Thursday, September 28, 2006


Statistically, women are most vulnerable to attack by their estranged partners around the time of separation.

It is not easy to tell when a woman is at risk of serious injury or death. Abusive men tend to exhibit the same characteristics, whether they are just "pestering" their ex-partners, or whether they intend them serious harm.

If your partner does some or all of the following things, you may want to review your situation with a lawyer, or a police officer, or both, to ensure your safety:

  • he controls and/or isolates you socially - by vetting your phone calls, or making it difficult or impossible for you to be alone, or to talk privately with, with family members or friends;

  • he has assaulted you physically in the past - including "milder" forms of assault, such as grabbing your shoulders or wrists; preventing you from making a phone call, or from leaving a room;

  • he has tried to commit suicide, or threatened suicide if you leave him;
    he controls all of the family finances, so that you have no money of your own;
    he accuses you constantly of being unfaithful;

  • he shows up at your place of employment, and refuses to leave unless you talk to him about your relationship;

  • he calls you frequently to talk about your relationship, even after you have asked him not to;

  • he seems to know where you have been, even when you didn’t tell him where you were going;

  • he wakes you up in the night to talk about your relationship, and refuses to allow you to sleep.

This is not an exhaustive list of behaviours which may indicate that your partner could harm you. It is only a list of some of the more common things that abusive men do around the time of separation. If your partner exhibits some or all of these behaviours, consider retaining a lawyer, even for a brief consultation, to talk about your options. Your lawyer will discuss with you the possibility of making a complaint to the police, or of asking for a peace bond or Family Court restraining order.

If you can’t afford a lawyer, you can consult with the Duty Counsel at Family Court in your jurisdiction for free, if you qualify financially. If you are unable to contact Duty Counsel or retain a lawyer, you can report your partner’s behaviour to the police, your family physician, your therapist (if you have one), your clergy person or spiritual advisor, and your friends and your family. The more people you tell, the greater your chances of having people watch out for you.
Here are some other tips to help keep you safe:

don’t see your partner alone. If he wants to meet you to discuss any aspect of your separation, meet with him with someone else present if at all possible (a mediator, or a trusted friend). If it isn’t possible to meet him with someone else, then always meet him in a public place, such as a Tim Horton’s. Never invite him into your home, and never meet him at his home;

report disturbing behaviour to the police. If he calls you repeatedly, or shows up at work, report the behaviour. The police may or may not lay a charge, but they will take you seriously, and they will probably go and talk to him at the very least, to encourage him to stop;

tell your employer. Many employers have a protocol for dealing with security issues. Insist that the protocol be put in place for you. This may include obtaining a parking space closer to the front door, in a well-lit area; restricting unknown people from entering your work space or calling you; or changing your work hours;

change your routine. Your ex-partner probably knows where you work, and what hours you work, as well as where and when you usually shop, visit friends, or pick up children from daycare. Vary these times if you can;

don’t use the children to carry messages. If they come to you with messages from their father, tell them that it is not appropriate for them to carry messages. Contact your ex-partner in a safe manner (such as e-mail, or through a trusted third party), and deal with him on the child-related issues only;

consider a neutral pickup and dropoff place to exchange the children;

tell your friends and family where you are going to be if you are out alone, and what time you expect to return;

keep your driveway and front door area well lit;

do not tell your partner things about your personal life. He will see this as an invitation to call or contact you more freely, or he may become incensed if you are seeing a new partner. Keep your personal life entirely private, and deal with him only on the business of raising your children.

Here is a list of resources in the Kingston area for you to contact:

Kingston Interval House (for shelter, counselling and confidential advice about abuse)

Kingston Police Force

Ontario Provincial Police Napanee

Ontario Provincial Police 24-hour service