Domestic violence rates expected to spike amid social distancing, advocacy group warns

Click to play video: 'Calgary social agencies brace for increased domestic violence calls during COVID-19 pandemic'
Calgary social agencies brace for increased domestic violence calls during COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: Social service agencies are bracing for an increase in domestic violence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Deb Matejicka outlines the factors behind the expected increase and where families can find help. – Mar 18, 2020

A Calgary group is sounding the alarm about the potential for increased acts of domestic violence as Albertans attempt to practice social distancing and self-quarantine in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Calgary Domestic Violence Collective serves as a voice for agencies that are working to end domestic and sexual violence in Calgary.

On Wednesday, the group warned that self-isolation could be a risk to the safety and security of victims of domestic violence because life at home may pose a danger to them.

“We expect that this pandemic response will lead to increased rates of domestic violence for an extended period of time in Calgary and across Alberta,” the CDVC cautioned.

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According to the CDVC, early reports from China and other countries hit hard by COVID-19 are reporting “dramatic increases” of domestic violence.

“A public health crisis coupled with a crashing stock market and talks of a global recession could all create serious risk factors for families dealing with domestic violence,” the CDVC warned.

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“Through studies, we know that during hard economic times and natural disasters, rates of domestic violence increase.

“When families don’t have proper coping mechanisms or they are already susceptible to violence, large stressors can escalate the abuse.”

The organization said it’s partner agencies are hard at work to ensure they can maintain service for clients experiencing domestic violence.

“Although some programs must be adjusted or closed due to Alberta Health Services regulations, emergency services and other support services will remain accessible during this ever-evolving situation.”

Calgary’s police chief Mark Neufeld  also weighed in on the issue.

“We appreciate that people are cooped up and more important a lot of peoples habits and family habits have been interrupted,” Neufeld said.

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“It is something we will monitor but I have a huge amount of confidence in Calgarians.”

Victims of domestic violence are encouraged to call the Family Violence Information Line, which is still available 24/7, at 403-234-SAFE (7233). The CDVC said the line is prepared for an increased number of calls.

If you are in danger, call 911.

“During this time, it is still important to practice social connection while maintaining social distance,” the CDVC warned.

“We would remind people to reach out to their neighbours, family and friends during this time through the phone, email, text or Facetime to ensure they are OK.

“We are stronger when we focus our efforts together, and together we will work through these challenging times to ensure we protect those that need us the most.

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If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence, call the 24-hour support line at 310-1818.

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