It is a basic human right to be free of abuse and from fear of abuse in relationships. These are the rights of everyone, including the most vulnerable in our society - women, children, seniors, and people with disabilities.
Unfortunately, even though Canada has strict laws in place which guarantee everybody's safety and dignity, family violence remains a serious problem in this country's society, especially violence against women.
Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, verbal or financial.
Corporal Punishment Law in Canada
Corporal punishment, i.e. the use of physical force to inflict pain on a person to punish or discipline, is illegal in Canada.
There is one exception - parents are not banned from 'moderately' and 'reasonably' spanking their children, but there are restrictions. The person spanking a child must be a parent or a legal guardian. Teachers, babysitters, caretakers, as well as non-parental relatives (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.), are forbidden by law to use any kind of physical force, including spanking, to discipline children. When used by a parent, the force must be 'by way of correction' (reasoned use of force in order to address the actual behaviour of the child, expressing symbolic disapproval of his or her actions), the child must be capable to benefit from the correction (2 to 12 years of age), and spanking must not result in any bodily harm. Slaps or hits in the head are forbidden. Use of any implement other than a bare hand is banned, and 'bare-bottom' spanking is illegal too.
It is always the best to try to resolve conflicts with your children without using any kind of corporal punishment. If you have difficulties with keeping your children in good behaviour, ask somebody for help -- there are many organizations helping parents and children on the Island. [See Related Resources]
Victims of Abuse
Any family member can be a victim of abuse.
- Women -- Statistics say that half of Canadian women and girls (51%) have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. Women are the most likely victims of family or relationship violence.
- Children -- In Canada, you are required by law to properly care for your children. Police, doctors, teachers, and social services officials will act if children are being abused or neglected. Abuse and neglect are severe crimes, so children who are being abused or neglected can be taken away from their parents. Many children who witness abuse against their mothers, are also victims of abuse.
- Seniors -- Even though senior or elder abuse is also against the law, it is surprisingly common. It often includes neglect and humiliation.
- People with disabilities -- Whether a person has an intellectual challenge, mental illness, or physical disability, they also have the right to be free from abuse. Unfortunately, because of their circumstances, people with disabilities tend to be more vulnerable to abuse.
- Men -- Although men are the least likely to fall victim to abuse, violence against men can happen. It is important to know that they are not alone and that the perpetrators of the abuse should recognize that violence in any form is both morally and legally wrong.
Organizations in PEI that can Help
There are several organizations in PEI that work to prevent family violence, help the victims and educate the community about the issues of family and relationship abuse.
PEI Victim Services
Victim Services provide free, confidential assistance to all victims of crime in PEI, including victims of family violence. Workers can provide information about the status of a case, the court process and the justice system. They can provide short-term counselling, help to prepare for court or to submit a victim impact statement, information to help recover financial losses, and referrals for other support services. In cases of violence, Victim Services will help assess the risk, make a safety plan, and obtain an Emergency Protection Order if needed. A person can access Victim Services whether the police has been involved or not.
PEI Family Violence Prevention Services
The PEI Family Violence Prevention Services offer:
- Outreach Services -- These are confidential support services for abused women that are available in various locations across PEI.
- Anderson House -- This is the provincial emergency shelter for women and children who are in need of safety because of violence in their lives. Anderson House services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Second Stage Housing -- This housing offers safe and supportive accommodation for women and children leaving an abusive situation, after they stay at Anderson House. Second Stage Housing provides an opportunity to think about and plan for a future without fear.
- Support and Information Phone Line -- There is a 24 hour toll free crisis and support line. All calls are confidential.
- Support Groups -- These groups offer women education, support, and an opportunity to share experiences. Groups are available across the province through Outreach Services.
- Public Education -- There are education and training programs about the dynamics of violence in families for community groups, businesses and educational institutions.
Outreach Services include providing support and information, advocacy and accompaniment (when appropriate) with agencies and organizations, assistance in arranging emergency shelter for women and their children, education and training about family violence, and second stage housing.
PEI Rape and Sexual Assault Centre
The PEI Rape and Sexual Assault Centre provides services to adult and teen survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault across PEI. Their services include short and long term counselling, public education, and an information and support telephone line. All services are free and confidential.
SAGE is a Prince Edward Island grassroots volunteer organization whose mandate is to educate and empower community to prevent child sexual abuse.
Turning Point Program
The Turning Point Program provides counselling to men who want to stop controlling and abusive behaviour towards their female partners. The program helps men take responsibility for their own emotions and behaviours. The program also focuses upon the development of skills related to problem solving and communication, allowing men to deal with anger and other emotions in a constructive way.