perpetrators may try to stop victims from resisting:

    • make sure their partner never has spare cash;
    • after using violence, the abusive partner calls the police before the victim can and twist events around and make up a story that the victim was assaulting them;
    • blame the partner for making them use violence;
    • present a “nicest person in town” image, believing this would make it more difficult for their partner to convince others of the abuse;
    • if the victim does not know Canadian law, the abuser tells them that they would be deported if they called the police for help;
    • threaten to take the children away;
    • threaten to hurt or kill their pet;
    • say sorry and give gifts to a victim following abuse, hoping that the victim would stop feeling angry at them ‒ sometimes it's difficult for a victim to know what the perpetrator’s kind and loving behaviour actually means.

    The following are some additional ways that perpetrators show they actually do have control over their behaviour:

    • the perpetrator can suddenly change their behaviour in the middle of an abusive episode ‒ they can quickly switch from being enraged to pleasant and friendly when a friend unexpectedly shows up at the door;
    • the perpetrator threatens to be abusive if the victim does not do as they wish;
    • by threatening to “get upset” (for example, abusive), the perpetrator shows that they can predict their abusive behaviour;
    • the perpetrator  only abuses their partner and not their boss or friends; and
    • the perpetrator makes decisions about the type and amount of abuse ‒even when they become abusive, perpetrators have rules about how far they will go. For instance, to never physically hit, including throwing objects towards the victim (but never actually hitting them with the objects), and being verbally abusive.

    To learn more read the Options, Choices, Changes Booklet.

  3. Violence is deliberate

    Abusive and violent behaviour is always done deliberately. 

    Perpetrators of violence often try to avoid responsibility for their abusive behaviour. They may:

    • blame someone or something else;
    • find excuses for their violence such as, “they were in a blind rage,” or, “they were so out of control with their anger that they did not know what they were doing”;
    • blame their behaviour on:
      • their partners;
      • an abusive childhood;
      • stress;
      • alcohol problems;
      • their cultural background;
      • financial problems; or
      • their personalities (for example, an “intense” personality; a tendency to “overreact”).

    Unfortunately, sometimes professionals, such as counsellors and lawyers, also hold beliefs about violent behaviour that excuse perpetrators of responsibility for their own behaviours.

    There are no acceptable reasons for a partner to abuse the other partner in an intimate relationship.

  4. Why do people stay?

    To support someone who is experiencing violence, it's good to understand why it might be hard for them to leave the relationship.

    Barriers to leaving

    Financial

    • Pre-existing debts
    • Debts that will be incurred as a result of leaving
    • No income, or income that is lower than partner’s
    • Having to leave the family home
    • Lack of job skills
    • Lack of affordable/available housing
    • Belief that partner will not pay maintenance or child support
    • Insufficient social assistance
    • Shame at using social assistance

    Cultural

    • Victim-blaming
    • Denying, or minimizing the abuse
    • Pressures on women to feel responsible for relationships
    • Religious beliefs about gender roles, marriage
    • Belief that a loving person can change their partner
    • Belief that a person needs a partner in order to be whole;
    • Social disapproval of separation and divorce
    • Belief that the children need both parents together

    Emotional

    • Feeling of not being able to cope alone
    • Fear of threats by partner
    • Fear that they will get back at you or seek revenge
    • Fear of going to court or calling the police
    • Feeling responsible for failing and for breaking up the family
    • Fear of loneliness, of being unlovable
    • Loving your partner and hoping that they will change
    • Fear of being deported
    • Believing partner when they blame you for their abuse
    • Blame or fear of rejection by family or friends
    • Fear of losing partner by leaving temporarily
    • Fear of threats to take the children away
    • Fear of threats to commit suicide or kill the victim and the children

    Social

    • Lack of support or isolation from family and friends
    • Inadequate support from police, legal system, etc.
    • Lack of affordable child care and housing
    • Lack of information about legal rights
    • Isolation from community
    • Threats from friends and family members
  5. Help is available

    Talk about what you're going through

    It takes courage to support someone, but know you're not alone.

    Resources


Contact 

Victim Services

You can phone or drop in to talk to us (no appointment required) between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., from Monday to Friday.

Email: victim.services@gov.yk.ca

Whitehorse

Phone: 867-667-8500
Toll free: 1-800-661-0408, extension 8500
301 Jarvis Street, 2nd floor

Dawson City

Phone: 867-993-5831
813B 3rd Avenue

Watson Lake

Phone: 867-536-2541
820 Adela Trail