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COVID-19 isolation could be 'huge barrier' for Saskatoon domestic violence victims trying to seek help
SASKATOON -- While the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can be challenging, for those who are in an abusive relationship, it can be dangerous.
Debra Ross is the program coordinator for intimate family violence at Family Service Saskatoon. As public health officials and government leaders started encouraging people to stay at home, she knew it would be devastating for many.
“We know that isolation tends to be a huge barrier for many women experiencing intimate partner violence and trying to access support,” Ross said.
So far her organization has't had an increase in calls, but Ross suspects that the longer isolation continues, the more incidents of abuse will occur, but the numbers might not reflect that.
"I suspect that reporting will go down because the phone is a barrier. They won’t be able to have the phone. Potential abusers are always taking the phone, breaking the phone. For that reason, you’re probably (seeing) less reporting because it makes it a lot harder to report and more dangerous to report now."
Ross advises anyone in an abusive relationship to do whatever they need to do to stay safe.
Karen Wood, a University of Saskatchewan adjunct professor of sociology who studies violence awareness and education, said those in the field of domestic violence have been looking at countries which have already been hit by COVID-19 to see what Saskatchewan must prepare for.
They are seeing a connection between the spike in cases of COVID-19 and people reaching for help, she said.
“In those countries, there have been significantly higher rates of calls for intimate partner violence or domestic violence. I haven’t seen any numbers on domestic homicide, but we have to assume the risk is going to increase.”
She is also concerned in that isolation and secrecy are the enemies of addressing violence and abuse, she said.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger because of domestic violence, call 911. Information on safe houses and how to get help is available by calling 211 or visiting the 211 website. (IMPORTANT NOTE: 211 advises clearing your browser "history" or "cache" after visiting their page, and offers instructions on its website)