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Reporting Intimate Partner Violence to Police: A Guide for Survivors


Reporting intimate partner violence (IPV) to the police can be intimidating and overwhelming. If you have more 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. The criminal justice system 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 or your reaction to the incident is being judged. In this guide, we use the term “survivor.” However, we know that not everyone who has experienced sexual violence and/or 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

Things To Know

If you are in an emergency situation, call 911.

Reporting an experience of IPV is often called “filing a complaint.” This is why you may hear police officers, lawyers or other legal professionals use the word “complainants” when talking about survivors.

The process is usually similar at every police station. However, there may be some logistical 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 jurisdiction includes the Northeast Avalon region, Corner Brook, Labrador City, Wabush, and Churchill Falls. The RCMP are responsible for all other areas of the province.

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.

What to expect when you report intimate partner violence to the police

If you are an adult (18 or older), reporting to the police is your choice. It is completely up to you if and/or when you report.

Once you make a report to the police, they will determine much of the process and decision-making that follows. The Journey Project will never pressure you to report to the police, it is completely up to you. We respect any decision you make, and will support you. If a young person under age 18 reports IPV to the police, the police will inform their parent or legal guardian.

Most likely, a uniformed officer will be sent to your location. You can request a female and/or plain-clothed officer, however this may not always be possible. If you require medical assistance, the officer may offer to take you to the hospital. The officer will take your information and details surrounding the assault for their report.

If you call the police to report IPV, and either change your mind or tell the officer that you no longer need their help, the police will still investigate and enter the residence.  The police have a duty to investigate, even if you do not want them to.

If you have called the police and hang up, a police officer will still be sent to your location.

You will likely walk up to a window at the police station and state what type of incident you are reporting. You may be asked to show ID.

If you are reporting in person at the RNC in St. John’s, you can request to speak with someone in the Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Unit. This unit has specially trained police officers who can provide intervention, support, and referrals to survivors of IPV.

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

You should be prepared to wait in the main lobby. How long you wait will depend on whether there is a police officer available to take your statement.

We suggest that you bring a support person with you or something to occupy your mind (e.g. your phone and charger, a book to read, a fidget object). You may be waiting for some time, up to several hours. Having water and tissues on hand is also a good idea.

When possible, we suggest calling the police station ahead of time to schedule an appointment.

The Journey Project can accompany you to the police station if requested. However, this may not be possible in every part of the province.

If you have experienced IPV in Newfoundland and Labrador but are now living in a different province or country, you can still report to the police in your area. They will likely be able to take your recorded statement and communicate this to the police detachment in Newfoundland and Labrador where the IPV occurred.

This process may look different depending on where you are located, so it is recommended to contact your local police detachment for further information and guidance.

Initial Contact with Police

When you first speak with the police, there may be an initial interview at the scene. The initial interview is when a police officer asks for basic information about what happened, and why you have called the police or requested assistance.

It is important to know that any verbal statement given to police could be used as part of their investigation. However, you will be given the option to provide more information during an audio/videotaped statement at the police station.

A child who is living in a situation where there is violence or a risk of violence falls within the definition of a child in need of protective intervention and therefore, the police will complete a child protection report.

Giving Your Statement

Before making your statement, mention any accessibility or accommodation requests you may have. This may include interpretation or translation services, transportation, having a support person with you, or a service animal. When possible, a Legal Support Navigator with The Journey Project can also assist you with arranging accommodations.

When you provide an audio-videotaped statement, the investigating officer will give you an opportunity to describe, in your own words, what happened. The police officer will likely ask you some specific questions to ensure they have as much information possible for their investigation.

Your statement may be used for court purposes, as it may be entered as evidence. You may be allowed to bring along a support person with you. It is best to ask the officer ahead of time if this is possible. You may want to bring water and tissues with you. You can also take along any notes you have to help jog your memory.

The police officer will likely ask you difficult, personal, or invasive questions about what happened. At this point, you may have been asked to tell the same story with the same information multiple times. The purpose of this is to ensure the police gain a full understanding of the events.

The police officer may ask you:

  • The name and description of the suspect.
  • Details surrounding the event (for example time, date, location).
  • About events prior to the assault.
  • What happened? You may be asked to give a very detailed description of the assault(s).
  • Whether or not you sustained any physical injuries.
  • If you got or tried to get medical treatment.
  • If you share any children with the offender.
  • If there were any witnesses to the incident.

The police may ask for your consent to photograph any injuries you sustained, you may be asked to provide consent for medical records if necessary, safety planning may be discussed, and an Emergency Protection Order may be completed.

If you cannot remember all the details, that is ok. If there are details you may have forgotten, or details that you remember after the interview, you can contact the investigating officer to follow up.

It is important to remember that the information provided during this statement may be used in court. If you would like to receive legal advice, the Journey Project Legal Support Service offers eligible participants free legal advice.

KGB Statement

It is important to know that police will often take KGB statements, or sworn statements, from IPV survivors if it is likely that charges will be laid. A KGB statement is a videotaped sworn statement. A sworn statement means that you promise to tell the truth. If a person is found to give a false statement, to lie, they can be charged.

Even when a sworn statement is completed, the survivor will still be required to testify if the matter goes to trial. Sworn statements are helpful for police if survivors recant, meaning they deny or take back their statement. The crown still has the option of proceeding with the matter in court.

What to Expect During a Police Investigation

If the police have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that IPV 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, or 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.

Police investigations can take time and every case is different. If you have questions about an ongoing investigation, you can contact the investigating police officer(s) to find out information about your case.

If you have safety concerns, the police can discuss safety planning options with you. This includes applying for an Emergency Protection Order or a Peace Bond. Information on these court orders can be found below.

The investigating police officer can provide information on:

  • Your rights as a victim/survivor.
  • How long things might take.
  • What the next steps might be.
  • Safety planning.
  • If any charges will be laid after the investigation is completed.

People who may be involved in the investigation:

  • Crown Attorney
  • Other medical professionals
  • Witnesses (if there are any)

The Crown Attorney, sometimes called a prosecutor, is a lawyer that works for the government. They represent the best interest of the public and are responsible for making sure that the criminal justice process is fair to everyone involved, including the accused, the complainant, and the public. They do not represent or work for the survivor in a criminal matter. In the criminal justice system,  a survivor does not get their own lawyer. A survivor can hire their own lawyer for legal advice, support, and guidance, but they cannot represent you at most court hearings. If you are interested in getting legal advice you can contact the Journey Project.

Other supports

Victim Services is a voluntary, free, and confidential program that supports victims of crime throughout the criminal justice process.

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 cannot provide legal advice. When you initially reach out to 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).


Under the Canadian Victim Bill of Rights, victims have a right to protect their identity. During a police investigation, the police may decide that a media release is required if there is a threat to public safety. This is an extremely rare occurrence. While your name will not be shared, details about the offender and the incident or incidents may be released. A publication ban is a court order that prevents anyone, including the media, from publishing or sharing information that could identify the victim. Publication bans are almost always used in matters where children, youth, and other vulnerable people are involved.

Generally, a media release may be issued if:

  • There is a risk to public safety.
  • Information from the public may help the investigation.
  • It may encourage more victims/survivors to come forward.
  • An arrest has been made.

What happens if a charge is laid?

A charge is laid if the police have completed their investigation and have collected enough evidence to formally accuse a suspect(s) of committing a crime. The police will send their file to the Crown Attorney’s office. The Crown Attorney’s office will then take over the file.

Person(s) Charged

The person(s) charged (now “the accused”) will either be released back into the community or remain in custody (e.g. jail) until the case is finished.

If the accused is released back into the community, the court may place them on conditions (i.e. rules) they must follow. For example, the accused might be ordered not to have any contact with you, or other people connected to the case.

An accused person can make an application to the court to vary their conditions. This means they would be asking the court to make changes to the rules they are required to follow. If this happens, you have the right to know about it.

If the accused is released into the community and you fear for your safety, there may be some options available to you.

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.

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.[2]

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.

Common Questions

There are many forms of intimate partner violence that are not necessarily criminal, but are very harmful to your well-being and safety. You can connect with a Legal Support Navigator from the Journey Project for more information and support.

The police officer will collect evidence at the scene and ask questions to find out who the ‘dominant/primary aggressor’ is. This means who caused more harm or injury during this particular incident.

The police should notify you when an arrest is made. It is important to note that once charges are laid, police have little to no involvement with the victim/survivor. You should have been referred to Victim Services, who, in communication with the Crown, will provide you with updates. If you haven’t been referred to Victim Services, you can self-refer by reaching out to the office nearest you.

To lay a criminal charge, the police have to collect enough evidence to meet the reasonable grounds threshold. Not laying a charge does not mean that they don’t believe you. In some situations, the police will have to consult with the Crown Attorney to discuss the case and obtain the Crown’s professional opinion on charges.

You can make a complaint about an officer’s conduct by contacting the local police station where they work. You can make a complaint directly to the officer’s supervisor.

If you are in RNC Jurisdiction, you can also make a complaint to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission (RNC PCC) provides members of the public with an independent forum for their complaints against Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers. Complaints must be made within 6 months of the incident.

For more information, visit:

If you are in RCMP jurisdiction you can file a complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (CRCC) reviews complaints about on-duty conduct of RCMP members. Complaints must be made within one year of the incident.

For more information, visit:

The Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT NL) is a civilian-led police oversight agency that is mandated to conduct investigations into police-related incidents, which can include intimate partner violence and sexual offences. If you have experienced intimate partner violence that has been perpetrated by an RNC or RCMP officer, you can report it to SIRT NL. This includes offences that happened while the officer was off-duty. There is no time limit to reporting.

For more information, visit