If you or someone you love is in danger from abuse, you need to get emergency help right away.
You may have someone you can call who can help right away. You may also want to contact the police by calling 911.
If you call 911, the police are allowed to come into your home. They decide what happens next, including if they:
- charge your partner with a crime
- charge you with a crime
- contact the Children's Aid Society (CAS) if they think your child has been harmed or is at risk of harm
If you are not a Canadian citizen
If you are not a Canadian citizen you may wonder if you will be forced to leave Canada if you leave your abusive partner.
You should talk to an immigration lawyer right away. If it is safe, talk to one before you call the police and before you leave your abusive partner. But if you or your children are in danger, safety is the most important concern. You need to get help right away so may still need to call the police even if you haven't talked to an immigration lawyer.
If you call the police, they might contact immigration authorities to ask about your status. The police computer system will show if you have an immigration warrant for your arrest. A warrant is a document that allows the police or immigration authorities to arrest you. It is created when you do not show up for a hearing or appointment with immigration officials.
You can contact the police by calling 911 from anywhere in Ontario.
Try to make your call from a place where your partner can’t stop you. For example, lock yourself in the bathroom.
The 911 dispatcher will ask you for some basic information about yourself and your family. They will try to keep you talking while a police car is sent to your home. Tell the dispatcher if you or your children are hurt.
All calls to 911 are recorded. So, if the police charge someone with a crime and the case goes to criminal court, what you say to the 911 operator will likely be used as evidence in court.
If you call 911, the police have the legal right to enter your home. They can do this even if you tell them that you don't want them to, or that you have changed your mind.
The police decide what happens if someone calls them about your partner's abuse. You do not decide.
The police talk to you and your partner, and might talk to anyone else who is home. They also look at what they see in your home.
You can tell the police:
- you want to talk to them privately
- exactly what happened, and whether you were assaulted, threatened, or suffered any other form of abuse
- if the abuse has happened before
- if any weapons were used, and whether there are other weapons in your home
- if there are children or others who need help
- if anybody saw or heard the incident or assault
- if you don't feel safe
The police use this information to fill out an occurrence report. This report is a police summary of what happened. It has details such as what you and your partner told them, and what the police saw. The police fill out a report whether or not they decide to charge you, your partner, or both of you with a crime.
You can ask the police:
- for the information in the occurrence report, including the occurrence or incident number
- to take pictures of your injuries
- to help you leave, or to take you to a shelter
- to give you their names and badge numbers
- to contact Victim Crisis Assistance Ontario for support and help addressing your safety concerns
Charging someone with a crime
The police decide:
- whether to charge you, your partner, or both of you
- what crimes to charge you with
If the police think that there are "reasonable grounds" to believe that you, your partner, or both of you committed a crime, they must charge you.
There is always a chance that you might be charged, even if you are the abused partner. If you're charged, you will probably have to go to the police station. You may not be allowed home until there is a bail hearing, or even until the after the criminal process is over.
Concerns about children
The police must contact a Children's Aid Society if they think any children have been harmed or are at risk of being harmed. The Children's Aid Society is the government agency that is responsible for protecting children from harm and abuse.
Child abuse includes physical, sexual, and emotional harm. Emotional harm may happen when a child watches someone in their home being abused. It also includes situations where a child’s basic needs for things like food, shelter, sleep, or clothing are not being met. This is called neglect.
If you are physically hurt, you can also ask the police to call an ambulance or take you to a hospital, a doctor that you know and trust, or a Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centre (SADVTC) if there is one in your area. A SADVTC is a hospital department that helps victims of domestic and sexual assault.
You can also go to a centre on your own. You don't have to call the police first.
Staff can provide you with medical treatment and photograph and document your injuries. They ask for your consent before they do these things. You don't have to agree to everything they ask. For example, you may agree to staff taking notes about your injuries but not agree to them taking photographs.
This information can be used as evidence in criminal charges against your partner, or SADVTC can keep it in case you need it in the future.
Staff at a SADVTC can also help you even if you don’t have any physical injuries, or don’t think that you’ve been physically hurt. A SADVTC offers 24-hour services and follow-up care, crisis counselling, and referrals to shelters. They also offer legal and financial help.
You can talk to someone you trust about the abuse, such as a doctor, nurse, lawyer, or social worker.
A friend or family member might be able to support you. But sometimes they feel that they must take sides. Or, they might not understand how important your privacy is. This may happen if they are friends with both you and your partner.
There are professionals you can talk to about your situation. They can also help you leave an abusive relationship.
For emergency, 24-hour a day telephone support, you can call:
- the distress line in your region
- The Assaulted Women's Helpline, at 1-800-863-0511
- Fem'aide, if you speak French, at 1-877-336-2433
- Talk4Healing, if you are an Indigenous woman living in Northern Ontario and speak English, Ojibway, Oji-Cree, or Cree, at 1-855-554-4325
- Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services, if you are part of the Six Nations of the Grand River community, at 519-445-4324
You can call these emergency helplines anonymously. This means you do not have to give your name and contact information.
You can also call your local shelter for abused women. Most shelters have staff available 24 hours a day to answer you call. You can also arrange to go to the shelter to meet with someone.
To meet with someone, you can also contact:
- a family service agency in your community
- a Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centre if there is one in your area
Most people who work with children must report if they think that a child is being abused or neglected to the Children's Aid Society. If they don't, the police can charge them with a crime. This includes teachers, doctors, nurses, daycare workers, family counsellors, social workers, and religious leaders. They can be fined up to $1,000 if they fail to report their suspicions of harm.