It can be a shock to realize that the signs of an abusive relationship might apply to you. If you’re in a violent or abusive relationship, know that it’s okay to feel however you’re feeling about it, whether that’s scared or empowered to make a change.
Sometimes, people end up in situations they didn’t expect. How your partner treats you is not your fault. The most important thing you can do is keep yourself safe and survive. Making a decision about what to do can take a long time. It can help to think about what you want and need to be safe, to trust your feelings, and to reach out to people you trust for support.
I think I’m in an abusive relationship… What do I do?
People who recognize that they’re in an abusive relationship can feel anything from scared to helpless to empowered. There’s no right or wrong way to feel! Remember that being abused is not your fault. You can’t “make” someone abusive. Sometimes abusers tell their partners that they deserve it, but this is not true. No one deserves to be abused!
It can help to remember that you don’t control your partner’s actions. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t or can’t have any control in your own life! Your thoughts, feelings, actions, and experiences are yours alone, and you deserve for that to be respected.
Deciding what to do about your relationship can be really hard. It can help to start thinking about things like:
- How will I feel if I stay? What about if I leave?
- How will my partner react if I leave or break up with them? Will I be safe?
- Do I depend on my partner for money, food, medical care, housing, etc.?
- Who can I talk to about my relationship?
- Who can help or support me?
It’s common for people in abusive relationships to take time to think about the relationship and their options. You don’t have to decide right away, but you have two options: staying or leaving. Either way, it can help to make a plan for your safety, and know what resources are available to you.
Making a Safety Plan
A safety plan is a plan you make to help protect your safety and wellbeing. You can make one at any stage of a violent or abusive relationship, whether you’re ready to leave or not.
A safety plan should be made to fit your specific situation. Because things in a violent or abusive relationship can change frequently, you can update your safety plan regularly. To start, it can help to think about the resources you have available. This can include:
- Trusted friends or family members who you feel comfortable telling about the abuse
- Spaces nearby where you can go to be around other people and feel safe during the day, like a community center or library
- Places nearby where you can go to spend the night in an emergency, like local shelters or the home of someone you trust
- Legal resources, like getting a protection order or financial assistance with moving, and what you’d need to get access to them
Next, you can also think about what situations might come up in the future. It can help to ask yourself what you might want to do if things escalate, if something like a physical assault happens, or if you need to leave your home suddenly.
Some things to think about when making your safety plan
- What personal documents would you need if you had to leave suddenly? This could be your passport, immigration documents, First Nations status documents, health documents like your RAMQ card, your work or student IDs, bank cards, the lease or deed to your home or vehicle, etc. Try to keep these in one place in case you need quick access to them! Abusers can use these as a way to get partners to return or as a way to control partners from leaving.
- Is there someone in your life who you can call in an emergency? If so, how can you get ahold of them quickly and easily? It can help to set up a code word with your friends or family that you can use to let them know it’s an emergency without giving details over the phone. You can talk to them ahead of time about what to do if you call them and say the code word.
- Do you have children, pets, or other members of your household who might be at risk as well? If so, you can think about emergency options and necessary documents for them, too.
- Do you have neighbors you feel comfortable talking to about what’s going on? If so, you can reach out to them to talk about things like whether or not to call the police if they hear or witness any violence or abuse.
Once you have those basics covered, it may also help to think about the things you might need in the future. This could mean:
- Setting up a bank account in your name to save money somewhere your abuser can’t access it
- Learning more about your options for things like getting an order of protection, filing for divorce, and child custody
- Reaching out to organizations that support survivors of domestic violence
Deciding to stay
You might decide to stay in the relationship. If you stay, it’s not your fault if your partner keeps abusing you. Unfortunately, some people think that people who stay in an abusive relationship are choosing to be abused. People who think this way might not understand how complicated relationships really are! But, that doesn’t make it okay for them to judge people in abusive relationships.
You can have a lot of different reasons to stay in an abusive relationship. Maybe you depend on your partner. Or, maybe you’re afraid of what they could do when you leave. No matter why you decide to stay, you deserve respect. You deserve help when you want it. And people should always take you seriously when you need support!
If you stay, you can do things to try to remain as safe as possible. Some examples are:
- If you live with your partner, keep important things (like your legal documents and money) somewhere they can’t find them.
- Look into ways of earning money and saving your money somewhere inaccessible to your partner, like in a private chequing account.
- Keep spending time with other people who love and support you.
- Use computers at a public library or at school so your partner can’t monitor you.
- Give important contacts in your phone different names if you don’t want your partner to know who you’re contacting.
- There are some types of birth control that don’t rely on your partner and that they can’t change. If you use birth control, try looking into the shot, an IUD, or a vasectomy.
- If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired, you can register your cell phone with TEXT with 9-1-1. This lets you text 911 if you’re in an emergency.
Deciding to leave
Maybe you’ve decided that you’re ready to leave an abusive relationship. You might wonder if you’ve made the right choice. You might also feel a mix of good and bad feelings.
Leaving an abusive relationship won’t look the same for everyone. For one person, it might just mean sending a breakup text and never seeing their abuser again. For someone else, it might even mean moving to a new city.
No two situations are the same, so you’ll need to figure out what’ll work best for you when leaving your specific relationship. There’re local organizations that help or shelter people who are facing abuse, and can help you figure out the best next steps for your situation after leaving. Researching and contacting those organizations can help you figure out what you need to do. They can also support you through the healing process after the end of an abusive relationship.
Here are some things you might want to do for example:
- Gathering all your legal documents
- If you live together, planning for where to go and who to stay with
- Deleting and blocking your abuser’s phone, email, and social media
- Changing your social media, phone, and email
- Telling your school or work about your situation, and talking to them about what to do if your abuser shows up there
- Changing your plans and schedules
- Finding a new job
- Arranging for custody and support of children
- Filing for divorce or separation if you’re in a marriage, civil union, or other legal partnership
- Going to the police, if you want to seek legal protection or press charges
- Contact local organizations where you can seek help and shelter
You might feel a mix of loneliness, grief, or even guilt after leaving the relationship. You can work through your feelings by talking to someone you trust or reaching out to local organizations who work with people who have experienced abuse. Ending a relationship is a major change. It’s totally okay to give yourself time and space to work through all the emotions that come with it.
Shelters and other resources for people in violent or abusive relationships
In Montreal, there are lots of organizations that help survivors of all types of abuse. This isn’t a complete list, but some of these can be a starting point!
- Auberge Madeleine: Social and housing support for cisgender and transgender women facing domestic violence, including an emergency shelter, counselling, and other services. Their shelter is set up for short-term stays, with private rooms and a harm reduction mandate.
- Auberge Shalom: Social and housing support for women facing domestic violence. While Auberge Shalom is open to people of all faiths, they have specialized services available for Orthodox Jewish women, including a kosher shelter and support for those facing Ghet abuse.
- Maison Flora Tristan: Emergency and transitional housing for women facing domestic violence. This shelter offers culturally sensitive social services for women and their children in 10 languages.
- Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal: Montreal’s only shelter serving exclusively First Nations, Metis and Inuit women. The NWSM offers private rooms for stays up to three months, and has a zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol.
Legal Info and Resources
- Temporary Residence Permits for newcomers to Canada experiencing domestic or family violence.
- Work leave for people experiencing domestic violence. This can vary from province to province. For more on domestic violence-related work leave throughout Canada, check out this website!
- The First Peoples’ Justice Centre of Montreal: Culturally competent support by and for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people who are dealing with the Canadian justice system. This includes those going through family court proceedings, seeking protection orders, etc.
Other Local Resources
- Chez Doris: Chez Doris has programs, groups, and services for vulnerable women in need of confidential support. They also have an emergency night shelter with 24 beds for women experiencing homelessness.
- SACOMSS: The Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students Society offers a free support line and drop-in peer support services for survivors of sexual assault.
- The Old Brewery Mission: Emergency and transitional housing and social support for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Montreal. This shelter is for all genders, and has housing and support for male and female survivors.
- ACCM: ACCM is SextEd’s parent organization! We provide services and support for people living with HIV (PLWHIV) and Hep C. This includes social and legal support, as well as education, accompaniment, and harm reduction services.