Nelson’s transition house is preparing for a surge in calls even though it has seen a drop in numbers of women and children needing to escape domestic violence.
Anna Maskerine, program manager of the Aimee Beaulieu Transition House, said Friday the decrease has corresponded with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in March.
But Maskerine expects that to change.
“We’re trying to brace for impact, quite honestly,” she said. “It feels like another calm before the storm.”
The transition house is an eight-bed shelter that has operated since 1995. It is also usually full — an annual report on homelessness released last year showed 74 women and 33 children used the house in 2018-19.
A further 139 women and 30 children meanwhile were turned away because of lack of space.
Maskerine, who has worked at the transition house since it opened, said she thinks the reason for a downturn in calls may have to do with a lack of safe space in the home.
Self-isolation, and a loss of employment, means partners are with each other at all times.
“I believe that has the greatest impact where women maybe aren’t able to safely make a call if they are home isolating with the abusive person,” said Maskerine.
“If you are hunkered down with that person how do you find a space to make that call and reach out when they are there all the time?”
Even though the number of calls has dropped, Maskerine noted the women who are still reaching out are doing so with more needs than they may have had prior to the lockdown.
“The abuse is more compounded I think because it’s taken women longer to reach out, so the stories are harder and the work is heavier.”
Maskerine’s concerns have been echoed around the globe.
United Nations secretary-general António Guterres said in an April 5 statement that governments should focus on women’s safety during the pandemic.
“For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest,” said Guterres.
Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for #COVID19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes.
Today I appeal for peace in homes around the world.
I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/PjDUTrMb9v
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) April 6, 2020
In the United Kingdom, a domestic violence hotline saw a 49 per cent increase in calls during the lockdown.
In Canada, nine women have been killed by men since April 1, according to a statement Wednesday by Battered Women’s Support Services.
RCMP have also said the killings of 22 people in Nova Scotia, Canada’s worst recorded mass shooting, began with the killer attacking his partner.
Although calls for service in Nelson fell off in March, they have increased by 40 per cent in Victoria.
Maskerine said a similar demand will eventually occur in Nelson, and that her staff have already begun making changes to accommodate for it.
Because distancing requirements limit the amount of staff in the transition house, Maskerine said some have moved to outreach roles.
She knows more women need help right now, and hopes her service isn’t overwhelmed when the demand catches up.
“I know it’s going to come,” she said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
Staff at the Aimee Beaulieu Transition House can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 250-354-4357. Anyone at immediate risk of harm is asked to call 911.
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