COVID-19 and Domestic Violence: Rising Cases
The past two years have been filled with strife as all attention has turned towards the COVID-19 pandemic. As things slowly return to normal with more and more of the population becoming vaccinated, another pandemic has been silently occurring, one which very few are aware of: domestic violence and abuse, specifically towards the female population.
Domestic violence is abuse which occurs in personal relationships1. It can occur between partners, past or present. There are no criteria as to who a victim of domestic violence can be. It is a plague which affects all genders and sexual orientations, all ethnicities, all ages, and people of all economic backgrounds; however, it is reported that two-thirds of domestic violence victims in Canada are women.
This is not a new issue. Domestic violence has always been an issue in dire need of resolve. However, the increased tensions, poverty, and hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as increased time spent at home have created a dangerous situation in which domestic violence has greatly increased2. This has been demonstrated by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA) in which their 2021 mid-year report showed a disturbing increase in the number of women and girls killed, 92 specifically, 79 cases of which were at the hands of men3. This staggering number was only for the months of January to June of this year. Indigenous women, representing 12% of the femicide cases in this year’s report are regrettably over-represented in this issue, as they only make up 5% of the Canadian population2,3.
It is evident that cases have increased with the COVID-19 pandemic as there were only 118 incidences of femicide in 20194. These rises are attributed due to several factors; however, it is a systematic and cyclic cycle of economic hardship that is the main contributor3,5,6. The loss of jobs with the pandemic could cause many women to move in with their violent and abusive partners due to economic hardship3,5,6. This is particularly dire as these victims often are unable to reach out for help due to strict controls and monitoring of their phone and computer usage as well as how often they can leave their homes3,5,6.
This is amplified in rural communities where yet another barrier of mobility and access. Often, leaving such situations is the most crucial and dangerous time for these women, such that staying in an abusive relationship is the safer and more feasible option3.6.
There are many organizations in place to assist these women, however, they are also struggling due to the pandemic. It has become more difficult to shelter women while still maintaining their safety and protecting them from COVID-19. Moreover, donations to these organizations and shelters have declined, making it even harder to support women seeking help.
The Community Women’s Initiative (CWI) recognizes these hardships and is running an item drive on August 29, 2021, to help alleviate some of the pressures of the pandemic and collect items such as clothes and toiletries for these organizations.
If you or anyone you know needs help, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number if in immediate danger from assault or abuse. To speak to someone confidentially and to get more information, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 (or 7-1-1 for the deaf and hard of hearing) or contact one of the services below7:
· Helpline for Children If a child anywhere in B.C. needs help, call the Helpline at 310-1234 any time of the day or night to speak to a social worker, no area code is needed. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call 1-866-660-0505 for TTY services. This is a toll-free service, and there is no charge to call the operator if you need to call from a pay phone. This helpline is available for children, parents, and other community members to report abuse. For more information, visit Reporting Child Abuse in BC.
· Kids Help Phone Children and teens can call the Kids Help Phone to speak to a counsellor day or night at 1-800-668-6868. Counsellors are available to speak to anonymously about concerns with abuse and can help children and teens call the police or child protective services. For more information about the resources and support available visit Kids Help Phone.
· VictimLink BC If you or someone you know are a victim of crime and need more information or support, call VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808 for toll-free, confidential, multilingual service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information, visit VictimLink BC.
· Seniors Abuse & Information Line If you are an older adult who has been abused or mistreated call the Seniors Abuse & Information Line (SAIL) at 604-437-1940 or toll free at 1-866-437-1940, 7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., to get a referral to their legal advocate and other programs. For more information about their programs and resources visit Seniors First BC.
1. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). Understanding intimate partner violence: Fact sheet. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/IPV_factsheet-a.pdf.
6. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (2015). Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2013 (Catalogue No. 85-002-X). Statistics Canada. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2014001/article/14114-eng.pdf. Accessed July 21, 2015.