The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
This topic discusses actions that should be taken by any person who is aware of a situation involving spousal or partner abuse or family violence. Family violence includes verbal, physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse, neglect, stalking and forced confinement:
- Call the police at 911 immediately if you are aware of an assault occurring. Speak slowly and clearly. Tell the police how serious the situation is and give them your name, address and phone number, as well as the location of the assault. Clearly tell the police that the particular person is being assaulted and what you heard or saw that led you to witness the assault. If there is no 911 service available, phone your local Police or RCMP. Be mindful of your own safety in these situations. For an example, do not attempt to intervene in the assault situation as this could put your own safety at risk. This is the job of trained police officer. If you wish to assist in the matter you simply need to cooperate with the police during their questioning and requests.
- Help the victim obtain medical assistance for any physical injuries they may have gotten from the assault. Urge the victim to see a doctor as soon as possible even if they refuse or have no complaints. Such persons may fear to come forward and report such injuries. However, try to support them as much as you can so that they feel more comfortable and safe while making such decisions. The doctor should be told how and by whom the injuries were caused by. The doctor should be requested to take colored photographs of any visible injuries and bruises so that these photos will corroborate the evidence in any Court proceeding that follows. The doctor will also be able to recommend any treatment for the injuries.
- Assist the victim in self-help actions if the violence is ongoing. For an instance, if the person is willing to leave the abuser, help them find a safe place to go or let them use your phone to communicate with the authorities. You could also call a shelter or crisis centre on their behalf if there is no other safe place for the victim to go. If leaving is not an option for whatever reason, urge the victim to contact the counseling staff at a shelter, crisis centre or counseling agency. Such agencies are trained to help people escape abusive situations and can access community resources that would help them stay safe.
- If the victim decides to leave the home, remind them to take the house keys, money, credit cards, bank books, health care cards, passports or birth certificates, driver’s license, medications and clothing essentials. Alberta works offers financial assistance if the victim is in financial difficulty. Remind the victim of this if they wish not to leave the home for financial reasons. The Victims of Crime Financial Benefits Program is another option. You may contact them at 780-427-7217 with any further questions you may have.
- If the victim has any children, it is important that you urge them not to leave them at home with the abuser. The abuser may use the children as a bargaining tool against the victim to force them to come home. The children’s safety is also not guaranteed if they are left at home with the abusing parent.
Help may also be available from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada if is the victim is aboriginal. There is also an Alberta Native Friendship Association, which allows victims to connect with services and people who have also been in the same situations as them. You can contact them at 780-423-3138.
If you or someone you suspect is in immediate danger, call the provincial family violence information line on 310-1818. You can get help anonymously in more than 170 languages. Another option is contacting the Alberta provincial abuse helpline at 1-855-4HELPAB (1-855-443-5722).
Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.