Relationships & Intimate Partner Violence

Some things you need to know about Canadian culture and relationships:

Though it is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, there are some overarching

  • Canada is less hierarchical than many other countries but there are still expectations of deference – politeness and respect – to “seniors” (e.g. professors, those older than yourself, persons in authority).
  • Consent matters and is required in all relationships. “No” means “No”, not “maybe” and not “yes”. Silence is not consent.
  • Despite the unequal economic wage disparity, women are considered equal to men in the law and they are not expected to be subservient to their male partners.
  • Regardless of your relationship with the other person or your gender, making continued unwanted sexual advances (flirting, touching, or making sexually charged comments or innuendos) may be considered sexual harassment.
  • The relationship between you and your girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse is not considered to be just “your business” or “private” (see the Criminal Justice section for more information).

If you or your friend is in an intimate partner relationship here are some warning signs that you (or your friend) is not coping well with the pressures:

  • Becoming increasingly distanced from other people.
  • The relationship seems to be breaking down with a lot of arguing and fighting.
  • Becoming more controlling in the relationship (what the girlfriend/boyfriend wears, where they go, what they can say to others, with whom they can spend their time).
  • Becoming physically or verbally violent or abusive (even though you, your friend or both of them say it was an “accident”).
  • The other person in the relationship (boyfriend or girlfriend) seems to be “changing” in a negative way
    • e.g. they are avoiding their friends, they seem always angry or depressed or they seem scared of getting in trouble with you or your friend.

Some things you should know about the Canadian Criminal Justice System (courts and the law) and Intimate Partner Violence:

  • 18 is the age of majority in Canada which means it is the age that you are considered a full adult in the law. Under 18 years of age you are considered a “young offender” and subject to a different justice act but you are still subject to the law.
  • Under the Canadian criminal justice system a crime is considered to have been committed against everyone in society, not just the victim of the crime. (R. v. Your surname) means – Regina (Queen of Canada) vs. you (the defendant). An assault against your boyfriend/girlfriend is considered an assault against everyone in Canada.
  • The police are obligated by law to lay charges if they believe that a crime has been committed in an intimate partner relationship (e.g. physical assault like hitting; emotional abuse e.g. threats) regardless of whether or not your partner wants to lay charges.
  • In intimate partner violence situations, only the police can withdraw a criminal charge once it has been laid.

Some things you should know about the University of Toronto and Intimate Partner Violence:

  • The University of Toronto has no tolerance for violence in any form.
  • The University offers two possible (non-police) options if someone wants to disclose or report violence or other inappropriate behaviour – The Code of Student Conduct and the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment.
  • The University of Toronto will assign someone to work with both the respondent and the victim if it becomes aware of cases of intimate partner violence. This support person works to mitigate the likelihood of the two meeting in classes etc. with the least disruption to their academic plans.
  • A report under either policy may result in interim conditions or measures but interim measures or conditions will not show up on a person’s academic record.
  • If there is an investigation under one of the policies, the outcome may be reflected on the academic record (that is decided on a case by case basis).
  • Someone who is charged by the police with assault or anything related to intimate partner violence does not lose their student visa.
  • If someone is charged by the police there may be Court ordered conditions of release. These may obligate the University of Toronto to transfer someone from their home campus or to change their University residence but the person who is charged is not expelled from University.

What can you do if you think your friend is being abused or being abusive?

  • Helping someone to be free from violence is not betrayal of a friendship. It is being a friend.
  • If you are concerned for the imminent safety of your friend, contact the police. Better that you were wrong about this than you were right!
  • Do not keep silent about your concerns, tell someone – Residence staff, a professor, the Community Safety Office…someone.
  • If you are comfortable to do this – talk to your friend in a safe place and at a safe time – let them know your concerns but do not expect them to agree with you.
  • Don’t argue with your friend if they deny what you are saying. It’s okay – just letting them know you are concerned raises their awareness of the situation.
  • If they are not ready then offer your emotional support for when they are ready to live violence-free.

What can you do if you are abusive to your girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse?

  • Make a commitment to stop your behaviour. Seek support from your friends and family to keep you accountable and to help you to develop different and healthy ways of expressing your emotions.
  • Accept responsibility for your actions and reach out to Health and Wellness to speak to a counsellor to get support to stop the violence.
  • Many community centers offer a Partner Assault Response (PAR) program (court ordered counselling for men and women found guilty of intimate partner abuse). Look up the PAR provider in your area and speak them about getting help – they will be able to provide you with resources and supports.

What you can do if you are in an abusive relationship:

  • Do not stay silent, your silence will not keep you safe. Tell your friends or your family what is happening for you.
  • Contact the Community Safety Office or the Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre to talk about your situation and what you would like to do next. There are no obligations to contact the police (unless a child is at risk of harm) if you meet with us.
  • Reach out for emotional support through Health and Wellness or community counselling in your area.
  • Use the 24 hour/ 7 days a week, crisis lines for support – The Assaulted Women’s Helpline offers professional counselling in over 200 languages.