Family Violence FAQ's


Can I work while I stay at the shelter?


Can my children attend school while they stay at the shelter?

Yes. If there is a local shelter in your community, your children would be able to continue in the same school. If you are staying at a shelter that is not in your home community, a worker will help you and your children find a new school so that your children can continue with their schooling.

Can my children stay with me at the shelter?

Yes, your children can stay at the shelter. Family violence impacts women as well as their children. There is one exception however, if your male child is 16 or older, he is unable to stay at the shelter. However, shelter workers will brainstorm other options for him. Most shelters in the NWT have special programming that works with children who have been witnesses to violence.

Can my kids stay in my room with me?

Absolutely! When you call the shelter and request to stay, a worker will ask you if you have any children and how many. If there is room at the shelter for you and your children, the worker will ensure that the room is big enough so that everyone can stay together. Cribs are available for small infants as are high chairs. However, male children aged 16 years or over are not permitted to stay at the shelter.

Can my pet stay at the shelter?

Unfortunately, pets are unable to stay at the shelter. However, shelter workers are willing to work with you to discuss options that might be available such as bringing your pet to the humane society, or having your pet stay at a trusted friend’s house. While you may be concerned about the safety of your pet, the most important thing to remember is your own safety and the safety of your children.

Do I have to attend the available programs?

The important thing to remember about coming to a shelter is you are able to make you own choices and decisions. During the intake process, a worker will explain what programs are available to you. It is up to you to decide whether or not you want to attend any of them.

Does abuse affect my children?

Your children are probably more aware of the abuse than you think. Everyone is impacted by family violence. Our communities, workplaces, schools and children are all affected. Research has shown that boys witnessing violence often become more hostile and aggressive while girls become depressed, anxious and may experience physical pain.

How do I get a room at the shelter?

Each shelter has a crisis line or business line that women can contact. A counselor will talk to you and assess your situation and your needs. If you require a room at the shelter, the counselor will work with you to determine the best way for you to get to the shelter.

How do you know if you are being abused in a relationship?

Does your partner:

  • Ignore your feelings and wishes?
  • Call you names, put you down and/or tease and ridicule you about things that are important to you?
  • Not keep secrets?
  • Ignore or pretend not to hear you?
  • Act more friendly when you are alone than when his/her friends are around?
  • Keep you away from your friends or put them down?
  • Control where you go and what you do?
  • Threaten to take your children?
  • Sulk when you don't do what she/he wants?
  • Threaten suicide?
  • Encourage or pressure you to do things that make you feel uncomfortable?
  • Blame you or his/her behaviour and other things?
  • Show anger and use threats/violence to get her/his way?
  • Slap, push, punch, choke, kick, or burn you, pull your hair, threaten you with a weapon, and/or throw things at you?
  • Force you to drink alcohol, take drugs, eat or drink things that you don't want?
  • Put you down, but then pretend he/she was joking?
  • Force you to have sex when you don't want to or engage in sexual activities that you do not wish to do?
  • Accuse you of fooling around with other men or women?
  • Break or threaten to break, throw out, or give away your things without asking?
  • Try to control the way you look or dress?
  • Threaten to hurt or kill your pets?

If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, you may be being abused by someone who claims to love you.

How do you know if your relationship is positive/healthy?

Do you and your partner...

  • Listen to each other?
  • Consider each other's feelings and ideas?
  • Enjoy spending time with each other?
  • Remember little things that are important to each other?
  • Let the other be first sometimes?
  • Value and take care of yourselves?
  • Respect each other's culture?
  • Trust each other?
  • Both have a say when decisions are being made?
  • Encourage each other to spend time with others?

If you said 'yes' to all of these questions, there is a good chance that your relationship is healthy. If you said 'sometimes' to these questions, there might be some areas of your relationship that are unhealthy.

How long can I stay at the shelter?

Although this varies from shelter to shelter, the average length of stay is 6 weeks. Some women only stay for a few days, some women stay for the entire 6 weeks. The length of stay depends on a woman’s needs and the choices she decides to make.

Is childcare available for my children while I attend my appointments?

In most shelters, childcare is available to you at the shelter so that you can attend your appointments. Each shelter may have slightly different times or ways in which they provide childcare. Once you are at the shelter a counselor will sit down with you and explain the childcare services available and the times and how you sign up.

What are the different kinds of abuse?

There are various forms of abuse that an individual may experience, including, physical, sexual, psychological/emotional, financial and neglect.

Physical Abuse:
Physical abuse includes any physical act intended to control, harm, injure or inflict physical pain on another person. Physical abuse may consist of just one incident or it may happen repeatedly. Behaviors can range from spitting on someone to committing murder.

Sexual Abuse:
Sexual abuse and exploitation includes all forms of sexual assault, sexual harassment or sexual exploitation. Forcing someone to participate in unwanted, unsafe or degrading sexual activity, or using ridicule or other tactics to try to denigrate, control or limit an individual’s freedoms and choices all constitutes sexual abuse.

Psychological/Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that affects the mind rather than the body. It may systematically wear away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, and trust in their own preconceptions and self-concept. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to ever be pleased. The abuse can be carried out overtly through berating and belittling or intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance”, “teaching”, or “advice”. Regardless of the specific form that this abuse can take, the negative effects on the victim’s sense of self are undeniable.

Financial Abuse:
Financial abuse involves forcing the victim to be financially dependent on the abuser by cutting off their access and control of money and financial information.

Neglect includes failing to (intentionally or unintentionally) care for or meet the needs of people who are dependent and cannot meet their own needs.

What are the effects of abuse on the abuser?

Effects of abuse on abusers can include:

  • alienating friends and family;
  • losing respect of peers;
  • being alone;
  • expulsion from school;
  • losing a job; and
  • having a criminal record.

What are the effects of abuse on victims?

Effects of abuse on victims can include:

  • depression and suicidal thoughts;
  • eating disorders and unsafe weight loss;
  • drug and alcohol abuse;
  • medical problems;
  • emotional and psychological trauma;
  • inability to succeed in school or at work; and
  • post-traumatic stress disorder.

What happens when I leave the shelter?

Before you leave, shelter workers make sure you have a safety plan. A safety plan helps you prepare for and protect yourself from ongoing, future violence. Social services, shelter workers, and other community groups offer as much ongoing help and support as they can.

What if I don’t want to stay at the shelter, but I need someone to talk to. Can I still call the shelter?

Yes. Each shelter in the NWT has a crisis line you can call that is available 24/7. Even if you are not in a crisis or do not want to come to the shelter, but need someone to talk to about your situation, or have a question or would like to gather information about the shelter, you can still call. Shelter staff are available to help women who are in crisis, require support or information. Leaving an abusive situation is difficult and can be filled with feelings of fear. Many women call and talk to a counselor several times before they decide to come into the shelter. Some women continue to call the shelter to receive support and never come to the shelter to stay. Shelters are available to work with women to discuss their options.

What if need to go to a shelter?

Call first if you can. If it's an emergency, go to the shelter or go to the RCMP. When you go to a shelter take things such as clothes, favourite toys for your kids if you have them and ID and other legal or banking papers you need.

Your community might not have a shelter or the shelter might be full. If this happens, go to a social worker. They can help you find a safe place to go.

What if the shelter is full?

If your local shelter is full, a counselor will work with you to find a room for you at another shelter that might not be full or work with you to find another safe place for you and your children to stay.

What is a safety plan?

A safety plan is a plan that helps you to reduce the risks that you and your children face. If you are abused, you probably know more about safety planning than you think. You have already learned how to protect yourself and your children by knowing what to say and do and what not to say and do. You probably do it all the time, but it would be wise to have a formal plan that you can update as your situation changes.

What is a shelter?

A shelter is a safe place for people who experience family violence. There are five shelters available to women and children in the NWT.

When you stay at a shelter, you get emergency housing, food, information and support for up to 6 weeks, or longer. You don't pay to stay at a shelter. The GNWT funds our shelters through local Health and Social Services Authorities and community groups operate them.

What should I bring with me to the shelter?

The most important thing when fleeing a violent relationship is your safety and the safety of your children. If you have time to pack some of your personal belongings prior to coming to a shelter try to bring the following things with you:

  • Jewelry
  • Divorce/separation papers
  • Lease/rental agreement, deed, mortgage
  • Insurance papers
  • Address Book
  • Identification of myself
  • Protection Order papers/documents
  • Social Insurance Cards
  • School and vaccination records
  • Checkbook, bankcards
  • Keys – house/car/office
  • Medications
  • Children’s birth certificates
  • My birth certificate
  • Immigration papers
  • Money
  • Credit cards
  • Driver’s license and ownership
  • Passport
  • Medical Records for all family members
  • Bank Books
  • Children’s favorite toys and/or blankets
  • Items of sentimental value
  • Pictures/photos

What's it like to live at a shelter?

Everyone shares in life at the shelter - you, shelter workers, and other people who stay there to escape from family violence. You cook and clean up, and do your own laundry. You help keep the shelter clean and comfortable.

You will probably have a room for yourself and your children. You might share a room with another woman if the shelter's full or there's an emergency. The smallest NWT shelter can take 4 people and the biggest can take 12.

If you have a job and it's safe for you to work, you can go to work if you wish.

Many shelters organize a time everyday to get together to talk and learn about family violence. Shelters often work with other community groups. Together they can help you with things such as income support, victim services, legal aid, housing, support groups, or counselling. Some shelters have programs for children as well, but mothers are responsible for the care of their children while staying in the shelter.

Where are the shelters located in the NWT?

There are 5 shelters within the NWT. They are located in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith, Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.

Who arranges for my transportation if my community doesn’t have a shelter?

Each Health and Social Services Authority has family violence funding that covers the transportation costs for women and children who wish to go to a shelter, when there is no shelter in their community. To access the transportation fund, the woman will need to speak with her community social worker, who will be able to arrange for safe transportation for the woman and children to a shelter.

Who pays for my stay at the shelter?

Shelters within the NWT receive funding from the government. They also fundraise within their communities to cover costs. You and your children do not need to pay for any of the costs associated with your stay at a shelter.

Who works at the shelter?

Women trained in the area of family violence work in each shelter. Counselors come from many walks of life and have varying levels of education. Each counselor however, works at the shelter because she wants to help women and children who are experiencing violence in their lives.

Why do abusers abuse?

Abuse is a choice, and abusers know what they want. Abusers may lack control over their own life and therefore attempt to control a partner to make themselves feel better. Anger and violence may seem like a normal way to express frustration if the abuser was once a victim.

Why do victims stay?

Victims may stay for the following reasons:

  • Love - deep feelings for the abuser, and believing the relationship isn't entirely bad.
  • Hope - thinking things might change and get better.
  • Promises - abusers promise the behaviour will never happen again.
  • Guilt - abusers may blame the victim as though it is the victim's fault.
  • Low self-esteem - a victim may feel that he/she can do no better.
  • Fear - worrying that threats will become a reality.

Why don't teens ask for help?

Along with fear, worry, low self-esteem and all the other factors that prevent people who are being abused from reaching out, teens face other barriers:

Peer Pressure:if other friends are dating, they may feel that being abused is better than being alone.
Lack of Control:teens are trying to gain independence in their lives. If they ask for help, they may fear that parents/adults may take over and make decisions for them.
Poor Information:teens often get much of their information from other teens. They often do not have the information they need to make the decision to leave the relationship.
Lack of Resources:many services cannot help those who are under 18; many adults do not know how to help.

Will I be safe at a shelter?

Many things help keep people safe in a shelter. Shelter workers are there 24 hours a day. Most shelters have cameras on the doors. The doors are locked all the time.

People can't get in unless a shelter worker lets them in. Men aren't allowed where the women and children stay. The RCMP respond quickly if there's trouble at a shelter.