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Decline in domestic violence calls during COVID-19 a sad situation, Moncton agency warns

Gina Collette, the centre's emergency response coordinator, says it can be more challenging for victims to seek help during COVID-19 because they can be isolated with their abusers.
Gina Collette, the centre's emergency response coordinator, says it can be more challenging for victims to seek help during COVID-19 because they can be isolated with their abusers. Callum Smith / Global News

Domestic and intimate partner violence concerns have been warned about by advocate agencies and experts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public health officials across the country have asked people to stay inside as much as possible to help reduce the spread of the virus, but for some, that means staying home in a potentially dangerous situation.

“I wouldn’t say that COVID-19 causes domestic violence; I would caution against that kind of language,” says Mary Ann Campbell, the director of criminal justice studies at the University of New Brunswick.

“It’s creating increased pressure for [violence] to occur and greater opportunity for it to occur, but it’s not likely to cause the behaviour — that stems from a lot of other things.”

READ MORE: Hillsborough, N.B. homicide suspect previously assaulted victim: court documents

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The weekend homicide that occurred in Hillsborough, N.B. involved a 49-year-old man killing a 43-year-old woman. Police said the accused and the victim lived together, but wouldn’t elaborate on their relationship.

The victim’s sister, however, tells Global News the couple were in a relationship for two years. She warns anyone in a potentially dangerous situation to seek help if possible.

“It doesn’t have to be family… Reach out to somebody that you don`t know and ask for help and get it,” says Laura Tingley, the sister of Tina Tingley-McAleer.

“Get away from the situation before something happens to you like it did my sister.”

Crossroads for Women, a Moncton-based organization that provides supports and transitional housing and apartments to women and children escaping domestic violence among other services, says the pandemic is making it more challenging for victims to reach out.

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

Gina Collette, the centre’s emergency response coordinator, says to the probable surprise of many, they’ve actually seen a decline in calls in March and April but warns that isn’t good news.

“[Victims] are in the house stuck with their abuser, so they’re having more trouble asking for help,” she tells Global News. “We predict, definitely, a big increase when [COVID-19 restrictions are] all done, of women that will come forward and ask for help.”
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“Right now, unfortunately, it can be too late for some women and it can end up with, sadly, a death,” she says. “It is a sad situation.”

As much as possible, she says it’s important to reach out to loved ones on a daily basis to check in.

“It’s important to ask yes or no questions,” she says, “and to actually ask them ‘are you safe, do you feel safe, are you a victim of violence?'”

And for victims, she says it’s still important they aren’t afraid to try to call their crisis line (1-844-853-0811) and an intervener will try to get you out of the situation. But if it’s an emergency, to call 911.

READ MORE: Child abuse reporting down in Alberta amid COVID-19 and agencies warn that’s not a good thing

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Meanwhile, Campbell, who is a clinical and forensic psychologist, says it’s important that you pay attention to any warning signs shown by people you know and love.

“Essentially, we would see things like increased jealousy, controlling behaviour, that can include monitoring or limiting the victim or children living in the homes’ access to other people.”

She says that could also extend to controlling texting, phone calls, internet and social media use and limiting financial use.