People participate in the annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop a rising tide of reports of domestic violence, experts say, warning that the stress of life in lockdown continues to put victims at risk. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

People participate in the annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop a rising tide of reports of domestic violence, experts say, warning that the stress of life in lockdown continues to put victims at risk. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Reports of domestic, intimate partner violence continue to rise during pandemic

Call volumes spiked almost immediately when swaths of Canada first locked down

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop a rising tide of reports of domestic violence, experts say, warning that the stress of life in lockdown continues to put victims at risk.

Canada’s Assaulted Women’s Helpline fielded 20,334 calls between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, compared to 12,352 over the same period the previous year, said Yvonne Harding, manager of resource development at the organization.

“It’s very disturbing to know that there are so many women who are in this really precarious situation,” she said. “There may have been limited support for them beforehand, but at least they had outlets.”

Harding said opportunities to leave the house to get help — such as daily trips to and from school — have in many cases been eliminated during the pandemic.

Access to friends and family has also been cut off, she said, leaving victims with fewer options.

Call volumes spiked almost immediately when swaths of Canada first locked down, Harding said.

Between April 1 and Sept. 30, the centre received 51,299 calls, compared to 24,010 in the same time in 2019.

“Everything closed overnight, and our crisis lines lit up,” she said.

“We saw a range of calls. We saw those who were feeling immediately threatened because their situation had escalated, and we saw those for whom fears were kicking in, because things were starting to change and they were used to being able to access community supports in person that were no longer available to them.”

The Assaulted Women’s Helpline has had to expand services, she said, and has received government funding to do so.

Police, too, are seeing a spike in domestic-related calls, albeit not as pronounced.

Data from 17 police forces across the country show that calls related to domestic disturbances — which could involve anything from a verbal quarrel to reports of violence” — rose by nearly 12 per cent between March and June of 2020 compared to the same four months in 2019, according to a Statistics Canada analysis.

It also showed reports of assaults by family members dropped by 4.3 per cent and reports of sexual assaults by family dropped 17.7 per cent.

The Ontario Provincial Police did not provide data about domestic incidents, but Sgt. Julie Randall — who specializes in cases of domestic and intimate partner violence — said the force has seen a small uptick in calls.

Randall is part of a co-ordinating network of police services dealing with domestic violence, and she said other forces in the province are reporting similar increases.

“Intimate partner violence and mental health are often closely connected, and from what’s been reported worldwide, the pandemic has had a profound effect on people’s mental health,” she said.

But Randall noted the pandemic can’t necessarily bear the entire blame for the spike, adding there may be another reason that calls to helplines far outpace calls to police.

“Statistics tell us that domestic violence goes on long before someone actually picks up the phone to call the police,” Randall said. “So anecdotally, I can say that often our calls are lower than what’s actually happening in the community.”

READ MORE: Marchers gather for annual B.C. event to honour missing, murdered women

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusdomestic violence

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Members of the Nelson Nordic Ski Club show off their new snowcat. Photo: Submitted
Nelson Nordic Club celebrates new snowcat

A community fundraising effort led to the purchase

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
Kootenay-Columbia MP supports motion condemning Uighur genocide

Rob Morrison says labelling Uighur persecution as a genocide sends a message to Chinese government

The Skinny Genes Foundation is raising awareness and funds for a rare genetic disorder that claimed both his father and uncle.
NHL players, local businesses help Kootenay man raise funds and awareness for rare genetic disease

Signed NHL jerseys and local business donations up for auction in Skinny Genes Foundation fundraiser

An architectural design proposal from June, 2020, illustrates what a re-developed Hall Street Pier might look like. Illustration: City of Nelson
Nelson receives $1M grant for Hall St. Pier project

The design and extent of the project will be decided in the next few weeks

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Most Read