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After a woman finds the courage to leave her abuser, life doesn’t suddenly become easier or safer, especially when there are children involved. It’s just the opposite.

While she is doing all she can to break free from the relationship, her abuser is doing all he can to regain control and punish her for leaving.  He may threaten her life, threaten to abduct or harm her children, withhold financial support and more.

It is during this dangerous time that she must enter the complex legal system and make important decisions about the future.  If left to legally fend for herself without resources or representation, she will most likely struggle through family court only to emerge with orders that can seriously affect the health and well-being of her and her children for many years to come.

Over the past 14 years, thousands of women have told us they feel safer, better informed and better able to present their case with specialized family law support from Luke’s Place.

Michelle’s Story*

What hurt me the most was the look of sheer terror on my daughter’s little face when she saw him hit me for the first time. I’ll never forget how real that made it and I knew we had to leave to keep her safe. Looking back, I guess I thought I deserved most of what he did to me, but I knew she didn’t.

He kept calling, texting, showing up everywhere I went. He was really angry and I knew what happened when he was angry. He told me he would take my daughter and I would never see her again. I was afraid.

Luke’s Place staff helped me understand my rights. I learned that I wasn’t the only one. The workshops helped too. I learned a lot about what to expect at court and what I needed to do, and the other women and I shared our experiences with one another.

My worker did a safety plan with me and we updated it every time there was a change in my case. I felt safer. She was so kind even when I couldn’t think straight.

The Luke’s Place lawyer showed me how to tell my story to the court. She made me feel like it was something important, not something to be hidden.

It’s been a really challenging time, but I got a court decision that helps keep my daughter and me safe. I’m starting to move on, thanks to Luke’s Place.

*This is not her real name.

Why Luke’s Place matters

sad, pensive womanA woman in Canada is killed every 4 days by a family member, most often her partner or former partner.

Family court is not an easy or safe process for women leaving an abusive partner. Increasing numbers of women find themselves in family court with little or no legal representation and their situation becomes even more dire. They are expected to figure out what lawyers and judges spend years studying and practicing.

For most, it’s like trying to speak a new language with no chance to learn it first. They must do this while recovering from the trauma of abuse and, because the violence usually continues during the separation process, often in fear for their lives and the lives of their children.

Separation violence plays an enormous role in a woman’s capacity to function effectively in family court. Significant evidence exists to demonstrate the risk of abuse and lethality heightens with separation as the woman defies the control of her abuser.

woman holding empty swingThis heightened risk has serious implications for women, particularly those who share children with their abusers. At the most dangerous juncture in their relationship, women enter the legal system to make decisions about their children. Current custody laws, emphasizing gender equity, private dispute resolution and the “best interests of the child” standard, not only fail to protect women but also provide men with a forum for ongoing abuse.

Luke’s Place changes and saves lives. Women report they feel safer, better informed and better able to present their case effectively and/or work effectively with their lawyer.

While the factors leading to a good outcome go far beyond those in the woman’s control, we have seen better outcomes and, importantly, final outcomes in shorter amounts of time, for women who are supported by our services.

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