As the novel coronavirus COVID-19 spreads throughout Canada, millions of Canadians have been told to stay at home to reduce its spread. There is one side effect of this lockdown on movement, and that is domestic violence.
Women and children living in abusive households now have nowhere to go and must spend most of their day with their abusers.
Domestic violence organizations across Toronto and the rest of Canada are looking at a worrying increase in calls that shelters have been receiving over the past several weeks.
Some domestic violence organizations are voicing concerns that fewer women are calling them because the pandemic has created invisible barriers to accessing services.
A woman in Canada is killed by her partner every six days, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. And that is under normal circumstances where women can leave the household for daily duties.
Shelters across other cities have seen an increase in calls received.
The main driving factor behind this surge in domestic violence calls is that women and children are now confined to the same homes where their abusers live, putting them at increased risk of daily violence.
With limited opportunities to escape and fears of the pandemic, women will now have to endure their abusers even more.
For many people, the safest place to stay right now would be their home, but for women and abusive in abusive households, their homes are not safe spaces.
Some of these domestic violence organizations have had to respond to calls where the partners of women are threatening to kill them.
With the pandemic bringing uncertainties such as deadly disease and financial problems into the mix, abusers are now more prone to lash out at their victims.
Some organizations are renting hotel rooms to shelter at-risk women and children, but this has been a costly measure.
Organizations are keeping up with the increased calls due to this right now, but in the future, they might have to turn away women and children who ask for their help. This will be one of the great tragedies caused by the pandemic.
Shelter systems, even before the pandemic, are usually operating at their maximum capacity. Women and children have already been turned away by many shelters because of limited space. And with current circumstances, this might become the norm.
Make no mistake, the virus will have serious implications when it comes to gender-based violence.
And this problem isn’t limited to just Canada either. Countries in Europe have reported increased gender-based violence owing to lockdown measures as well. In Spain, a soon-to-graduate doctor was killed by her partner in a similar case.
Stay-at-home advisories are affecting women in abusive relationships heavily, as resources are limited and they’re stuck at home with their abuser 24/7.
Police forces across the GTA have also reported an increase in domestic violence calls, in addition to sexual assault calls.
Shelter workers are adamant that the situation is far worse than the police or government realizes.
Reason being, that most abuse victims won’t call the police due to fear of their abusers.
Canadian federal and provincial governments have recognized this issue and have committed $200 million to help shelters across the country.
Very recently, there was an announcement of an emergency payment of $2.7 million to support victims of domestic violence and other crimes by the state of Ontario.
This is a good development, but shelters say they have not yet seen any of these funds.
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