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Calls to Vancouver domestic-violence crisis line spike 300% amid COVID-19 pandemic

Crisis call increase to B.C. domestic violence support groups
While most of us are finding ways to come together as families in the safety of our homes, home isn't a safe place for everyone. Rumina Daya reports.

Calls to a Vancouver-based crisis phone line for women experiencing domestic violence have been way up during the COVID-19 crisis.

Vancouver’s Battered Women’s Support Services says their staff have seen a 300-per-cent increase in calls over the last three weeks.

Protecting domestic violence victims during the pandemic
Protecting domestic violence victims during the pandemic

The agency, which handles approximately 18,000 calls a year from women experiencing gender-based violence, says isolation because of COVID-19 is making it harder for women who are trying to leave unsafe situations.

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

Forty per cent of callers are reaching out for the first time, says Angela Marie MacDougall, the advocacy group’s executive director.

They are hearing from worried relatives, co-workers, neighbours, and even children as young as 12 years old.

Concerns for domestic violence victims in self-isolation
Concerns for domestic violence victims in self-isolation

“We’re getting calls from children and youth who have witnessed their mother’s abuse for their lifetime,” MacDougall said.

READ MORE: He tried to kill her twice. Now, she helps him rehabilitate domestic abusers

“Now they’re under this social isolation scenario and they’re checking in about what options they have, what can they do right now to engage their mother and engage their siblings in terms of their safety.”

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Transition houses are facing immense pressure, she added, and she is grateful for a Vancouver hotel that has provided a floor of rooms for women and children who have nowhere else to go.

Concerns for victims of domestic abuse during self-isolation
Concerns for victims of domestic abuse during self-isolation

Vancouver police say they have not seen a spike in their domestic violence statistics, but they are closely monitoring any increase in domestic violence and child abuse that may be occurring amid quarantines and self-isolation.

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In a financial aid package approved by Parliament last week, the federal government committed some $200 million to help shelters for homeless people and women and children fleeing domestic violence.

— With files from The Canadian Press