Intimate Partner Violence

If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence, please seek help. You could save a life.  

Emergency: 911

Police non-emergency: 519-570-9777

Women's Crisis Service of Waterloo Region (non-police): 519-742-5894

If you need to leave immediately:

Anselma House (Kitchener – Waterloo)
Crisis: 519-742-5894

Haven House (Cambridge)
Crisis: 519-653-2422

Anyone can report intimate partner violence. If a victim does not want police to be contacted, you can provide them with resources from this site, including the Women’s Crisis Service of Waterloo Region phone number and safety planning information. Sometimes being there for them is all they are able to accept at the time. Reports can be made by a victim, witness, friend, co-worker, family member or anyone else. 

What is intimate partner violence?

Intimate partner violence means any use of physical or sexual force, actual or threatened, in an intimate relationship, including emotional or psychological abuse or harassing behaviour. Both women and men can be victims of intimate partner violence.  

Intimate partner violence crimes are often committed in an environment where there is a pattern of aggressive or controlling behaviour. This violence may include physical assault, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse or threats to harm children, other family members, pets and property. The violence is used to intimidate, humiliate, frighten or make victims feel powerless. 

Intimate partner violence may include a single act of abuse or a number of acts that may appear minor when viewed in isolation but collectively form a pattern that amounts to abuse. Offences include, but are not limited to, homicide, assault, sexual assault, threatening death or bodily harm, forcible confinement, criminal harassment, stalking, abduction, breach of a court order and property-related offences.  


Make Sure You Are Safe

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Knowing ways to protect yourself is essential. If you would like assistance in developing a safety plan, contact Waterloo Regional Police Victim Services Unit or Women's Crisis Services of Waterloo Region.  Please take into account the following suggestions as you plan for your safety and the safety of your children.

Living Together
  • If possible, leave home or call police before any violence starts.
  • If you need to leave your home or workplace, know the best escape routes and practice your emergency exit plans. Teach children the escape routes.
  • Plan where to go if you need to leave. This needs to be a safe place for you and your children in a time of crisis.
  • Keep your purse/wallet nearby in case you need to leave quickly.
  • Keep spare keys for your home and car with you or in a safe place at all times.
  • Keep copies of important documents and money in a safe place.
  • Keep a small bag of clothes packed and hidden.
  • Tell trusted friends, neighbours or relatives about the abuse and create a code word or signal with them to call the police if you need help.
  • Have a code word with your children that will let them know to leave and get help. Let children know whose house they can run to.
  • Let children know where the cordless phone or cell phone is and how to use them.
Living Apart
  • If possible, keep a charged cell phone with you at all times. Any charged cellphone will call 911. Even if you don't have a phone plan or minutes on your pay-as-you-go phone, 911 will still work.
  • Tell a trusted neighbour to call police if they see your spouse near the residence if there are court ordered terms preventing your spouse from being near the house.
  • Ensure your children's school is aware of court orders, restraining orders, custody and access orders, as well as a picture of your partner.
  • Accompany your children to school or the bus stop.
  • If possible, change your daily routines.
  • If possible, change your locks, install an alarm system, add window bars, secure locks on windows and doors and install outdoor lighting.
  • Identify people before answering the door. A wide-angle viewer can be installed in all exterior doors.
At Work
  • Once they are made aware of the potential of intimate partner violence in the workplace, employers are legally required to take every precaution reasonable to protect a worker at risk of physical injury.
  • Make your boss and or co-workers aware of the situation and ask them to call police if they see the abuser in or around your workplace. Ask them not to give out any personal information about you or your routine.
  • Arrange for a co-worker or security to walk you to and from your building to your car.
In a Vehicle
  • If a problem happens when driving, use your cell phone to call police. If you don't have a cell phone, honk the horn continuously to gain attention and drive to a police station or a well-lit, heavily populated area.
  • If you use public transit, try to sit close to the front by the driver. Arrange for someone to meet you at the bus stop and walk you home. Once at home, call a relative or friend and let them know you got home safely.

Our Response to Intimate Partner Violence

 The Investigation
 When you report, we will take a number of steps. 
  • Following the call, a uniformed police officer will come to you to investigate the situation. 
  • If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe an offence has been committed under the Criminal Code or other act, they will lay charges. Otherwise, they will attempt to keep the peace, mediate the situation and offer advice and referrals. 
  • If charges are laid, the abuser will be arrested and charged either at the scene or once located by police. Police will let you know once the abuser has been arrested.  
  • The abuser will be told that it is the police laying the charges and not the victim. 
  • You will be asked to come to the police station to participate in a video interview with a detective from the Intimate Partner Violence Unit. This video may be presented in court as evidence. 
  • The detective will take over the investigation. They will also provide you with support and referrals to agencies that can be of assistance to your specific situation. 
  • The detective will work with prosecutors from the Crown Attorney's office that have specific knowledge and practice around the prosecution of intimate partner violence matters.
  • The abuser will either be kept in custody or released with conditions. A member of the Victim Services Unit or a police officer will inform you of the release conditions.
  • Family and Children Services of Waterloo Region will be notified if children under the age of 16 were present during the incident, or if either involved person has access to, or are in a caregiving role for, children under the age of 16. 
The Intimate Partner Violence Unit

The Intimate Partner Violence Unit of the Waterloo Regional Police Service was the first unit solely dedicated to the investigation of intimate partner violence in Canada and was launched in March 2006. The team specializes in preventing, responding to and investigating incidents of intimate partner violence. The unit also connects victims to important community supports as a partner in the Family Violence Project of Waterloo Region.  

The unit continues to be a hallmark of intimate partner violence investigations providing a wrap-around, victim-centric approach focused on support, safety planning, breaking the cycle and early intervention.

Early Intervention and Prevention Team

  • The Early Intervention and Prevention team identifies intimate partners who are experiencing escalating disputes and intervenes with them before a criminal offence occurs. The team's goal is to increase referrals to existing community supports so that intimate partners can get the help they need. It is intended to prevent or reduce the incidence of intimate partner disputes progressing into criminality.
  • The team also works with Waterloo Regional Police Victim Services Unit in the early intervention peace-bond program. The program allows for certain abusers to be diverted through a peace bond process, as opposed to a criminal trial proceeding. The program has proven successful at reducing reoffending and has allowed families to reunite more quickly than through the traditional court process.
  • The team also monitors abusers who are designated as high risk to commit further intimate partner violence and pose a real, ongoing threat to the victim.

Intimate Partner Violence in Waterloo Region

  • In 2021, the Waterloo Regional Police Service responded to over 6,000 intimate partner violence calls, and 1,856 of these calls led to charges.
  • In 2021, 83 per cent of partners that received intervention by the Early Intervention and Prevention team experienced a positive change
  • Repeat calls, or calls involving the same partners, increased by 20 per cent from 2020 to 2021, which is significant. This reinforces that it is difficult for partners living in the cycle of intimate partner violence to escape.

The Family Violence Project

The Family Violence Project Logo

Carizon Building

The Waterloo Regional Police Service is a founding partner agency of the Family Violence Project of Waterloo Region, which was formed in March of 2006. Many of the partners, including the Intimate Partner Violence Unit, are co-located at the Carizon building at 400 Queen St. South, Kitchener.


Increasing the safety and wellbeing of our diverse community by reducing family violence.


The Family Violence Project exists to provide a community-based response to family violence, with wrap around services in a single location, focusing on support, advocacy, prevention, education and awareness.



Working together in collaboration and partnerships with trust, honesty and respect for each agency’s scope.


Providing barrier free services by demonstrating an understanding of intersectionality and respect for diversity, equity and inclusion.


Putting families at the centre of healing by delivering trauma informed, identity affirming and holistic services.


Progressive and agile delivery of services based on individual, family and community need.


More about The Family Violence Project


  • The goal of the project was to establish a single location where victims of intimate partner violence and their families could receive wrap around services from several key agencies that deal with family violence.
  • The location provides access to victim supports, child welfare and police in the same building on the same floor.
  • The Family Violence Project includes a number of partner agencies such as Carizon, the Crown Attorney’s Office, Legal Aid, Victim Services of Waterloo Region, Victim Witness Assistance Program, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre and Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region – see below for contact information.


Visit The Family Violence Project Website

 Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have other options if the police do not lay charges?

Even if charges are not laid by police, you have several other options.

Peace Bond

A peace bond is a court order that requires the subject to keep the peace, be of good behaviour and obey any other specific conditions.  It is not necessary to prove that a criminal offence has been committed.  If you have been threatened or fear for your safety or the safety of your children, you can explain it to the justice of the peace and apply for a peace bond.  

A court date will be set, the subject will be served with a summons to attend court, and a hearing will take place. The subject will be present at the hearing.  A peace bond is issued if the judge believes that you have reason to fear for your safety. The subject can be bound to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for up to one year.  If the person breaches a condition of the peace bond, they can be arrested and charged criminally. 

Restraining Order

A restraining order is an order of the court that requires the subject to stop annoying or harassing you or your children.  

To obtain a restraining order under the Family Law Act, you should attend the Family Court/Superior Court of Ontario at 85 Frederick Street, Kitchener.  You may need the assistance of a lawyer, but an intake worker and duty counsel will be available to assist you.  The matter will be scheduled for court depending on the urgency and availability of a judge.  Police cannot assist in obtaining this type of order. If the order is breached, report the breach to the police immediately, and charges may be laid. 

Private Complaint

The victim of any crime can make a private complaint.  You may go before a justice of the peace at the courthouse located at 85 Frederick Street, Kitchener, to request that a charge be laid on your behalf.  If police were called about the incident in question, you will be required to provide the police occurrence number to the justice of the peace on duty. 

 Will I have to appear in court?

If the accused pleads not guilty and the case proceeds to trial, victims will receive a subpoena to appear in court. You must attend court. You should notify the intimate partner violence detective immediately if you change your address or telephone number to make communication easier. 

A Crown Attorney will present the case in court. Victims in the criminal process do not need a lawyer, and it does not cost them anything. Victims will likely be required to testify at trial. 

Testifying at trial can be stressful. Resources are available to support victims during the court process.

Will my children have to appear in court?

If children witnessed the incident, it may be necessary to have them testify in court. In these situations, the Child Witness Centre will assist and offer services to child witnesses that include impartial pre-court preparation, advocacy and referrals. Children are given information about how the court works and are supported emotionally throughout their court experience. 

Can police help with child custody disputes?

Often, the police are called to enforce court orders dealing with the custody of children or parents' rights regarding access to the children.  Even though there may be a custody order in place, the law does not give the police the power to intervene and to enforce the order.  If one party refuses to grant access to children, then you need to go back to the court that issued the order.  

The court may then direct the police to find and deliver a child to the person named in the order. Unless an order is obtained containing a clause specifically directing police to enforce terms of the order, the police can only respond to keep the peace and offer advice.  

Non-compliance with an order must be dealt with by the originating court and through the Family Law Act or the Children's Law Reform Act. 

The Dangers of Strangulation

Research shows that between 30 per cent to 70 per cent of females that experience intimate partner violence have been strangled. Strangulation became a separate Criminal Code offence in 2019 and is a growing concern in the region. 135 charges for strangulation were laid in 2021 compared to 103 in 2020. This is a 24 per cent increase in the span of one year.

Injury or death can happen well after a strangulation. If you or someone you know has been strangled, please seek medical assistance as soon as possible. 

 What is strangulation?

Strangulation is a form of asphyxia (lack of oxygen) characterized by the closure of the blood vessels or air passages of the neck as a result of external pressure on the neck.

  • Choking: Obstructing airway or blood flow. For example, putting something in the victim’s mouth such as rolled-up socks or fingers.
  • Suffocating: Depriving of air or blood flow. For example, putting a pillow over the victim’s mouth and nose.
  • Strangling: Closing or restricting airway or blood flow could be by squeezing the victim’s neck with one or both hands or using a cord-like object.
 Strangulation is life threatening

Research shows that abusers who strangle victims may be “test driving” a homicide. Brain death due to lack of blood flow can occur in 1 to 2 minutes and brain death due to lack of air flow can occur in 4 minutes or less. Even if death does not occur a variety of internal injuries may occur even without external marks or injuries being visible. Swelling tissue in the neck can block the airway, limiting or completely stopping air flow. Internal bleeding due to damage to the carotid and jugular arteries may occur. The larynx or trachea may be fractured. Stroke, lung damage or brain injury may occur.

Again, if you or someone you know has been strangled, please seek medical assistance immediately.

Media Releases


Intimate Partner Violence Break the Cycle Pamphlet

The Waterloo Regional Police Service Intimate Partner Violence pamphlet covers such important topics as:

  • The type of behaviours that constitute intimate partner violence
  • How the investigation and court process are carried out if charges are laid
  • A complainant’s options if police do not lay charges
  • Ideas on how a complainant can enhance their personal safety
  • Some of the supportive resources that exist in the community 









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Psychology Today: 51 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

In this article, we look at the warning signs of a toxic relationship. While many relationships may display one or two of these, toxic relationships will often feature multiple alarm bells. 

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Region of Waterloo: What is a healthy relationship?

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The Duluth Model: The Equality Wheel

The Equality Wheel describes the qualities involved in healthy relationships. The Equality Wheel shows the changes needed for people who batter to move from being abusive to non-violent partnership. It is best used with the Duluth Power and Control Wheel.

Explore the Model

The Duluth Model: The Power and Control Wheel

The Power and Control Wheel is a tool that helps explain the different ways an abusive partner can use power and control to manipulate a relationship. Social workers can use it to help a victim recognize any of the warning signs in their own relationship.

Explore the Model

Contact Information

Waterloo Regional Police Service Intimate Partner Violence Unit
Carizon Family and Community Services Building
400 Queen Street South, Kitchener

 The Family Violence Project Partners

Family Violence Project
A collaborative of agencies that provides wrap-around, seamless service to victims of domestic violence – all from a single location.
Carizon Family and Community Services


Carizon Family and Community Services
Carizon specializes in children’s mental health, youth engagement and development, family violence services, individual and family counselling, parental support and education, credit counselling, workplace resilience, settlement support and community wellness.


Women's Crisis Services of Waterloo Region
Empowers and supports women and children to move beyond violence by providing safe shelter, education and outreach services. Offers a free, confidential outreach program for women who are experiencing domestic violence but do not require emergency shelter.

Kitchener (Anselma House) - 519-742-5894
Cambridge (Haven House) - 519-653-2289


Victim Services of Waterloo Region
Provides immediate crisis intervention, emotional support and referrals to individual affected by crime and tragic circumstances.


Victim/Witness Assistance Program (VWAP)
Provides information and assistance to victims and witnesses of crime during criminal court process.


Waterloo Region Sexual Assault / Intimate Partner Violence Treatment Centre
A 24/7 on-call team of nurses and social workers who respond to needs of individual who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence.

Other Community Resources

Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington


Child Witness Centre of Waterloo Region

Community Justice Initiatives

Community Mental Health Clinic - Cambridge Memorial Hospital


Crown Attorney's Office
Responsible for all stages of a prosecution.


Family & Children Services of Waterloo Region
519-576-0540 (Kitchener/ Waterloo)
519-623-6970 (Cambridge)


Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries


Legal Aid Ontario
Provide people with legal advice or representation.


The Healing of the Seven Generations - Counselling and Support


John Howard Society Waterloo-Wellington - Partner Assault Response Program
519-743-6071 (Kitchener)

519-622-0815 (Cambridge)

K-W Counselling


K-W Multicultural Centre


Mary's Place Residence (YWCA)


Region of Waterloo Social Services


University of Waterloo Counselling Services
519-888-4567 x2655


Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network


Wilmot Family Resource Centre


Woolwich Community Services


Woolwich Counselling Centre


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