I’m experiencing abuse. What do I do?

Abuse, both mental and physical, affects the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world every day – in fact, 4 out of 10 people in Calgary are, or have been, in relationships that are abusive or that show signs of abuse. If you think you are receiving physical or mental abuse, or if you are in an abusive relationship, know that the abuse is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, a woman, a friend, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe, and Canada’s laws are written to support those values.

Recognizing Abuse

What is abuse?

According to the Connect Family & Sexual Abuse Network, abuse can include actions like:

  • Intimidation or threats
  • Name calling
  • Criticism
  • Pushing, punching, shoving, or other physical assault
  • Control over your income
  • Control over where you go or who you see
  • Forced sexual activity
  • Disregard for your spiritual beliefs
  • Withholding food
  • Withholding medication
  • Threats to your loved ones

If you have experienced any of these behaviours, or any actions that you have made clear you would like to stop but they continue, you are experiencing abuse and you have the right to seek help.

In Adults
  • Personality changes (angry, moody, agitated etc.)
  • Becoming withdrawn, closed, suddenly fearful or secretive
  • Difficulty sleeping or abnormally tired
  • Lower self-esteem, feeling negative about themselves
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Neglecting personal hygiene or personal appearance
  • Physical signs of injuries like bruises, sores and cuts
  • Making excuses for injuries which seem implausible
  • Hiding injuries with excessive make-up, sunglasses, extra clothing
  • Appetite changes – weight loss or weight gain
  • Starting to use substances or increasing in substance use
  • Stops attending usual activities (church, gym, family and holiday gatherings)
In Children
  • Physical signs of injuries like bruises, sores, cuts
  • Unhappiness and withdrawal. May appear irritable and sad and withdraw from activities they once enjoyed
  • Regression – returns to an earlier stage in development, such as clinging to caregivers, thumb-sucking or bed wetting
  • Changes in school performance – positively or negatively – or suddenly seeking more approval by teachers
  • Anger, violence or bullying behavior towards other children or animals
  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares
  • Sexually acting out by using knowledge, language and behavior that is out of the scope of normal sexual development.
  • STI’s, frequent yeast or bladder infections, pregnancy in older children, difficulty sitting or walking, injury to genital areas, child complaining of headaches and stomach aches without medical explanation, etc.

If you know someone who might be experiencing abuse and who might need help, you can reach out to them and be a supportive listener, gather information on helpful resources for them, and recommend professional help. Remember, they have to be willing to seek change and help for help to be effective.

You Are Not Alone

Violence and abuse do not pick favourites. Abuse can happen among seemingly happily-married heterosexual couples and in same-sex partnerships. It happens to people of every age,gender, ethnicity, and of every level of wealth in every country of the world. However, in Canada, women are 20% more likely than men to be the victims of assault, and are 10 times more likely to be the victim of a police-reported sexual assault. Abusers use mind games, threats, physical violence, guilt, and shame to control their victims. Victims of abuse are often tricked into feeling guilty for causing the abusive behavior, are convinced that they have acted wrongly, and have caused their abuser to punish them (gaslighting). These are lies, and there is no excuse for any form of abuse. 

Getting Help

Since most assaults are committed by someone that the victim knows, it can be extremely difficult to know what to do if you are the victim of assault. Remember, it is never too late to seek help after an assault, and it is never wrong to do so. In Canada, it is your lawful right to be safe and free from harm.

Here are some more options for you when deciding who to talk to and how to seek help (the following lists are courtesy of the City of Calgary).

If you are in immediate physical danger, call emergency services on your phone at 911. Here is a list of questions that you may have to answer when you call from the City of Calgary.

If you have experienced abuse and you need someone to listen to you and/or recommend what you can do next, you can contact a counsellor by phone or online. Your name and information will always be safe, you will never be pressured, and your information will never be given to another person.

There are many help lines that you can call to receive help, but if you’re looking for one place to start, you might wish to speak to Alberta’s Family Violence Info Line. You will be able to talk to trained staff over the phone for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 170 languages. To call, dial 310-1818.

You can also speak to the Family Violence Info Line online, completely anonymously, from 12 noon to 8:00 pm daily. Find the chat at this link: Begin Chat

Contact Information: Community

Connect Family & Sexual Abuse Network
24-hour crisis line: 403-237-5888 or toll-free 1-877-237-5888

  • One phone call connects you to Calgary’s network of services and support.
  • Provides access to comprehensive services and support for those impacted by domestic violence, sexual violence and sexual abuse.

Alberta Works – Support for Albertans Fleeing Abuse
24-hour line: 1-866-644-5135

  • Albertans in abusive situations can get help 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Alberta Works.
  • If eligibility criteria are met, funding is available to help people get to safety, set up a new household or start a new life.
Contact Information: Counselling for Adults

The Distress Center
24-hour crisis line: 403-266-HELP (4357)

  • 24-hour information and support.
  • Access to free counseling services for individuals, groups and families.

Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter
24-hour family violence help line: 403-234-SAFE (7233) or toll-free 1-866-606-7233

  • Counselling free of charge to those requiring service.
  • Men’s counseling service:403-299-9680
  • OWLS Counselling Program (for women 50+):403-234-SAFE (7233)

Calgary Counselling Centre
Telephone: 403-691-5991 (business hours)

  • Long term counseling for individuals, families or couples.

Woods Homes
24-hour crisis line:
 403-299-9699 or 1-800-563-6106
Address: 255, 495 36 St. N.E., Northgate Mall

  • No fee – immediate walk-in counseling for youth, individuals and families.
  • Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association
Telephone: 403-263-4414

  • Professional, culturally-sensitive counselling for immigrant women and their families who are experiencing transition challenges, relationship problems, abuse and trauma.

Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society – Senior Connect
Telephone: 403-266-6200

  • Helps seniors who might be at risk to connect to community support services that help them to live safely and independently in their homes.

Kerby Elder Abuse Line
24-hour crisis line:
 403-705-3250

  • 24-hour crisis line with access to the Elder Abuse Response Team and Kerby Rotary House Shelter.

YWCA of Calgary
24 – hour crisis line: 403.266.0707

  • Counselling services for women and their families
  • Group and individual programs facilitated by qualified therapists
Contact Information: Counselling for Children and Youth

Kids Help Phone
24-hour crisis line:
 1-800-688-6868

  • 24-hour online and counseling available for those 5-20 years old.

ConnecTeen
24-hour crisis line:
 1-403-264-8336 (TEEN)

  • 24-hour information and support for teens.
  • Peer support 5 – 10 p.m. daily, online or over the phone.

Alberta Children’s Hospital – Child Abuse Service
Telephone:
 403-955-5959

  • Treatment for children 0-12 who have been abused or at risk for being abused.

YWCA of Calgary
24-hour crisis line: 403.266.0707

  • Mindful Families, group and individual programs to support children exposed to family violence or other traumas
  • Visitation Services programs available for children and families experiencing volatile custody/parenting relationships
Contact Information: Domestic Abuse Shelters

Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter
24-hour line:
 403-234-SAFE (7233) or toll-free 1-866-606-7233

The YWCA Sheriff King Home
24-hour crisis line:
 403-266-0707

Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society
Telephone:
 403-531-1970 ext. 200

Wheatland Shelter, Strathmore (accepts men)
24-hour crisis line: 403-934-6634 or toll-free 1-877-934-6634

Kerby Rotary House (55+ shelter)
24-hour crisis line: 403- 705-3250

Discovery House (Second stage shelter & counseling)
Telephone: 403.670.0467

Taking Action

If you have been physically or sexually abused, you have three options (courtesy of the Connect Network):

Medical treatment and/or counseling only

As a victim of assault, you have the right to medical care, counseling, and follow-up. You might choose not to report to police right away. You can still report at any time later on, but any evidence that is left on your body will be lost.

Medical treatment and/or counseling and evidence collection for reporting to police

If you decide right away that you want to report to police, specially trained female doctors and nurses will examine you and collect any evidence that may be on your body. With your consent, this evidence will be turned over to police to aid in the investigation. You will also be given comprehensive medical care, counseling, and follow-up.

Medical treatment and/or counseling and evidence collection for storage

If you are undecided about whether to report to police or not, specially trained female doctors and nurses will examine you and collect any evidence that may be on your body. This evidence will be securely stored for you. If you choose to report to police, you may arrange to have your evidence released. Should you choose not to report to police, your evidence will be confidentially and securely destroyed.

If you have any questions or need more information about how these options work, please call a counselor at the Connect Network, at 403-237-5888. A trained counselor will help you decide what you want to do next, and you will not be pressured.

CIES Guides are a volunteer-led project made possible through contributions from the community.

Thanks to Whitney Loewen for help with this guide. If you want to suggest a correction to this guide, or want to submit one of your own, please contact us.