The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges and restrictions to all of our daily lives. But for families in need of support, their options have always been limited. The pandemic has given us a sobering reminder of how fragile safety and well-being can be. We are all connected and one person’s wellness impacts another and ultimately the entire community. This is true of medical and social issues as well.
There are different forms of violence in family and intimate relationships. This can include: child maltreatment, abuse between spouses/partners and elder abuse. The abuse itself can take many forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and financial abuse.
The current pandemic poses some unique challenges for those impacted by violence. As we know, risk factors for domestic violence exist not only at the individual level but at community and societal levels as well. A lack of willingness by community members to intervene, limited access to health-focused resources, social support and social isolation all contribute. The current direction to stay home and practice social distancing has exacerbated these factors.
A 2018 study by the University of Calgary School of Public Policy found that less than 1 in 5 cases of spousal abuse are reported to the police under “normal” circumstances. The Calgary-focused study also found that more domestic violence calls were placed to the police and Connect crisis line in the wake of the 2013 floods, an event that caused a new level of disruption and stress at that time. More troubling, the study demonstrated that domestic violence calls have increased as the price of oil has dropped. Confinement, stress, and economic hardship can combine in a dramatic way. Both formal service providers and the general community must come together and support those impacted by violence in new and unique ways.
YW’s Crisis Shelter and Transitional Housing programs continue to operate during the pandemic. Domestic Violence Outreach support continues virtually and over the phone and the crisis line (403.266.0707) continues to offer telephone support 24-hours a day. To this end, YW’s domestic violence programs and services continue to offer hope and safety, to those who need it the most.
Community members play a critical role as well. Physical distancing does not mean that we should disconnect from our loved ones or neighbours. We can still maintain a connection by telephone, text message, or email. For those outside of the social services realm who may be reading this, you don’t need to be a police officer or social worker to support somebody impacted by violence. As an informal support, you can educate yourself about domestic violence and offer gentle encouragement, support, and information to a loved one or community member who is experiencing abuse. Sometimes simply saying “I believe you,” or “Here’s the number for a shelter in our area,” is the action that makes the difference. Trust your gut: your instinct and willingness to connect with somebody could be life changing.
Things will eventually go back to normal – or some semblance of what was once normal. More importantly though, YW Calgary will continue to drive towards a future free of domestic abuse. Abuse cannot be accepted as commonplace and we remain committed to building a future where success is not measured by having “enough domestic violence resources,” but by not requiring them at all.
If you or a loved one needs support, please know resource are available:
Resources (Calgary and Area)
YW Calgary Emergency Domestic Violence Shelter
403-266-0707 (24 hours a day)
Serves women with or without children. Trans women are welcome.
YW Domestic Violence Outreach
403-266-0707 (outreach services available Monday to Friday)
Serves women with or without children.
Resources (Outside of Calgary and Area):
If you or a loved one require more information about accessing a domestic violence shelter outside of Calgary, visit www.sheltersafe.ca to find resources near you.