I Need Help

Recognizing and validating your experience of intimate partner violence can be challenging because it is not always easy to see the warning signs or understand what is happening. Below, you will find some helpful information about warning signs, risks of IPV, safety planning and where you can access support.


Am I Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence?

Warning signs of intimate partner abuse

You may feel uncomfortable about some of the dynamics in your relationship, but you may not be certain if this is normal behaviour. Experts have identified warning signs that someone is acting abusively. Other warning signs relate to how you might be feeling or acting. If you recognize some of these warning signs, it may be time to reach out for support.

Does your partner:

  • Put you down often?
  • Do all the talking for you and dominate the conversation?
  • Check up on you all the time, even at work?
  • Claim that they themselves are the victim, despite treating you disrespectfully?
  • Isolate you from other people and try to keep you away from friends and family?
  • Act like you are their property?
  • Lie to make themselves look good or exaggerate their good qualities?
  • Act like they are superior and of more value than others in the home?

Do you find yourself:

  • Being apologetic and making excuses for your partner’s behaviour or becoming angry and defensive when others talk about your partner’s behaviour?
  • Being nervous talking when your partner is around?
  • Being sick more often and missing work?
  • Trying to cover up bruises or physical injuries?
  • Making excuses at the last minute about why you can’t meet family members or friends?
  • Feeling sad, lonely, withdrawn, and afraid?

Signs of high risk

Again, experts have identified conditions and situations that indicate a situation is becoming more dangerous. Research indicates that women who are under 25 years of age, women with a disability, Indigenous women, women living common-law and trans people are at higher risk of intimate partner violence. If you are experiencing abuse and you recognize some of these signs of high risk, we encourage you to reach out for support.

Does your partner: 

  • Have access to your children?
  • Have access to weapons?
  • Have a history of abuse with you or others?
  • Isolate you by taking your phone? 
  • Threaten to harm or kill you if you leave and says things like “If I can’t have you, no one will”?
  • Threaten to harm your children or your pets/farm animals or to destroy your property?
  • Threaten to kill themselves?
  • Choke you?
  • Hit you in the head or done something else that could have led to serious injury or death?
  • Experience major life changes (e.g., job, separation, depression)?
  • Think that you are seeing someone else?
  • Watch your actions, listen to your telephone conversations, read your emails, and/or follow you?
  • Have trouble keeping a job?
  • Take drugs or drinks every day?
  • Have no respect for the law?

If you are experiencing abuse and any of these signs of high risk are also happening, we encourage you to seek help immediately.

Are you:

  • Planning to leave or have just separated?
  • Afraid for your life and/or for your children’s safety?
  • Denying that you are at risk, even though some of these risk factors apply to you?
  • In a disagreement about arrangements for your children or do you have children from a previous relationship?
  • Involved in another relationship?
  • Without access to a phone?
  • Someone who faces other obstacles (e.g. do not speak English, are not yet a legal resident of Canada, live in a remote area)?
  • Without connections to friends or family?

If you are experiencing abuse and any of these signs of high risk are also happening, we encourage you to seek help immediately. 

How Can I Keep Myself Safe?

Safety planning is a top priority, whether you choose to remain in the home or leave. Making a safety plan involves identifying actions to increase your safety and the safety of your children.

It is always best to get help from a professional to develop a safety plan. A good place to start is your local shelter. You don’t need to live at the shelter to get help with a safety plan. You can find a shelter near you on the Sheltersafe website.

Here are some suggestions that might be helpful to you. Take one action at a time. Start with the one that is easiest and safest for you.

Protecting yourself while living with an abuser

  • Tell someone you trust about the abuse.
  • Think about your partner’s past use and level of force. This will help you predict what type of danger you and your children are facing and when it might be safest to leave if that is what you choose to do.
  • Tell your children that abuse is never right, even when someone they love is being abusive. Tell them the abuse isn’t your fault or their fault; they did not cause it, and neither did you. Teach them it is important to keep safe when there is abuse.
  • Plan where to go in an emergency. Teach your children how to get help. Tell them not to get between you and your partner if there is violence. Plan a code word to signal they should get help or leave.
  • Don’t run to a place where the children are, as your partner may hurt them as well.
  • Create a plan to get out of your home safely and practice it with your children.
  • If you live in an isolated location, find somewhere outside you can get to quickly if you need to hide from your partner. Make sure your children know about this place and know not to tell your partner about it. 
  • Ask your neighbours, friends and family to call the police if they hear sounds of abuse and to look after your children in an emergency. 
  • If an argument is developing, move to a space where you can get outside easily.
  • Don’t go to a room where there is access to potential weapons (e.g. kitchen, workshop, bathroom).
  • If you are being hurt, protect your face with your arms around each side of your head, with your fingers locked together. Don’t wear scarves or long jewelry. Don’t wear your hair in a ponytail that your partner can grab.
  • Park your car by backing it into the driveway and keep it fuelled.
  • Hide your keys, cell phone and some money near your escape route.
  • Have a list of phone numbers to call for help. Call the police if it is an emergency.
  • Your local shelter or police may be able to equip you with a panic button/cell phone.
  • If possible, make sure all weapons and ammunition are hidden or removed from your home.

Getting ready to leave

When you are planning to leave, here are some suggestions:

  • Contact the police or a local women’s shelter. Let the staff know that you intend to leave an abusive situation and ask for support in safety planning. If you contact the police, ask for an officer who specializes in intimate abuse situations (information shared with the police may result in charges being laid against the abuser).
  • The Law Society Referral Service can provide you with the name of a lawyer who practices family law and will provide a free initial consultation of up to 30 minutes. If you are unable to use the online service because you are in a crisis, you may call 416-947-5255 or toll free 1-855-947-5255.
  • Luke's Place (https://lukesplace.ca) provides a free virtual legal clinic for women leaving relationships in which they have been abused. You can make an appointmnet by calling 905-728-0978 or 866-515-3116 x235. 
  • If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask them to document your visit.
  • If it is safe to do so, gather important documents such as identification, bank cards, financial papers related to family assets, your most recent Canada Income Tax Return, keys, medication, pictures of the abuser and your children, passports, health cards, personal address/telephone book, cell phone, and legal documents (e.g. immigration papers, house deed/lease, restraining orders/peace bonds).
  • If you can’t keep these things stored in your home for fear your partner will find them, consider making copies and leave them with someone you trust. Your local women’s shelter will also keep them for you.
  • Consult a lawyer. Keep any evidence of physical abuse (such as photos). Keep a journal of all violent incidents, noting dates, events, threats and any witnesses.
  • Put together pictures, jewelry and objects of sentimental value, as well as toys and comfort items for your children.
  • Arrange with someone to care for your pets/farm animals temporarily, until you get settled. A shelter or local veterinarian may help with this.
  • Remember to clear your phone of the last number you called to avoid your partner utilizing redial.

Leaving an abusive partner

Here are some suggestions to help you stay safe as you are leaving: 

  • If possible, leave when your partner is away from the house.
  • Request a police escort. Police will often provide an escort without laying any charges unless the abusive partner or ex-partner breaks the law in the presence of police while you are leaving.
  • If you do not want to involve police, ask a friend, neighbour, or family member to accompany you when you leave. Ask them to be ready to call the police should violence erupt while you are trying to leave.
  • Contact your local women’s shelter. It may be a safer temporary spot than going to a place your partner knows. Find your local shelter on the Sheltersafe website.
  • If you are a man or do not identify as a woman, ask your local women’s shelter to help you find a safe temporary place where you can go.
  • Do not tell your partner you are leaving.
  • Leave quickly.
  • Have a back-up plan if your partner finds out where you are going.

After you have separated

  • Consider applying for a restraining order or peace bond that may help you keep your partner away from you and your children.
  • To apply for a restraining order, go to the family court in the municipality where you or the other party lives. If your application involves parenting arrangements, you can start your case in the municipality where your children live.
  • To apply for a peace bond, go to the criminal court in the municipality where you live and ask to speak with a Justice of the Peace. If they think you might qualify for a peace bond, a summons will be issued to your partner and you will both appeal in criminal court at a later date, where a decision will be made. 
  • For more information about applying for either a restarining order or peace bond, see: https://stepstojustice.ca/legal-topic/abuse-and-family-violence/restraining-orders-and-peace-bonds/ 
  • If you have a restraining order or peace bond, always keep it with you.
  • Provide police with a copy of any legal orders you have.
  • Consult a lawyer or legal aid clinic about actions to protect yourself or your children.
  • If you have a family lawyer, let them know if there are any Criminal Court proceedings.
  • Consider changing any accounts (i.e., utilities, cell phone, bank, etc.) that you share with your ex-partner.
  • Obtain an unlisted telephone number, get caller ID and block your number when calling out.
  • Make sure your children’s school or day care centre is aware that you have left your partner and that they have copies of all relevant documents.
  • Carry a photo of the abuser and your children with you.
  • Ask your neighbours to look after your children in an emergency.
  • Take extra precautions at work, at home and in the community. Consider telling your supervisor at work about your situation.
  • Think about places and patterns that your ex-partner will know about and try to change them. For example, consider using a different grocery store or place of worship. Take a different route to work and if you can, change your work hours.
  • If you feel unsafe walking alone, ask a neighbour, friend or family member to accompany you.
  • Do not return to the home you shared with the abuser unless accompanied by the police. Never confront the abuser.
  • If you haven't already involved the police and want to now, visit the closest police station and ask to speak to an officer who specializes in intimate partner violence cases.
  • Remember that a shelter can help you with ongoing safety planning, even if you do not stay there. Find your local shelter on the Sheltersafe website.

Where can I go for help?

If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

There are a variety of places where you can reach out to for support and information. Many of these services will also give you information about resources close to you in your own community.

Crisis & Support Lines

  • The Assaulted Women’s Helpline offers a 24-hour telephone line and a TTY crisis line for women experiencing intimate partner violence in Ontario. The service is anonymous and confidential and is provided in up to 154 languages.
    Tel: 1-866-863-0511
    TTY: 1-866-863-7868
  • The Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres 24/7 navigation line helps men, women, trans and non-binary people help in finding and navigating services.
    Tel: 1-855-628-7238
  • Trans Lifeline is a peer support phone service run by trans people for our trans and questioning peers. Call if you need someone trans to talk to, even if you’re not in crisis or if you’re not sure you’re trans. The line is 24/7, but when it’s busy it can take a little longer to get connected. Please try calling again.
    Tel: 1-877-330-6366
  • Talk4Healing offers 24/7 help, support and resources for Indigenous women, by Indigenous women, all across Ontario. Services are offered in Ojibway, Oji-Cree and Cree
    Tel or text: 1-855-554-HEAL
  • Nisa Helpline is a peer-to-peer counselling helpline available to Muslim women of all ages. It operates Monday to Friday from 10:00am to 10:00pm EST
    Tel: 1-888-315-NISA (6472)
  • The Seniors Safety Line is the only 24-hour crisis and support line for seniors in Ontario who have experienced any type of abuse or neglect. Callers receive emotional support, safety planning, information and referrals in over 200 languages. The Seniors Safety Line (SSL) is a "senior friendly" service with a live counsellor available to help navigate difficult systems, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
    Tel: 1-866-299-1011
  • Fem’aide offers French-speaking women who have experienced gender-based violence, support, information and referral to appropriate front-line services within their communities, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
    Tel: 1-877-femaide (336-2433) TTY: 1-866-860-7082


Shelter Safe is an online resource for women and their children seeking safety from violence and abuse. A clickable map serves as a quick resource to connect women with the nearest shelter that can offer safety, hope, and support. sheltersafe.ca

Mulberry Finder Tool: Safety Starts Here is a tool to assist you in finding services that offer a safer place to stay for survivors of violence/abuse and their children. mulberryfinder.ca 

The Assaulted Women’s Helpline provides a safe space, free of judgment anytime, day or night, to support, listen and guide women who have experienced any type of abuse anywhere in Ontario. www.awhl.org/home

The Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres website can help you to find treatment centres across Ontario dedicated to providing comprehensive, trauma-specific care and treatment to victims/survivors of intimate partner violence, including sexual violence. www.sadvtreatmentcentres.ca/find-a-centre

Trans Lifeline provides trans peer support for our community that’s been divested from police since day one. We’re run by and for trans people. translifeline.org

Talk4Healing offers 24/7 help, support and resources for Indigenous women, by Indigenous women, all across Ontario. They offer a live chat option as well. Chat with Talk4Healing talk4healing.com

Nisa Helpline champions the well-being of Muslim women in North America and empowers them with the tools necessary to lead self-sufficient and dignified lives. nisahelpline.com

Fem’aide offers French-speaking women who have experienced gender-based violence, support, information and referral to appropriate front-line services within their communities, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. www.femaide.ca