Reports of domestic violence rise in Peterborough amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Part three of a four-part series on the impact COVID-19 is having on the community examines a rise in reports of domestic violence. – Nov 18, 2020

Incidents of domestic violence in Peterborough are on the rise, according to support services.

“It’s unprecedented,” said Lisa Clarke, executive director at Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre. “We have been hearing reports from survivors like never before.”

Clarke said the frequency of calls is similar to what they saw during the “Me Too” movement.

“When the ‘Me Too’ movement hit in 2017 and 2018, we received 938 crisis contacts. In the six months since the pandemic, we have already received 930 crisis contacts,” she said.

Typically, the organization would see about 400 clients per year, but in the past six months, it has already assisted more than 300 people. Clarke said the range of incidents is increasing.

“We are grateful for how quickly the government and funders have been able to respond to the kinds of intimate partner violence, family violence, child sexual abuse and sexual assault that is happening right now at alarming rates,” Clarke said.

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Read more: Domestic disturbance calls jump amid coronavirus, as many advocates feared

She said time spent at home, isolation and added stress are all contributing factors.

“Our minds feel like there is a threat at all times and for families that are already feeling stressors that fear and that trauma compounds and compounds,” Clarke said.

“Sometimes a reaction to that fear is anger and violence. There is a spectrum of how we respond to this and that does increase family violence and domestic violence in the home.”

Jim Russell, the CEO of United Way of Peterborough & District, said they are committed to addressing the need as part of its three-year, $5-million, “Unignorable” campaign.

“People are isolated. They are unable to connect, and home, which is supposed to be safe, isn’t,” Russell said. “It is an uncomfortable thing to talk about and to think about but we have to be able to do that and to deal with it directly.

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

Clarke said Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre is using funding from the United Way of Peterborough & District to hire additional staff to meet the growing demand for service.

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It has also introduced a 24-7 crisis text line at 705-710-5234.

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