If you have been the victim of domestic or dating violence, call Halifax Regional Police’s Victim Services Unit at 902.490.5300, Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., to get help.
If you're unable to call due to hearing impairment, text us at 902.497.4709.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is everywhere. It affects people in all communities, and of all races, cultures, ages, and income levels. Victims can be either women or men, including same-sex relationships. In the vast majority of domestic violence cases, victims are women who suffer more severe abuse such as being slapped, pushed, choked, kicked, bitten, burned, or assaulted with weapons. Women are also far more likely to be murdered by their past/present male intimate partners.
Domestic violence refers to all forms of violence or threats of violence between current or former spouses or partners in a relationship, whether it be a marriage, common-law, or dating relationship. It can include physical, emotional, or economic threats, including threats to children, pets, property, stalking, harassment, and any other form of violence. Not all forms are against the law.
Many people confuse anger with abuse. Everyone experiences anger, but not everyone chooses to be abusive towards others. Similarly, alcohol or drug usage does not cause abuse since not everyone who is under the influence becomes abusive. Men who are abusive toward their intimate partners may also be abusive with others, however they are often only choosing to be abusive towards their intimate partner. Acting abusively is a choice, and abusers need to take responsibility to change their behaviour and get professional help.
But violence is unacceptable. It is criminal behaviour that abusers use deliberately and purposefully to gain power and control over others.
Should I get help?
Victims stay in abusive relationships out of fear, financial insecurity or dependence, a lack of support, a hope for change, and the belief that they have no other choice. Many victims feel ashamed of their situation and often hide it for months—or even years—because they have been told it is their fault.
The abuse is not your fault. You are not alone. Call Victim Services at 902.490.5300 to get help or discuss your options.
Protecting yourself and your children from abuse and violence
Your safety and the safety of your children is the most important issue. Research shows that children who witness violence are more likely to grow up to become victims or abusers.
Toronto’s Victim Services provide a helpful and detailed guide to safety planning, with translations in 10 languages.
Some victims choose to apply for a Peace Bond to keep the abuser away from them. However, in many domestic violence cases, an Emergency Protection Order may be more appropriate. Learn more or find information on how to apply for an Emergency Protection Order from Family Law Nova Scotia.
Statistics about domestic abuse
According to the Nova Scotia Domestic Violence Research Centre and the Status of Women in Canada:
- Over 600,000 women across Canada reported they had experienced some form of physical or sexual violence at the hands of a current or former spouse or partner in the previous five years.
- Over 1,700 women were murdered in Canada between 2000 and 2009. Nearly 600 died at the hands of a current or former spouse or boyfriend.
- Less than one in 10 incidents of sexual assault are reported to police.
- Women in Nova Scotia are about 45 times more likely to be killed by a spouse or intimate partner than they are by a stranger (57.9 per cent versus 1.3 per cent).
- Eighty percent of all victims of police-reported domestic assaults are women.
- While the proportion of women who experienced intimate partner violence (8 per cent) was about the same as the proportion of men who experienced intimate partner violence (7 per cent), women (in Canada as a whole) were much more likely than men to:
- be assaulted multiple times
- experience the most serious forms of violence such as being beaten, choked, sexually assaulted or having a weapon used against them suffer greater physical and emotional consequences as a result of the violence.
Pro-arrest, pro-charge policy on domestic violence
The province of Nova Scotia is committed to a pro-arrest, pro-charge policy when it comes to domestic violence.
As a result, in the investigation of intimate partner/spousal abuse, police officers must lay charges where there is reasonable evidence that an offence took place. The victim does not lay the charges, the police do, unlike other assaults not involving intimate partners.
With police laying the charges and not the victim, this takes the onus and blame off of the victim. Before the pro-charge/arrest policy, it was not uncommon for victims to feel too fearful to ask police officers to press charges, and the abuser has at times threatened or intimidated the victim into not laying charges.
After an arrest has been made, police typically place what’s called an “undertaking” on the abuser/accused to have no contact with the victim. The purpose again is to provide safety to the victim: the victim has an opportunity to get some physical space and time away from the abuser. The undertaking also places more incentive on the abuser to remain away from the victim in order not to harass, intimidate, or further assault them.
If the abuser makes contact and does not follow the order, the victim can report the contact to police. Once the police find out (from the victim or otherwise) that the abuser has breached their no contact order, the abuser/accused will be charged by police.
This can be difficult for victims who want to have contact with the abuser/accused. Contact the Victim Services Unit at 902.490.5300 for more information on how to make any changes to the no contact order.