Family Violence Part One: What Is It?

Family Violence. Domestic Abuse. Intimate Partner Violence.  Despite the many terms used, the effect is the same: harm caused by someone who ought to have been a safe place.

The three most common types of this abuse are:

(1)          psychological violence, which is abuse targeted at a person’s emotional, mental or financial well-being or intended to impede their personal freedom or sense of safety

(2)          physical violence, involving physical assault or the treat of physical assault

(3)          sexual violence, including both sexual assault and the treat of sexual assault.

The RCMP (2019) defines intimate partner violence as, broadly, harm caused by an intimate partner, which takes many forms but is often the result of an attempt to gain or assert power or control over a partner.

In situations of separation and divorce, here in British Columbia the Family Law Act also defines violence in a broad and inclusive way to capture more than just forceful physical contact.  Non-physical forms of abuse, such as harassment, intimidation and even financial sabotage can qualify where these actions instill fear.  No long term intention to follow through with the act being threatened is required for it to be considered family violence.

Family Violence, in the case of a child, includes direct or indirect exposure to family violence, which recognizes the fact that even witnessing family violence is detrimental to children.

The full definition of “family violence” in the Family Law Act can be read here.  The Divorce Act’s definition is here.

If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, it is important to reach out and seek help.

In extreme circumstances of family violence and power imbalances, the Collaborative Process may not be appropriate.  However, in many circumstances, the professionals involved in the Collaborative Divorce Process can work together to ensure safety for all involved and offer resources not thought of in the adversarial litigation process.

Watch for Part Two which will provide helpful resources to consider.

Written by Joan Spence, RCC (Divorce Coach and Child Specialist) and Rebecca Stanley (Collaborative Lawyer and Mediator)

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