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Navigating Intimate Partner Violence: A Guide for Survivors

This resource provides general information and answers some common questions about intimate partner violence (IPV), legal information, and supportive resources.

This information is general in nature and does not constitute legal advice.

You may be wondering what your legal options are, or you may already be interacting with one legal system, or many legal systems. If you have questions or would like some support during this process, you are encouraged to contact a Legal Support Navigator at The Journey Project. A Legal Support Navigator is a staff member who can provide emotional support and legal system navigation while you consider your legal options and throughout the legal process.

A Note on Language: Language is important. It holds a lot of power. You may identify with the word “survivor,” “victim,” both, or neither. Different legal systems may refer to you as a “victim,” “complainant,” or “witness,” even though you may not identify with any of these terms. This is the language used by the court and does not mean you are being judged. In this guide, we use the term “survivor.” However, we know that not everyone who has experienced intimate partner violence will identify this way.

If you would like to speak with a Legal Support Navigator (LSN), you can reach us through email, text, phone, or our social media pages. We are available Monday to Friday, 9:00am – 4:00pm.

TEL 1-709-722-2805
TOLL-FREE/VRS 1-833-722-2805
TEXT: 709-986-2801

If you are in immediate danger or require medical attention, call 911 or your local police detachment.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) are in the Northeast Avalon, Corner Brook, Labrador City, Wabush, and Churchill Falls. All other areas fall under Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) jurisdiction.

The Domestic Violence Help Line is a toll-free province wide phone number available 24/7. You will be immediately connected to a transition house and trained professional.

Toll-free number: 1-888-709-7090

For a list of shelters in Newfoundland and Labrador, visit:

What is Intimate Partner Violence?

It may not always be easy to figure out if certain behaviours or actions are considered abuse or violence. People can experience and respond to IPV differently, and each of these experiences are valid. You are the expert of your own life and hold valuable knowledge, skills, and strengths.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to multiple forms of harm caused by a current or former intimate partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, dating partner, sexual partner, or spouse. There does not need to be sexual intimacy in the relationship to be considered an intimate partner, for example in cases of online relationships. IPV can occur in both private spaces, such as the home, or public spaces such as at work. It can also happen online through social media or online apps. [1]

IPV can include both criminal and non-criminal activity. For the purpose of reporting to police, criminal offences commonly associated with IPV include property crime, uttering threats (to harm partner, children, pets and property), financial crime, violation of court orders, physical assault, sexual assault, criminal harassment, forcible confinement, abduction, and homicide.

Power and Control

The diagram below has been adapted from the original Power and Control Wheel by the American Domestic Abuse Intervention Project. It offers examples to help you name and identify many abusive behaviours. However, the power and control wheel is not exhaustive of every experience. How power and control is maintained in 2SLGBTQIA+ relationships, or how male survivors experience intimate partner violence may present differently. For example, a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity may be used as a tool of abuse. Societal beliefs around masculinity may create shame and stigma in reporting abuse.

Power and Control Diagram

What is Coercive and Controlling Behaviour?

Coercive and controlling behaviour is a form of violence that is often overlooked or minimized. It is described as repetitive behaviours of intimidation, humiliation, isolation, and threats [2]. Coercive and controlling behaviour is not always criminal and can create fear without using physical violence. It might include using threats, purposely displaying guns in the home to make you feel afraid, creating emotional barriers to leaving the relationship, isolating you from your friends or family, withholding basic needs, monitoring your time, activities, and location, or purposely failing to pay child support or follow parenting agreements. Coercive and controlling behaviour can happen during a relationship, or after the relationship has ended. These behaviours are done to maintain power and control over the other person and/or their children.

Legal System Abuse

IPV can continue even after a relationship has ended. Sometimes, power and control over another person is maintained by misusing the legal and/or court system. This is sometimes called ‘litigation abuse’ and can be experienced within the courtroom, before, during or after legal proceedings.

Some examples of this type of control include [3]:

  • Physical assaults or threats of violence against you or your lawyer;
  • Threats to take the children through custody/access;
  • Refusal to participate in mediation, wanting to ‘take you to court’;
  • Using mediation as a tactic to maintain power and control;
  • Coercion or forcing you to withdraw charges or court orders;
  • Following you in or out of court to intimidate or scare you;
  • Sending notes or “looks” during proceedings;
  • Repeated requests for delays in proceedings;
  • Changing lawyers or failure to follow through with legal appointments;
  • Failing to pay child support, or provide financial documents;
  • Calling multiple law offices so you are unable to find legal representation or advice;
  •  Starting legal processes to get back at you, for example varying court orders;
  • Using any evidence of damage resulting from the abuse as evidence that the victim is an unfit parent.

In 2021, the Government of Canada updated the Divorce Act. This act sets out the rules and laws on issues like parenting time (formerly called custody and access), child support, and family violence. Under the new legislation, the term coercive and controlling behaviour was added to the definition of family violence. This type of abuse can be difficult to recognize and identify as it is usually not criminal and usually happens over a period of time.

Safety Planning

A safety plan lays out steps you can take to keep you and/or your children safe. Safety plans can be used any time you fear for your safety. This could be during a violent incident or after a relationship has ended . A safety plan is individualized to meet your needs, your unique situation, and build on the strengths, knowledge, and resources you have. You can create your own safety plan, or you can create one with the support of another person, like a trusted friend or neighbour, the police, a shelter or transition home, Victim Services, or a Legal Support Navigator with the Journey Project.

Download Safety Plan

Navigating Different Legal Systems

Family Law

For information on any area of family law, including family violence, parenting, custody, access, and child support, PLIAN’s Family Law Guide can be accessed here:

Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (PLIAN)

PLIAN is an independent non-profit organization that provides general information and education about the law to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, with the intent of increasing access to justice.

PLIAN’s Family Law Form Builder allows you to complete many Family Law Court Applications and Forms online. This easy-to-use interface will guide you through the required form(s) you will need to file your Family Law Application and assist you with gathering the information required. Upon completion, you must print your forms and present them to the Court as required for your proceedings.

You can access the Family Law Form Builder at:

Contact PLIAN’s Legal Information Line:

Toll-free/VRS 1-888-660-7788

St. John’s office: 709-722-2643

Happy Valley-Goose Bay office: 709-896-5235


Legal Aid

Legal Aid is a program available to help people with serious legal problems who are in financial need and cannot afford private counsel. Legal Aid provides a range of legal services in the areas of family and criminal law.

Legal Aid usually covers family matters that include separation, divorce, and child custody and access. Legal Aid may also cover legal services for parents when Children, Seniors, and Social Development (CSSD) have submitted an application for custody.

Phone Toll-free: 1-800-563-9911


To apply for legal aid:

Family Justice Services

Family Justice Services (FJS) is a division of Supreme Court Family Division that assists families with resolving parenting time (what used to be custody and access) and/or child support issues.

If children are involved in your dispute you must go through mediation through FJS. This is a free program whereby a mediator will help both parties come to an agreement to resolve their dispute. If parties agree and file a consent order on parenting, then mediation will not be necessary. This will mean that what you agree to will become a court order.

Additional information, and how to apply, can be found here:

Duty Counsel

Legal Aid provides the services of lawyers (Duty Counsel) in the Family Division of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John’s to assist people appearing in Court but who do not already have a lawyer. Duty Counsel can give basic advice about legal matters that are before the court. Duty Counsel can appear on your behalf on simple matters before the court on the day of your court appearance.

Duty Counsel Client Services Officer can be reached at 753-4614

Intimate Partner Violence Intervention Court

The Intimate Partner Violence Intervention Court (IPVIC) is a specialty court located in St. John’s and Stephenville. At the time of publication the court was being expanded to Grand Falls-Windsor. This specialized court requires the offender to participate in intervention or programming regarding intimate partner or family violence, while focusing on improving victim safety and offender responsibility. To be eligible, the offender must be charged with an offence involving an intimate partner, over age 18, and must plead guilty and accept responsibility for the offence(s).

Additional information can be found here:

Child Protection

Under the Newfoundland and Labrador CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES ACT, it is the law to report suspected abuse and/or neglect of children (under age 16) and youth (age 16 and 17).

A plain language definition of a child or youth in need of protection can be found here:

The legal definition of a child or youth indeed of protection can be found here:

To understand more about the child protection system in Newfoundland and Labrador, visit:

An Introduction to Child Protection in Newfoundland and Labrador by Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador is another helpful resource. It can be found here:

To report a concern of suspected child abuse and/or neglect of a child (under age 16) and/or a youth (ages 16 & 17), call toll-free 1-833-552-2368.

If a child is in immediate danger, call 911 or your local police.

Criminal Law

Reporting Intimate Partner Violence to the Police

The process of reporting IPV is usually similar at every police station. However, there may be some differences depending on where you live in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Depending on your location, you may need to report to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). RNC are in the Northeast Avalon region, Corner Brook, Labrador City, Wabush, and Churchill Falls. The RCMP are responsible for all other areas of the province.

Things to Know

If the police have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that intimate partner violence has taken place, they will proceed with an arrest. Reasonable and probable grounds means that there is evidence of IPV. This can include physical evidence (such as injuries, marks), CCTV, property damage, witness statements. Police cannot lay charges of verbal abuse.

The police have a duty to investigate the matter if there is a risk to the survivor’s safety or public safety. Even if someone calls the police and changes their mind, the police will continue their investigation. In instances of IPV, if sufficient evidence exists to lay a charge, then police are obligated to lay a charge regardless of the survivor’s willingness to give evidence.

In St. John’s, the RNC has an Intimate Partner Violence Unit with specially trained police officers who can provide intervention, support, and referrals to survivors of IPV.

Call: 709-729-8093 or 709-729-8270 (general advice – this number is not monitored regularly)


The RCMP have a dedicated Intimate Partner Violence unit that provides guidance and oversight on intimate partner violence investigations.

Call: 729-5400 (general inquiries)

For additional information on reporting intimate partner violence to the police, please see our guide, Reporting Intimate Partner Violence to the Police: A Guide for Survivors.

Victim Services

Victim Services is a voluntary, free, and confidential program that supports victims of crime throughout the criminal justice process. Victim Services assists people who have experienced intimate partner violence, criminal harassment (stalking), threats, sexual assault, and other forms of violence.

Victim Services provide support to adults aged 16 and older whether or not the crime has been reported or a charge has been laid. Services are available to children, youth, or witnesses under age 16 when charges are laid. A caregiver or legal guardian must consent to services.

Victim Services can provide:

  • General information about the criminal justice system.
  • Information on your specific case.
  • Safety planning.
  • Court preparation.
  • Assistance writing your victim impact statement.
  • Referrals to other community organizations and agencies.
  • Emotional support and short-term counselling as you prepare to go to court.

Victim Services Coordinators can not provide legal advice. When you call Victim Services to request information about your case, you will likely need to provide your police file number. If you do not have one, or do not know it, they may ask you for some identifying information, like the name of the offender(s).

For additional information, visit:

Telephone: 709-729-7970


Additional Information

Emergency Protection Order

When a complainant fears for their safety, an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) may be issued. An EPO is an immediate and  emergency court order handed down by a judge in situations where IPV has occurred. EPOs are issued under the Family Violence Protection Act. Because of its emergency nature, the police can help you with an EPO application when possible. EPOs can be requested/granted 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. Applications can only be made with the victim’s consent. [4]

An EPO can allow police to remove the accused from the home, take away any firearms or weapons they have, give you temporary custody of the home and the children, and any other conditions the court thinks are necessary. EPOs can only be granted for a maximum of  90 days.

To be eligible to apply a person must:

  •   Live or have lived with the respondent in a conjugal (i.e., married-like) relationship (regardless of marital status, includes same-sex couples), or;
  •  Have one or more children with the respondent regardless of whether they have lived together.

Police may apply for an EPO by fax any time or in person at Provincial Court during regular Court hours. Police have access to the on-call judge any time.

Lawyers may apply for an EPO by fax or in person at Provincial Court during regular Court hours. Lawyers do not have access to the on-call judge and cannot fax applications after hours.

You can apply for an EPO yourself in person at Provincial Court during court hours. When you file in person you must swear to/affirm the information – this means you swear that the information you are providing is true.

Clare’s Law Application

The Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act, Clare’s Law, authorizes police services to disclose certain information to individuals who may be at risk of intimate partner violence. Under this Act, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are authorized to provide relevant information (disclosure) about a current or former intimate partner.

Right to Ask: Apply online, or at your nearest police station. Application may be made by an individual or a support person on behalf of the person at risk.

Right to Know: A police officer who has received information that may affect the safety of an intimate partner, may inform them.

The disclosure that an applicant receives does not normally include specific details about the person of disclosure’s personal history or interactions with the justice system. Disclosure includes level of risk, contextual information, and, depending on level of risk, information related to convictions.

For additional information or to apply online, visit:

Peace Bond

Unlike an EPO, a peace bond can protect you from anyone that you believe will harm you, your child/ren, or your property. A peace bond is a court order under section 810 of the Criminal Code. It requires that someone “keep the peace” for a certain length of time and follow any other conditions of the peace bond. This might include conditions around how, when, or if they can contact you, if they are allowed in certain locations, or it may mean they are not allowed to have weapons, or some other condition.  A peace bond can be valid for up to 12 months, however they are not monitored by the police. Police only become involved after a peace bond is breached.

Requesting a ‘Hazard’ on a House

In certain situations, the police may place what is called a ‘hazard’ on a particular home or location. This option may be available in your area. A ‘hazard’ means that the location will be flagged in the police system. There are many instances where a hazard may be placed on a location. This could include if somebody tells the police that there are guns in a home, or that there has been intimate partner violence at the home, the police will have a record of this information in their system.

Requesting Extra Patrols

This option may be available in your area. The police may increase their presence through doing extra patrols in a certain area or areas if you fear for your safety. An ‘extra patrol file’ means an officer might take an extra drive by your place of work or your house. They may also park their car outside your house for a period of time.

Pet Safekeeping Program (St. John’s)

This program aims to provide emergency shelter for pets belonging to survivors of intimate partner violence. The program is a partnership between the RNC, Iris Kirby House, and the City of John’s (Humane Services).

Pet Fostering Program (Corner Brook)

This program aims to provide emergency shelter for pets belonging to survivors of intimate partner violence. The program is a partnership between the RNC, Willow House, the N-L West SPCA, Humber Valley Veterinary Clinic and the City of Corner Brook.

Cell Phone Program

When possible, the RNC provides cell phones with pre-paid minutes to victims of intimate partner violence who have had their phone damaged, stolen, or are in need of one.

Additional Support

Under Part 7: Family Violence Leave of the Labour Standards Act, a person who has experienced family violence may be granted leave from their job. If you have been employed with the same employer for at least 30 continuous days, you may be given 3 days paid leave, and 7 days unpaid leave per year.

Family violence leave allows you to take time off to seek medical attention, counselling, legal support, or to find somewhere safe to live.

For more information, visit:

Toll free: 1-877-563-1063


Under Sections 25-27 of the Residential Tenancies Act, you can terminate, or end, your rental agreement (sometimes called a lease) with 30 days notice if there has been family violence, including intimate partner violence. This includes month-to-month or fixed rental terms.

Statements to allow for early termination of a lease can be from a doctor, nurse, social worker, psychologist, police officer, or another agency or organization recognized by the Director of Residential Tenancies.

For more information, visit:

Telephone: 709-729-2608, or 1-877-829-2608 (toll-free in NL)


Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation provides special priority for victims of family violence. The Victims of Violence Policy can assist you in seeking safe affordable housing. Through this policy, they 1) assist victims of violence when applying for housing or seeking a transfer within NLHC, 2) an applicant may apply for housing if they are in an abusive home situation, seek temporary refuge with friends or relatives, or move to an emergency shelter.

For more information, visit:

Emergency Housing Line: 1-833-724-2444

The Department of Children, Seniors, and Social Development offers income support services for victims of violence. Emergency supports for victims of violence include:

  • Transportation to a shelter/transition house or other safe location
  • Accommodations may be provided by NLHC
  •  Personal allowance for the period of time you reside at a shelter

Supports for victims of violence in receipt of income support benefits include:

  • Continuation of income support benefits based on your financial circumstance
  • Transportation may be provided:
    • To a shelter or some other safe location
    • To move household furniture
    • Outside the province for safety reasons
  • Start-up allowance as a contribution towards obtaining furniture, linens, clothing, etc. if it is determined to be unsafe to return home for these items
  • Services of the regional social worker

For more information, call the Income Support Program toll free number at 1-877-729-7888