Criminal Aspects of Abuse

While it is important to recognize that not all persons suffering from abuse want to involve law enforcement, some may feel it is necessary. Keep in mind that if you do report an incident to the police, they are required to lay a charge if they feel there are sufficient grounds to do so. This does two things: first, it diverts blame away from the victim when charges are laid, placing it on the police instead, and; second, it stops the offender from feeling that he or she can get away with abuse even if the police are called.


While not all domestic abuse will result in criminal charges, it is necessary to recognize it for what it is and take the appropriate steps to end the abuse. Many victims do not even recognize abuse until it has escalated to the point where they are in serious danger. Recognizing the signs early can greatly increase the safety of abuse victims by taking action before escalation occurs.


[Am I Being Abused?]


The abuse must contravene the criminal code for the police to lay a charge against your partner. These contraventions would include assault, sexual assault, threatening death or bodily harm, forcible confinement, harassing/stalking, homicide, kidnapping, property-related offences including theft or mischief (vandalism), and breaches of court orders made under the criminal code or a contravention of a valid order under sections 24 and 46 of the Family Law Act and section 35 of the Children's Law Reform Act.

*Note: Section 24 of the Family Law Act involves possession of the matrimonial home while section 46 relates to the fear for personal safety. Section 35 of the Children's Law Reform Act involves fear for the safety of any child. Any contraventions of these orders will be criminally prosecuted.


A restraining order may contain one or more of the following provisions and is valid for a period of one year:

  • Restraining the person named from directly or indirectly contacting or communicating with the applicant, or any child in the applicant’s lawful custody;
  • Restraining the person named from coming within a specified distance of one or more locations;
  • Any other provision the court considers appropriate.


Harassment comes in many different forms. The criminal definition includes one or more of the following:

  • Repeated following of the victim or a person known to the victim;
  • Repeated communication (phone calls, letters, emails) directly or indirectly (through another person) with the victim;
  • Watching or besetting any place where the victim may be;
  • Threatening conduct towards the victim or any member of the victim’s family.


If any of these behaviours cause the victim to have a reasonable concern for their safety then the criminal code definition has been met.