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Coronavirus self-isolation could lead to increased domestic violence: N.S. agencies

Concerns for victims of domestic abuse during self-isolation
WATCH: Groups and services that work with victims of domestic violence are warning that self-isolation could leave more people at risk. Alicia Draus reports.

With COVID-19 cases increasing daily across the country, the message from health officials and politicians is constant – stay at home. While the message may seem simple, to people living in difficult relationships, it can be much more complicated.

READ MORE: As demand grows, Shelter Movers needs more volunteers to help women fleeing abuse

“That assumes that everyone has a home, or a stable home, or a safe home,” said Cheryl MacIssac, program director at Adsum for Women and Children.

“Even those who do have a home, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe.”

According to Statistics Canada, in 2016 just over a quarter of all violent crimes in the country resulted from family violence, and 67 percent of family violence victims were women or girls.

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READ MORE: Child sexual abuse expected to rise amid COVID-19 pandemic, experts say

With more families being told to self-isolate and stay at home there are concerns there could be an increase in domestic abuse.

Make time to take care of your mental health during COVID-19 pandemic
Make time to take care of your mental health during COVID-19 pandemic

“Circumstances like this create prime conditions for increased violence or abuse, so any sort of change in routine, increased tension, stress, financial pressures in being laid off,” said Thunder Shanti Narooz van Egteren with the YWCA’s Trafficking and Exploitation Service System partnership.

“When there are times of increased stress and anxiety overall that’s when we see increased rates of violence”

Shiva Nourpanah with the Transition Houses Association of Nova Scotia says transition houses across the province have already been noticing a spike in calls over the past few weeks.

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“From people who are panicked who are frightened they may be stuck in situations they can’t get out of,” said Nourpanah.

Narooz van Egteren recognizes self-isolation can provide unique challenges. She says the most dangerous time is often when a person decides to leave a violent or abusive situation.

READ MORE: Domestic violence shelters in Saskatchewan deemed essential during COVID-19 pandemic

“So even having a lack of privacy can create a situation where a person may not feel comfortable or safely be able to reach out for assistance. People are in essence hunkering down, or maybe trying to just deal with the situation until there is more ability to leave the house.”

But the message being given to women in need is that resources are available, Nourpanah said.

“If you are in a situation there is help for you out there and you do not have to remain stuck in it.”

In Halifax, Adsum for Women and Children has it’s shelter still open. Bryony House is still running as a transition house and both places have a crisis line that connects people with support 24/7.

Coronavirus outbreak: Nova Scotia declares state of emergency, fines possible for violations
Coronavirus outbreak: Nova Scotia declares state of emergency, fines possible for violations

While the different organizations have had to adapt to follow regulations set out by health officials, including social distancing, they are still finding ways to get women the help they need.

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At Adsum there are no more communal activities, including communal eating, and residents are physically distancing in their rooms as much as possible.

MacIssac admits it’s challenging, but they’re making it work.

What is physical distancing?
What is physical distancing?

Narooz van Egteren says they’ve shut down services at the YWCA but are still providing support by phone, email and text, and she says people are encouraged to reach out if they need help.

“I think it’s really important to note, services are still available, they may look a bit different, and we can’t assist people or support them unless we know there is a situation,” she said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, click here to find resources

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.