What happens next? Information for kids about separation and divorce

Chapter Five: What happens if there is violence?

Tommy’s family finds shelter

Tommy and his two younger sisters

Twelve-year-old Tommy always looked out for his two younger sisters. Being the older brother made him feel very proud. If they were okay, then he was okay too.

Sometimes, when Tommy’s dad drank too much alcohol, he would get mean and say horrible things to Tommy, his sisters and his mom. He would also punch walls and break things in their house.

When his dad arrived home one night, Tommy knew he was drunk. His mom told him to take his sisters to the neighbour’s house. On his way out, Tommy could hear his dad yelling. Julie, the youngest one, began to cry and Amy was sniffling.

After about an hour, Tommy took the girls home and tucked them into bed. He sat with them until they slept. Then his dad started yelling again — really loud — and Tommy got scared that his dad would hurt his mom. So, he slipped outside and called "911" from the neighbour’s house. His dad was gone when the police arrived. They took Tommy, his mom and his sisters to a shelter where they could be safe until his mom decided what to do. Tommy knew that things might be difficult for a while, but he was happy that he wouldn’t have to worry about his mother’s safety.

Sadly, Tommy isn't the only kid who lives in a home where abuse — hitting, punching, lots of yelling and other bad things — happen.

Abuse is wrong!

What does that mean? Some kinds of abuse, like beating someone up, or threatening to beat up or kill someone, are against the law. Doing something physical to harm you or someone you know is physical abuse. Most forms of physical abuse are considered an assault, which is a crime in Canada.

Sexual abuse is also against the law. Child sexual abuse is when an adult, teenager or older child does something to a young person for a sexual purpose, like touching their private parts. If someone in your family or anyone else harms you or does something sexual to you, tell an adult you trust.

Emotional abuse is saying or doing hurtful things that make a person feel sad, angry, scared, helpless, or alone. Saying mean things, swearing at you, threatening to wreck your stuff or hurt your pet, and yelling at you all the time are examples of emotional abuse.

Get help. You have a right to be safe and it’s ok to want to get help.

Ask someone for help — it could be someone in your family, a teacher, a service like Kids Help Phone or anyone else you trust. If the police come to your house, try talking to them.

The police will make sure no one is hurt. They may take one or both of your parents away to cool down.

If someone is hurt, the parent who has been violent or abusive may be charged with committing a crime. In some cases, they might end up going to jail or to a place that can help change their behaviour.

It's confusing when you have mixed feelings — like feeling scared of someone and not liking what they do, but still caring about them. Try to find someone to talk to about how you feel and who can help you work out and understand your feelings.

Some kids are hurt by their parents or by the people their parents choose to be around. Adults make bad choices sometimes. It's not your fault.. But when abuse takes place in families, it affects everyone. Abuse is wrong.

How can the law help?

A judge may make a court order to keep a parent who has been violent or abusive away from the rest of your family. This means they might have to stay away from your home or your other parent's work place, at least for a while. These orders are legal documents, put into place to protect you and your family.

Your school and after-school program may be out of bounds too. The staff will be told about the court order. If it would make you feel safer, you can ask the staff if they know about the order.

The idea is to protect you and your family by making sure that there are people who will take care of you and help you.

Can you still see a parent who has been abusive and violent?

That’s a tough question, and it depends on the situation. If you've been spending time with a parent and want to continue seeing them, you will probably be able to. But it may take some time for visits to be arranged if your parent has been charged with committing a crime or if your other parent is worried about your safety or their safety.

If a judge decides it is not safe for you to visit, you may not be able to see this parent for a while. This is done for your protection.

Will you have to see a parent who has been violent if you are afraid?

First, if you are afraid, be sure to tell someone you trust – like your other parent, another adult in your family or a teacher. If you are afraid of spending time with a parent but miss them and still want to see them, you may be able to have someone else with you when you visit that parent. This is called supervised parenting time.

Parenting time can also take place somewhere in your community where you feel safe – like a park or a museum – or at a supervised parenting time centre, which is a safe place where a staff member stays with you during your visits.

If you can't handle visits with that parent, speak to someone you trust. Tell them how you feel.

If you have to go to court

If a parent hurts you or you know that a parent hurt someone else in the family, you may have to go to tell a judge what happened. If so, you will meet with someone who will explain what will happen when you talk to the judge and will give you support.


  • If you or someone in your family is in immediate danger or needs help right away, call "911".
  • You can ask someone to call "911" for you.
  • As soon as you can, write down what happened or draw a picture of it. Speak as openly as you can about what has happened.
  • Ask for help and support. You are not alone.

What did one potato chip say to the other?

Answer: Shall we go for a dip?