- What information do I need when I talk to the police?
- What will the police do?
- Will the police always lay assault charges?
- Can you withdraw the charges after they are laid?
- Will my partner go to jail?
- What are some reasons someone may not want to talk to the police?
- How do I make a complaint against the police?
What information do I need when I talk to the police?
If it is an emergency, call 911 and give them your location.
For ongoing abuse or harassment, keeping a record can be useful. Write down information about incidents after they occur. Include the date and time, what happened, and any witnesses. Take pictures of any bruises or property damage. Keep any emails, Facebook messages and texts. Though your first wish may be to delete them, having evidence of an established pattern may help your case. It can be upsetting to keep these messages. You might want to have a trusted friend check your email or messages so they can warn you when new messages arrive.
You may wish to change your email address or make a new social media profile. You may also wish to change your telephone number or get another cell phone and only give the number to a few trusted people. If you change your email address, get a new social media account, or get a new cell phone, consider having someone you trust check your old accounts for any messages from your abuser.
What will the police do?
The police should respond to and investigate all complaints of assault.
The police may talk to you and your partner separately and get a written statement from each of you. The police will seriously consider arresting your partner if it is likely that he will continue the assault on you or there are other reasons for arrest.
The police officer should tell you what help is available in your community. If he or she should forget to do so, make sure you ask.
The police may lay assault charges. The police may request an emergency protection order. The order will likely request that your partner leave your home and stay away from you.
Will the police always lay assault charges?
No, the police might not always lay assault charges. The police should lay charges where there are reasonable grounds to believe that there has been an assault. If the police do not lay charges and you think that they should, you can speak to the senior officer in charge.
The police can lay charges even if you do not want them to.
If the police do not lay an assault charge, you can lay one. You must go to the court office and ask to see a Justice of the Peace (JP). If you have not already talked to the police, the JP may suggest you do so. The JP must, however, allow you to lay the charges if you want to.
Can you take back the charges after they are laid?
If you laid the charges (rather than the police) you can withdraw the charges by informing the court office where you laid the charges.
If the police have laid a charge, you cannot make them take it back. When the case goes to court you may be required to be a witness by the Crown. If so, you will receive a subpoena telling you where and when to be in court.
If you do not obey the subpoena, the Crown Prosecutor may withdraw the charges; ask the judge to issue a warrant for your arrest; or proceed with the case. The fact that you and your partner have worked out your problem is not by itself enough to have the Crown drop the charges.
Will my partner go to jail if he is found guilty of assaulting me?
Maybe. The type of sentence that your partner might get if he is found guilty will depend upon a few different things including what the criminal charge is and the seriousness of the assault. The sentence may be a fine, a jail term, a discharge, or probation. The judge may choose one or more of these penalties.
For example, the judge may fine your partner and place him on probation. The judge can also make an order that the offender not be allowed to go near you or contact you. This order could also be extended to others, such as your children, if appropriate. The judge may not make a no contact order unless he or she is asked to. It is important for you to tell the Crown Prosecutor about your situation and that you want a no contact order.
What are some reasons someone may not want to talk to the police?
There are many reasons why people do not report relationship violence to the police.
- It can be a very intimidating, stressful, and painful process.
- Relationship abuse can be hard to prove in court and sometimes there is little the police can do.
- People from communities that have historically had difficult relationships with the police such as Aboriginal or LGBTTQ people may worry about the police not taking the abuse seriously or about how the police will treat them.
- People who have uncertain immigration status sometimes may worry that talking to the police may lead to being deported. If you have recently immigrated to Canada and your sponsor is abusing you, you can report them to the police. It is possible to leave and abusive sponsor and still stay in Canada, but you have to apply for Conditional Permanent Residence.
You can watch a video about this subject online: Conditional Permanent Residence: What a Sponsored Spouse Needs to Know.
For more information, see our section for Immigrant Women.
How do I make a complaint against the police?
If you feel the police have done something wrong or inappropriate during an investigation, you can make a complaint.
To make a complaint against a member of the RCMP, contact the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (CRCC). The CRCC is not part of the RCMP. It is a neutral independent organization. Any member of the public can make a complaint against the RCMP. You can make a complaint even if you are not a citizen of Canada. The CRCC also has interpretation services and information available in other languages.
You can find more information at the CRCC website or by calling 1-800-665-6878.
You can find information about how to make a complaint against a Municipal or First Nations police officer on the Alberta Solicitor General website.