Why is COVID-19 causing an increase in domestic violence?
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, a woman is killed by their partner in Canada, every six days. This risk is much higher when there is a crisis situation happening, such as a pandemic.Read more.
This is generally due to added social and financial pressures. Add to that, the strains on existing community resources, such as shelters and food banks; your loved one needs to know you are there for them, now more than ever before.
The Federal Government has committed $30 million to shelters across Canada, but community organizations were strained well before COVID-19 entered our province. Between an economic downturn and Snowmageddon 2020, organizations are still in the process of bouncing back from that. As individuals, we need to step up and not only help our community organizations; we must also talk openly with our loved ones about this topic, so we can empower them to put themselves into a safer, healthier living situation.
“We’ve seen indications across the country that calls to domestic violence, generally, are up, but there are pockets in Canada where there has been no difference or a market decrease in calls. Shelters are very concerned about that, as complications arise due to isolating or quarantining with [an] abusive partner, and victims are not able to privately access a phone or computer to contact a crisis centre.”Kaitlin Geiger-Bardswich,
Communications and Development Manager at Women’s Shelters Canada
What does domestic violence look like during COVID-19?
Real stories abuse survivors have told crisis lines, during COVID-19
In one instance, an immunocompromised man sought help from a crisis line after his emotionally abusive girlfriend hid cleaning supplies and sanitizer from him.Read more.
- A husband threatened to kick their wife onto the street if she coughed or showed signs of sickness.
- Someone reported being strangled by their partner, but they were afraid to seek medical attention or go to the hospital due to the virus.
- One person stated that their abuser was using COVID-19 as a scare tactic to keep her away from their children.
- One woman reported that she had to fake a coffee run to get a private moment to reach out to her therapist for support, because she couldn’t get a moment alone. During the five minute phone call with her therapist, her husband phoned her cell phone.
- A woman mentioned that her abusive ex was let out of jail due to COVID-19 and fear of overcrowding/spread of the virus. She is frightened because he knows where she lives, and knows she’s likely going to be home because of the virus.
Please note that these stories came from crisis lines outside of the province.
Besides the standard forms of domestic violence, abusers take advantage of situations like COVID-19 in several ways:Read more.
- Heightening the fear of COVID-19 by sharing misinformation, to increase anxiety about leaving the house.
- If your loved one is older or immunocompromised, they may have a heart or respiratory issue that does make leaving their home far more dangerous than it would for the average person.
- Spending every moment with your loved one so they don’t have private time to reach out for support.
- Withholding protective materials so they can’t go out safely.
- Withholding technology or keeping tabs on their Internet usage so they have limited access to news, information websites like this one, social networks, and communication with their loved ones.
- Not relaying messages from their loved ones and making them feel as those they’re not missed/unloved.
- If the abusive partner has financial control or is the only driver/vehicle-owner in the household, your loved one may be living without crucial self-care items.
- The abuser uses social distancing as a way to justify their abusive isolation tactics.
- Threaten to kick your loved one out of their home if they show signs of sickness.
- Places like work and school were sanctuaries for your loved one; a crucial part of their mental health and wellbeing. The abuser capitalizes on the fact that these places are closed.
- Abusers take advantage of travel and visiting restrictions, knowing this can affect potential safety plans your loved one has in place. Your loved one can no longer go to a friend’s house or get to a public place as easily as they could, pre-pandemic.
- The social and economic pressures add more stress, fear, and hostility to an already-angry individual, meaning the abuser is easier to irritate, or the abuser will become more severe due to the mounting stress.
- An abuser may actually attempt to stop abusing during that time period, to add weight to the argument that they’re better off without their loved ones in the long run, and it was them who caused the problems.
Now that you’ve read about how COVID-19 contributes to increasing domestic violence, are you concerned that you may notice some of these signs in somebody who lives close by, or in a friend’s relationship?
If you think a loved one may be getting abused and you are unsure of how to proceed, click here to learn more about supporting somebody who you think may be getting abused.
If this information has sparked you to take action, click here to learn how you can help your community fight against rising domestic abuse rates in Newfoundland and Labrador during COVID-19.