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Intimate partner violence, conjugal violence... what are we talking about ?
Conjugal violence refers to situations where an intimate partner uses different kinds of violent behaviours to establish power and control over the partner's life and choices. It can occur in any type of intimate relationship (married, common law, boyfriend/girfriend, friends-with-benefits, etc.), regardless of sexual orientation or age.
Violent behaviours aim to coerce the other person into something. They can be non-physical (swearing, screaming, insulting, putting down, guilt tripping, belittling, humiliating, prohibiting, obligating, ridiculing, blaming, threatening the person, isolating from family or friends, destroying objects, etc.) or they can be physical (hitting, pushing, pinching, restraining, spitting, hitting with an object, sexually assaulting, etc.). In addition, violence may be directed against children, loved ones and pets (lying or manipulating children or loved ones, harming a pet out of vengeance). Violence can also be economic (criticizing financial management, incurring debts in the victim's name, stealing money, manipulating financial information, limiting access to financial resources, preventing the victim from working or studying, etc.) or spiritual (ridiculing the victim's spiritual beliefs, forcing or preventing the victim from practising her religion, using religion as a pretext to justify violence, attacking the victim's deepest values and aspirations, etc.). The use of the judicial system against the victim is also often present (filing a false criminal complaint or reporting the victim to youth protection services, lying to lawyers and judges, maintaining post-separation control over the victim through multiple legal actions in Superior Court, etc.).
Some forms of intimate partner violence are criminal (all forms of physical violence, sexual assaults, death threats or threats of physical harm, confinement, harassment, attempted murder, murder), but many of the daily forms of violence committed within a couple are not criminal despite their destructive impact.
Power and control.
In the context of conjugal violence, these violent behaviors all have the same goal : establishing and maintaining power and control over the other person. The person using violence wants to make his wants and needs the focus of the relationship and of the family. In practice, the abuser accords himself the right to constrain his partner in order to impose his will on her. Examples of this include imposing his opinion on a topic, obliging his partner to do or not do something, preventing her from going out, controlling her money, or simply insisting on having the last word in an argument. Essentially, the abuser wants to eliminate his victim's right to self-determination. She no longer has the right to make her own choices.
What services does SOS violence conjugale provide?
SOS violence conjugale is a community-based not-for-profit organization with the mission of helping to ensure the safety and recovery of victims of intimate partner violence throughout Québec, by providing free, bilingual, anonymous and confidential phone support and referrals. Anyone can reach us 24/7, whether they are in a crisis situation or simply need information, support or shelter.
Telephone services : 1-800-353-9010 or 514-873-9010 (available 24/7).
Email services :[email protected] (response within 48 hours).
How many requests does SOS receive every year?
SOS violence conjugale receives between 25,000 and 30,000 requests per year. In the last two years we have seen a sharp increase in calls. Nearly 80% of calls are from women who are experiencing a situation of intimate partner violence, but we also receive calls from loved ones, police, doctors, therapists or other workers who are concerned about a victim of conjugal violence or her children. We also get calls from men, who either want to change their violent behaviour or are victims themselves.
What happens during a call to SOS?
First, it is important to know that no matter when you call SOS violence conjugale you will never get an answering machine. All calls are answered immediately by a female worker.
Callers will be warmly received and the worker will immediately make sure that the caller is safe. If the caller is not safe, the worker offers different strategies to minimize the danger. The worker will not make any decisions for the caller ; her role is to offer possibilities and support the caller in her decisions.
If the caller is safe at the moment, our worker will assess her current needs. Victims of intimate partner violence may have multiple needs such as shelter, information, to express themselves, be supported in taking action, legal, material or food assistance, support in dealing with their children, etc. Once the need has been identified, our worker will search for the appropriate resource and then transfer the caller directly to that resource (shelter, external services, women's centre, etc.). With SOS violence conjugale, victims of intimate partner violence have access to a wide variety of resources by dialing just one number. They can call SOS as often as needed, whether it's during the relationship, at the moment of separation, and even many years later.
What are the needs of those who call SOS and what resources are available to help them?
First, victims of intimate partner violence often call us when they are confused about what is happening in their relationship and are in need of support in validating their perception of the situation and in assessing the issues at stake, in order to make informed decisions concerning the relationship. They also often call when they feel unsafe and need access to a safe space in a shelter, to ensure their safety and that of their children. They may also need medical care for injuries or stress-related health problems, help to manage the consequences of violence on their psychological well-being and that of their children, or support to reconstruct their social support network. Victims may also need accompaniment through legal procedures, help in finding housing, childcare, a job, access to foodbanks, etc.
Many resources are available to answer those needs. Conjugal violence shelters throughout Quebec provide a safe place for victims to live with their children, as well as specialized individual or group support for residents and non-residents. Second-stage shelters provides housing to victims who are still in danger well after separating from a violent partner. CAVACs (victims assistance centres) provide information and support for victims of crime. The police can also help ensure the safety of victims. Women's centres defend women's rights, provide counselling and support and reduce women's isolation. CLSCs provide services in the areas of physical and psychological health. IVAC provides compensation for crime victims and access to various resources to ensure their safety and recovery.
Numerous resources, in various categories, are available throughout Québec. SOS violence conjugale serves as a gateway to all services to simplify the conjugal violence referral process.
Can I call SOS even if I'm not sure that I am experiencing violence?
Of course! When you call SOS you will have a chance to talk with someone who will help you see more clearly into your situation. You don't have to be certain that what's going is in fact, violence. Regardless of the situation that is causing concern with your partner, SOS is there to help you connect with the resources that can assist and support you in figuring it out.
I want to call SOS but I don't want to monopolize a crisis line and prevent someone who really needs it from reaching you...
SOS violence conjugale is not ONE line, it's MANY lines. Many callers can contact SOS violence conjugale simultaneously without preventing anyone from contacting us. Feel free to call us if you need to.
If you prefer, you can start by emailing us at [email protected].
I don't want to break up with my partner...what can you do for me?
LWe are very familiar with the experiences of victims of conjugal violence and know that the decision to leave or stay with a violent partner is not an easy one. It involves numerous issues, including safety, and it's a decision that can only be made by the person directly involved in the situation. Therefore, we never exert pressure of any kind, whether to leave or to stay in a relationship.
A victim who does not want to leave a violent partner can still obtain assistance and support of various kinds. For instance, even if she does not want to go to a shelter, she can have receive services on an eternal basis and gain access to a safe-space where she can discuss her situation, be understood, rebuild her self-esteem and self-confidence and regain a sense of her own strength. This will improve her quality of life even though she is still living in the violent situation. She can also join a support group, get assistance in her role as a parent, receive material and food assistance, etc.
Therefore, it is completely appropriate for a conjugal violence victim who has decided to stay with her partner to contact SOS violence conjugale for support.
Are SOS violence conjugale's services for victims only?
No. SOS violence conjugale provides support, information and referrals to anyone concerned about the issue of conjugal violence. It serves victims as well as their children, loved ones, workers who are supporting victims and individuals who want to stop using violence in their intimate relationship.
Can a man or LGBTQ person call SOS for assistance?
Of course. SOS violence conjugale's services are provided to anyone who is concerned about a situation of domestic violence, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, age, ethnic background, etc.
Can a violent individual call for assistance?
Of course. There are various resources across Quebec whose mission is to support and assist individuals who have used violence but want to change their behaviour. SOS violence conjugale can provide them with access to all these resources. If you realize that you have committed violence in an intimate relationship, call us to obtain help for yourself and your family. By embarking on this process, you will be able to build more trust with your loved ones and develop egalitarian and harmonious intimate relationships.
Are services available in different languages?
Our helpline services are provided in French and English at all times. Deaf Francophones and Anglophones can also reach us 24/7 through Bell's relay service. In addition, many SOS workers provide services in other languages, including Spanish, Arabic and Italian. These services are available when the workers are on duty. In many situations, SOS workers can also put callers in contact with a shelter worker who speaks their language.
Email services are available in most languages. When necessary we can call on a team of translators to translate our response into the caller's language. Additional wait times are to be expected in such circumstances.
How can I reach you if I'm outside Quebec?
Our services are available throughout Quebec, as well as to Quebeckers who are outside Quebec who are seeking help or just want to speak with someone in Quebec.
The 1-800 line is exclusively available for calls made in Quebec.
If you are elsewhere in Canada or abroad, you can call us collect at 514-873-9010 or email us at [email protected].
Do calls to SOS appear on phone bills?
514-873-9010 is a local number for greater Montreal. If you call from a landline like a residential phone it should not appear on the phone bill because it is a local number. However, if you call this number from another region and it is a long-distance call, it will show up on your telephone bill. Also, if you're calling from a line where minutes are billed as is the case for most cell phones, this number will appear on your bill like all your other calls.
1-800-363-9010 is a toll-free number for the whole of Quebec. If you call from a landline like a residential phone, it should not appear on the phone bill because it is a toll-free call. If you're calling from a line where minutes are billed, which is the case for most cell phones, this number might appear on your bill with all your other calls.
If you're worried that your call to SOS violence conjugale could be traced from your phone bill, you can call our toll-free number (1-800-363-9010) free of charge from a public telephone.
Who are the workers at SOS? Can I join your team?
The workers at SOS violence conjugale have various kinds of training related to social studies and community work (social work, psychology, sociology, etc.) and are specialized in supporting victims of violence and post-traumatic stress. SOS violence conjugale is fortunate in having an extremely stable team. Many of them have been with us for over 10 years, and some, for over 25 years. In addition to their extensive training and experience, SOS Violence conjugale workers are women who are very concerned about the issues and the difficulties facing victims of conjugal violence and are committed to helping every caller. Every situation is unique and every call is important to us.
If you want to join our team, are completely (or almost) bilingual and live in the Montreal area, feel free to send us your resume at [email protected].
How can I become involved in fighting intimate partner violence and helping SOS?
There are many ways to get involved and support our mission!
You can share information about our services by circulating SOS' promotional materials in your organization, workplace, union, etc. by downloading our order form.
You can donate to SOS or ask your friends to mark your birthday with a donation via the PayPal Giving fund.
Can I volunteer at SOS?
SOS violence conjugale does not currently accept volunteers to work on the helpline. This work involves too many potential dangers and is thus performed only by remunerated workers who receive continuing training. You can still call us and we'll be happy to put you in touch with a resource that is looking for volunteers!
How can I find out more about the issue of intimate partner violence?
SOS violence conjugale regularly publishes info sheets entitled SOS-INFO. Each one presents information on a topic related to domestic violence.
The SOS-INFOs are currently being translated into english. They will be available on this page as soon as they are available.