Domestic violence calls in Vancouver jump significantly amid pandemic

VANCOUVER — Domestic violence calls to the 24-hour crisis lines of the Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver have increased by up to 300 percent since March.

Battered Women’s Support Services said the COVID-19 quarantine has made it worse for those already experiencing abuse in their home even before the pandemic: so they have added more lines that these women can call 24-7.

“We scaled it up to 24 hrs and then calls were coming in and then we were increasing, from 50% to 100% to 250 % to 300%,” said Angela Marie McDougall, executive director of the BWSS.

McDougall explained that abuse can be verbal, emotional, and financial — and there is always fear that it can lead to physical violence.

“They’re often calling regarding emotional abuse and power and control, the use of power and control, using isolation, name-calling, criticizing, intimidation, coercion, threats and under all of those power and control dynamics is overlayed with the threat of physical violence.

The Migrant Workers Centre said it also received calls from women who don’t have permanent status in Canada, asking for help against their abusive partners.

“What we’ve heard back from these individuals who contacted us is that it’s very difficult to access a shelter during these times of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a shortage of shelters and there is a long waitlist,” said Natalie Drolet, exec. director.

But even if spots were available in transition homes, McDougall said these women fear that living conditions in these home will expose them to the COVID-19 virus.

“Anything that anybody does is impacted by COVID 19. Like for instance, one woman was thinking about leaving her abusive partner. But she didn’t want to go to a transition house because she didn’t want to be, in the, you know, living environment.”

Opposition federal lawmaker Don Davies is alarmed at the increase in incidents of domestic violence, and believes stronger government support is needed at this time.

“It also reveals the deep need we have in this country for better mental health support across the board, and also for stronger financial support for people. Because when people are stressed financially and worried about their health, and worried about their futures, then that’s bad for everybody.”

McDougall said when women are able to call for help, the BWSS can assess if there is potential for lethal violence against them.

To date, nine women have been killed by their abusive partners in Canada since March.

Vulnerable women can call the BWSS crisis lines that are listed on their website.

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