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Advocates report steep increase in domestic violence calls during pandemic

Summary

Battered Women’s Support Services has experienced 300 per cent increase in domestic violence calls since pandemic start

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — While staying home may effectively reduce the spread of COVID-19, it’s not the safest option for people experiencing domestic violence.

Angela Marie Macdougall is with the Battered Women’s Support Services and says in March the organization began to see a surge of calls to the crisis line.

“At the peak of 400 per cent, now we’re steady at a 300 per cent increase,” she says.

But the shocking numbers are caused by several factors.

“Social distancing requirements have given more power to the abusive partner,” Macdougall says.

“It’s not necessarily an increase in domestic violence because it’s already a pandemic. What coronavirus has done with social distancing mandates; it’s created more isolation for victims living with abusers. We want to let women know where the support is and how to access that support,” she adds.

On the International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women, BWSS released a video showing a behind-the-scenes look at domestic violence.

“It’s a PSA of what happens when a victim calls our lines, it’s a journey for victims who are reaching out for services,” Macdougall explains.


And with a steep increase in calls, BWSS is pleading for more funding.

“It’s the telephone phone calls, but it’s all the work that comes after those phone calls, providing housing, transportation, supports. The work starts with the crisis line and extends beyond it, we are looking for increased funding, we’re exhausted.”

Vancouver’s Wish Drop-In Centre – which supports women who work in street-based sex trade also noticed a similar uptick in reports of violence during the pandemic.

“As soon as the pandemic hit, street-based sex workers lost income, and we also saw an increase of violence against women both domestically and in other circumstances,” Executive Director Mebrat Beyene says.

If you need support, the BWSS is reminding the community its crisis line is available 24/7.