Women's shelters provide safe emergency shelter, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including all meals, emergency clothing and personal needs. Women experiencing abuse and their children can stay in a shelter. Most cities and towns, and many rural areas, have women’s shelters. Shelters will help women find transportation or pay for a taxi to get to the shelter. Women and their children do not have to pay to stay in a shelter.
If a woman does not speak English, shelters use interpretation services and some shelters have multi-lingual staff. Most shelters can accommodate women with physical disabilities.
Women can continue to work while they are in a shelter and children can continue to attend school. Shelters offer a variety of programs for women. Some shelters also have programs for children.
The length of time that women and their children can stay in a shelter varies according to the needs of the woman and the resources of the shelter. Shelters will work with women to help them find safe accommodation after they leave. Women can return to a shelter more than once if they need to.
Most shelters cannot accept pets, but many shelters will help women find a safe temporary home for their pets. Shelters work in collaboration with the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) to provide temporary housing and care for the pets of women who wish to leave an abusive partner. Women must contact a women’s shelter directly to make arrangements with the Safety for Pets program.
The telephone number for your local shelter will be listed in the front pages of the telephone directory under emergency services.
The Assaulted Women’s Helpline can give you phone numbers, addresses and information about your local women’s shelter. Call 1-866-863-0511 or TTY 1.866.863.7868.
Shelter Safe is an online resource to help women and their children seeking safety from violence and abuse. The clickable map will serve as a fast resource to connect women with the nearest shelter that can offer safety, hope and support.
Many women at risk of abuse are reluctant to leave their abusive partners and seek help at a women’s shelter if it means leaving their beloved pet behind with the abuser. The Ontario veterinary Medical Associations SafePet Program is dedicated to assisting women in leaving abusive partners by providing temporary housing and care for their pets. Ask your local veterinary or women’s shelter about the program or see more information online at www.ovma.org/pet_owners/safepet.
In addition to responding to emergencies, your local police service may be able to assist you to keep your workplace safe before a violent incident happens. They can also help you to identify breaches of the criminal code.
Police can provide advice on protective orders (peace bonds and restraining orders), safety planning, and referral to additional services.
If you contact the police, inform the employee that you are notifying police and if possible, obtain the victim’s permission beforehand.
If you contact the police, ask for the officer or unit responsible for domestic violence.
Threat assessment refers to the formal use of tools and professional judgement to assess the likelihood that intimate partner violence will be repeated and will escalate. Your local police service may be able to conduct a threat assessment so that the workplace and the employee experiencing abuse can develop safety plans.
Any police service in Ontario can request criminal investigation support services from the Behavioural Sciences Section of the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police), including threat assessment. The OPP’s Threat Assessment Unit can assist with investigations where there is a potential target for violence, including stalking, domestic violence and workplace violence.
Safety Planning is the development of an individualized plan for intimate partners who are abused to reduce the risks that they and their children face. These plans include strategies to reduce the risk of physical violence or other harm caused by the abuser. They also include strategies to maintain basic human needs such as income, housing, healthcare, food, child care and education for the children. The particulars of each plan vary depending on the woman’s unique situation – whether she is living with the abuser, separated from the abuser, plans to leave the abuser, plans to stay with the abuser as well as what resources are available to her. A safety plan might focus on some or all of these aspects of an abused employee’s life:
- Children – daycare/school
- Court orders
It is important to remember that safety plans will change as life circumstances change and they should be reviewed and revised when things change to ensure ongoing safety and effective management of risk.
Training and expertise is needed to be able to provide comprehensive, effective and sensitive safety planning for victims of domestic violence, their children and co-workers. Women’s Shelter workers and Police officers are trained to provide good safety planning. The best safety planning happens face-to-face with an expert like this.
However, sometimes an employee experiencing abuse may not be ready to talk about safety planning with someone yet. In this case she can get help from her local women’s shelter or the Assaulted Women’s Helpline 1-866-863-0511 or TTY 1.866.863.7868. They will provide her with confidential assistance.