During this global health pandemic, we are regularly told that the safest place to be is at home. For many women and children however, nothing could be further from the truth. Since the onset of COVID-19, the rates of domestic violence in Canada have tripled. The calls to stay at home and for social distancing is leaving victims with little choice, but to remain trapped with their abuser 24/7. Many of those who’ve been coping with domestic violence in their lives through the support of friends and family have been left with limited or no access to stabilizing supports and resources and with little or no means of escape. There are many ways the COVID-19 pandemic can uniquely impact intimate partner violence survivors: • Abusive partners may withhold necessary items such as hand sanitizer, disinfectants, or even food and medication. • Abusive partners may share misinformation about the pandemic to control or frighten survivors, or to prevent them from seeking medical attention. • Programs that serve victims may be impacted, as shelters may be full or have stopped intakes altogether. • Survivors who are older or have chronic conditions may be at increased risk in the type of public places where they would typically get support, like shelters, counselling centres, or courthouses. • It may not be safe for them to use public transportation or to fly, impacting their ability to safely escape. • An abusive partner may feel more justified and escalate their isolation tactics. Things have become even more challenging during this pandemic for those who are co-parenting, and the situation has only been compounded by the recent closure of the Family Courts. Our clients have shared concerns over their partners adhering to different guidelines around social isolation and virus prevention, this leading to further challenges. Abusers may even use this time to further perpetrate coercive control. Communities and community organizations play an important role in preventing and addressing domestic violence within times of public health epidemics. Communities, especially in times of great social upheaval have important roles in preventing, identifying, responding and recovering from the physical, psychological, social and economic impacts of epidemics. Ways to support friends/family that may be isolated with an abuser during the COVID-19 Crisis:
• Give them a call to check in on them. Texts might not always be safe. Do not leave VMs unless they tell you it is safe. • If it’s safe, offer to keep texting to check in on them. Have designated check in times. • Connect them with community recourses who are offering tangible supports such as money, food or other essentials. • If they are in immediate danger call 911 • To report a crime: 403-266-1234 • For domestic abuse support: 403-234-7233 • For children and teenagers: 1-800-668-6868 • For Seniors experience abuse: 403-705-3250. • Family Violence Information Line: 310-1818 Available 24/7 in over 170 languages. • Assaulted Women Helpline: 1-866-868-0511 • Create a safety plan with them including who they can contact for immediate support if they need to leave. What items they need to take with them, and where they can go • Increased screen time such as movies, tv shows, non-violent video games can act as a distraction. CFN Vulnerable Population Services understands there are individuals who are now in isolation with partners using violence. CFN ensures their safety with follow up calls, emails and assistance in creating new and unique safety plans. Safety planning is now revisited with clients on a more frequent and more regular basis, based on community and governmental declarations and changes.
For more information on CFN's Vulnerbale Population Services and to book an appointment, contact Shamaila Akram at s.akram@centrefornewcomers..ca or 403.537.8806