The Partner Assault Response (PAR) program plays a vital role in addressing domestic assault charges. It helps to promote healthier relationships by getting at the root causes of domestic violence. PAR is an educational program that serves as an intervention for people who have been charged with domestic assault in Ontario. By completing the court-mandated program, individuals may even have their charges dropped.

close-up of group therapy session
Dozens of community-based agencies offer PAR in Ontario. Several are in the Greater Toronto Area. PAR strives to create safer communities and support survivors of domestic violence. A domestic assault lawyer can explain how PAR may be appropriate in your case.

Partner Assault Response Program Basics

The Partner Assault Response (PAR) program aims to hold those accused of domestic assault accountable for their behaviour. The results of the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA) can influence whether someone is eligible for PAR. The courts may only recommend the program if they believe the accused is willing to change their behaviour.

Based on the Duluth Model, PAR consists of group counselling and educational sessions. In these sessions, participants learn life management skills to temper their emotions. This helps to prevent recidivism and improve victim safety. Homework assignments allow them to reflect on their behaviour. They learn how to foster healthier relationships with their partners.

Generally, the program includes 12 weekly sessions of about one hour each. Some agencies offer an expedited version that only takes seven weeks. PAR is available in several languages. Participants must pay a fee to attend PAR. They may be able to negotiate the fee based on income. Once they are done, enrollees receive a certificate to show the court.

Topics Covered in the PAR Program

Over the course of the 12-week program, PAR participants can expect to discuss several issues. These address underlying factors of domestic assault. They provide healthier ways to resolve conflict. Topics in the program may include:

  • Identifying context and triggers that can lead to domestic assault
  • Developing skills to create healthier relationships
  • Discussing the multi-causal model of domestic violence
  • Gaining awareness of internal cues of anger, both psychological and physiological
  • Exploring issues of power and control in relationships
  • Look at the impact of gender roles
  • Learning effective ways to manage and defuse anger
  • Recognizing intimidation and other threatening behaviour
  • Studying the effects of emotional abuse
  • Exercising mindfulness and learning to let go
  • Gaining more effective negotiation, communication, and conflict-resolution skills
  • Managing stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Examining the effects of partner assault, both long-term and short-term
  • Gaining accountability and taking responsibility for their actions

The PAR Program and Domestic Assault Charges

Many domestic assault cases in Ontario lead to PAR enrollment. In some cases, successful program completion can lead to the dismissal of charges. The accused may admit to wrongdoing, but they will not have a criminal record. It is best to discuss the possibility of PAR with an experienced domestic assault lawyer.

Registering in PAR is one way to show remorse and a willingness to change. The courts may take this into account when deciding on visitation rights, for example. Enrolling in PAR may also be ordered by a judge as one of the conditions of probation.  In many domestic assault,  cases the crown will agree to a joint submission for a conditional discharge on the condition that one of the  accused’s terms of probation will be to complete the PAR pgogram. This is often a great result as it avoids a criminal record and minimizes the negative effects on the accused’s life. The probation officer can direct the person to an agency offering PAR in their area.

PAR requires attendees to actively engage in the process. If facilitators do not feel someone is participating in a meaningful way, they may not “pass” them. This is the same as failing the program. In this case, the court will withdraw any plea deals. The accused goes back on the hook for the original charge and may face more penalties because they have shown an unwillingness to learn from their actions and change their behaviour.  If completion of the PAR program is ordered as a term of probation and the accused’s fail to complete the program, they could also be charged with breach of probation.

Is the PAR Program an Option for You?

If you are involved in a case of domestic violence, it’s vital to reach out to an experienced domestic assault lawyer as soon as possible. The legal process is complex, and it is very difficult to defend yourself. Even if you admit that you’ve done something wrong, a skilled lawyer can help to reduce the penalties. One option is the Partner Assault Response (PAR) program.

Your defence lawyer can help you understand your rights and explain your options. They can suggest PAR to the court and help you avoid a permanent criminal record.

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