Q&A — Family violence

Please see COVID-19 updates – abuse family violence for more help about safety planning and protecting yourself.
The date of the most recent update is shown in [square brackets].  

If you are a victim of family violence, even if it isn't during COVID-19, you can end your fixed term lease early to protect yourself or your children. To end your tenancy early, you must:

  • Complete a form called Ending Fixed Term Tenancy Confirmation Statement.
  • Get the form signed by someone who is legally eligible to confirm that you are at risk of family violence. This can be a nurse, doctor, lawyer, social worker, staff member at a transition house, or other authorized third party.
  • Give your landlord one month written notice that you are leaving.
  • You will still need to pay the one month of rent.

Your abusive partner and anyone else living in the rental unit will have to leave too, unless they start a new tenancy agreement with the landlord.

See the BC government's page about ending a tenancy in special circumstances for more information.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be able to get income support, tax relief, and direct funding. See the list of federal and provincial financial benefits to see what benefits you may be able to apply for.

Financial help is also available for people leaving abusive relationships. You can apply for:

  • Income assistance (also called welfare). This is money and other benefits from the BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction (the ministry). Call 1-866-866-0800 to apply. Tell them you’re leaving an abusive partner. If you need money right away for food, housing, or medical attention, tell them you have an immediate need and want to apply for hardship assistance. This is emergency money you can get quickly.
  • Crime Victim Assistance Program benefits. The BC government pays this money to help victims of crime recover. If you’ve been assaulted, abused or harassed, you are eligible to apply. Benefits cover things such as lost wages, medical expenses, damaged clothing or eyeglasses, changing locks, and counselling.
  • Spousal support. You can apply to ask the court to order your partner to pay you if you separate or divorce. For more information about spousal support, please see our Spousal support page.
  • Child tax benefits. This is money the provincial and federal governments pay every month to eligible families to help raise their children.
    • The BC child opportunity benefit provides a tax-free monthly payment to families with children under the age of 18.
    • The Canada child benefit is available to eligible families with children under age 18. Call the Canada Revenue Agency to apply: 1-800-387-1193. If you’re already getting welfare but not these benefits, ask the ministry for a top-up (extra money) while you wait for these federal benefits to start. If you get a lump-sum payment of the federal benefits, the provincial benefit amount will be taken off your welfare payment for that month.

To get help and more information about your options, call VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808. VictimLink is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can also make a claim for compensation for assault through the civil courts, including as part of a family case. It can be complicated, so it’s a good idea to get legal advice about this.

For more information and where to get help, please see our publications:

You can go to a shelter or transition house. These are free, temporary places where you and your children can have a safe place to stay and get support services. You may be subject to COVID-19 screening or quarantine, and have other rules to follow. You can usually stay at a safe home or transition house for up to 30 days.

To find safe housing in your community, see the BC Housing website for a list of contacts for safe homes and transition houses throughout BC. Usually the addresses aren't given out to the general public. This is to protect the people who use them.

Or call BC Society of Transition Houses at 1-800-661-1040 (elsewhere in BC) or 604-669-6943 (Greater Vancouver).

You can’t make decisions for someone else, but you can encourage them to think about their well-being, make a safety plan, and practice self-care while they are in their home. It's also important to keep in touch regularly with your friend or neighbour so they feel less alone.

Try to let your friend know there are resources and people who can help:

VictimLINKBC is a toll-free, confidential, multilingual crisis support line available throughout BC. It provides immediate crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence.

1-800-563-0808 (24 hours)
604-875-0885 (TTY)

It might be unsafe for your friend or neighbour to use a computer. If you can get resources to them safely, you could order the free print publication Live Safe, End Abuse. This is a Legal Aid BC publication for people leaving an abusive partner, and includes information on what abuse is, how people can plan for their safety and protect their children, and who can help. It's also available online. If it isn't safe for them to have a print publication, maybe you could talk to them about their options over the phone.

If you need a protection order for you and your children, you will likely be able to qualify for a legal aid lawyer. The lawyer can also help you get child support if you have your children in your care more than 40 percent of the time. You may also be entitled to spousal support.

If you get an order for child and/or spousal support, you can register your order with Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) and have them collect the payments for you. It's a free service. See our FMEP page for more information.

Corrections BC policy is not to grant early release for those serving time for domestic violence.

Provincial correctional centre

A person who has less than 30 days left to serve of an intermittent sentence might be released early.

  • If there is no probation order, they will be released on a permit with conditions attached. The conditions can restrict where a person can go, who they can see, and what they can do until the permit expires. Call the correctional centre to discuss these conditions, if you have concerns.
  • If there is a probation order, the community corrections office where the person is released will contact you to discuss the conditions of the release. Call them if you have concerns.

Federal correctional centre

The Parole Board of Canada will attach conditions for anyone released to parole from the federal system.

Call the police immediately if your partner breaches the terms of the permit, probation order, or parole.
It’s a good idea to have a plan for how to stay safe around an abusive partner. See Safety planning during COVID-19.

You don't need a lawyer to apply for a peace bond (now called a “surety to keep the peace”).

Call the police or RCMP and tell them you're afraid your partner might injure or sexually assault you or your child, and you want a peace bond (the legal name is an “810 recognizance”). In Vancouver, call 911 to get a peace bond even if it isn’t an emergency.

The police and court need evidence of the risk to you. Tell the officer:

  • why you feel afraid for yourself or your children, especially about what just happened
  • if your partner has:
    • been violent to you or other people in the past
    • been using alcohol or drugs
    • threatened or attempted suicide recently or in the past
    • access to weapons such as guns or knives
  • if you have other evidence, such as notes about past incidents, threatening letters, voicemails, or online messages, or anyone who saw your partner being violent or threatening you

If the police agree you have a good reason to be afraid, they start the application for a judge to order a recognizance in criminal court. If there's a hearing, someone from the Crown counsel office contacts you. 

When you speak to the police
Make sure you write down the police file number and the officer’s name. If you have questions or concerns, you can then talk to the same officer, who is familiar with you and the case. Your local Crown counsel office can also answer your questions by phone.
It’s a good idea to have a plan for how to stay safe around an abusive partner, or when leaving one. See “How do I stay safe if I'm confined at home with an abusive partner?” on this page for information and where to get support.

Being confined at home with an abusive partner can be very scary. But help is available, and you're not alone.

Make a safety plan

When you're afraid, it's very difficult to think clearly. Getting information and making some planning decisions, including steps you can take to protect yourself, can keep you safe.

A safety plan can help you protect yourself, both at home and outside your home.

You can call VictimLINKBC at 1-800-563-0808 to get information about how to make your plan. If it's safe for you to use a computer, you can follow the Make a safety plan pathway from MyLawBC. You'll answer questions about your situation, and be given resources that can help.

Also see the safety planning resources from EVA BC.

Practice self-care

Getting through this time while experiencing abuse can feel really overwhelming. You may feel isolated from your friends and family. Taking time for your own health and wellness can make a big difference in how you feel. Try to keep in touch with family and friends over the phone, text, or email if it's safe for you to do so.

Mental Health Support line: call to be connected to your local BC crisis line without a wait or busy signal, 24 hours a day. Crisis line workers are trained to help provide emotional support as well as mental health information and resources.

310-6789 (do not add 604, 778, or 250 before the number).

Reach out for help

You're not alone. There are organizations who will help, even during this pandemic.

VictimLINKBC: is a toll-free, confidential, multilingual crisis support line available throughout BC. It provides immediate crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence.

1-800-563-0808 (24 hours)
604-875-0885 (TTY)

Don't see your question here? Email us.

Page last updated: Wednesday, October 21, 2020, 18:12 hrs

Videos

This 13-minute video is for people who live with an abusive partner, and want to leave. [July 2020]
Get more help

If you're in danger, call 911.

If you're not in immediate danger, call VictimLinkBC at 1-800-563-0808.

VictimLinkBC is a toll-free, confidential, multilingual crisis support line available throughout BC. It provides immediate crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence.

You can also call the Battered Women's Support Service crisis line at 1-855-687-1868.

The Provincial Court FAQs has more information about protection orders.

Use the Signal for Help to safely reach out to others

Abuse isn't your fault

Tia recognizes she's in an abusive relationship in our short illustrated story, When behaviour is abuse.

 

Illustration to introduce a story
Focus on safety

A couple discusses how a neighbour needs to make a safety plan before she leaves her abusive partner in our illustrated short story Focus on safety.

Illustration to introduce story