People participate in the annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop a rising tide of reports of domestic violence, experts say, warning that the stress of life in lockdown continues to put victims at risk. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

People participate in the annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop a rising tide of reports of domestic violence, experts say, warning that the stress of life in lockdown continues to put victims at risk. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Reports of domestic, intimate partner violence continue to rise during pandemic

Call volumes spiked almost immediately when swaths of Canada first locked down

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop a rising tide of reports of domestic violence, experts say, warning that the stress of life in lockdown continues to put victims at risk.

Canada’s Assaulted Women’s Helpline fielded 20,334 calls between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, compared to 12,352 over the same period the previous year, said Yvonne Harding, manager of resource development at the organization.

“It’s very disturbing to know that there are so many women who are in this really precarious situation,” she said. “There may have been limited support for them beforehand, but at least they had outlets.”

Harding said opportunities to leave the house to get help — such as daily trips to and from school — have in many cases been eliminated during the pandemic.

Access to friends and family has also been cut off, she said, leaving victims with fewer options.

Call volumes spiked almost immediately when swaths of Canada first locked down, Harding said.

Between April 1 and Sept. 30, the centre received 51,299 calls, compared to 24,010 in the same time in 2019.

“Everything closed overnight, and our crisis lines lit up,” she said.

“We saw a range of calls. We saw those who were feeling immediately threatened because their situation had escalated, and we saw those for whom fears were kicking in, because things were starting to change and they were used to being able to access community supports in person that were no longer available to them.”

The Assaulted Women’s Helpline has had to expand services, she said, and has received government funding to do so.

Police, too, are seeing a spike in domestic-related calls, albeit not as pronounced.

Data from 17 police forces across the country show that calls related to domestic disturbances — which could involve anything from a verbal quarrel to reports of violence” — rose by nearly 12 per cent between March and June of 2020 compared to the same four months in 2019, according to a Statistics Canada analysis.

It also showed reports of assaults by family members dropped by 4.3 per cent and reports of sexual assaults by family dropped 17.7 per cent.

The Ontario Provincial Police did not provide data about domestic incidents, but Sgt. Julie Randall — who specializes in cases of domestic and intimate partner violence — said the force has seen a small uptick in calls.

Randall is part of a co-ordinating network of police services dealing with domestic violence, and she said other forces in the province are reporting similar increases.

“Intimate partner violence and mental health are often closely connected, and from what’s been reported worldwide, the pandemic has had a profound effect on people’s mental health,” she said.

But Randall noted the pandemic can’t necessarily bear the entire blame for the spike, adding there may be another reason that calls to helplines far outpace calls to police.

“Statistics tell us that domestic violence goes on long before someone actually picks up the phone to call the police,” Randall said. “So anecdotally, I can say that often our calls are lower than what’s actually happening in the community.”

READ MORE: Marchers gather for annual B.C. event to honour missing, murdered women

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusdomestic violence

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fort St. James municipal office. (Aman Parhar/Caledonia Courier)
Fort St. James officials challenge Telus on internet speeds

Telus denies inaccurate internet data, residents urged to self-test and report

(Fort St. James fire department photo/Facebook)
Fort St. James fire department celebrating 66 years

The department hopes to have a community-based celebration at 70

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Local Canfor workers among those taking government-sponsored early retirement.  (Black Press file photo)
Local workers take up government retirement offer

Program to buffer forest industry closures

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read