Domestic violence has spiked during COVID-19, B.C. advocates say
Published Friday, April 17, 2020 6:08PM PDT
A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing room is shown in this file image from March 29, 2010. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
VANCOUVER -- British Columbia's Human Rights Commissioner and the province's Representative for Children and Youth are jointly warning that domestic violence has spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A press release issued by the two independent officers of the legislature Friday marks Prevention of Violence Against Women Week with a reminder that physical distancing measures put in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus also lead to situations in which abusers are more likely to exert power and control.
“Family violence rises in times when families are in close contact and experiencing great economic pressure and uncertainty," said B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender in the joint statement.
"One Vancouver service provider recently reported a 300 per cent increase in calls related to family violence during the pandemic. We are deeply concerned that there are many others who, for reasons of safety, haven’t been able to make those calls,” she added.
B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth, Jennifer Charlesworth, echoed Govender's concerns, saying people staying home leads to fewer "eyes on families," making it harder for victims and witnesses to report family violence.
“We encourage family and community members to stay connected to your loved ones, neighbours, students and others in your lives to provide support, compassion and encouragement for those who may be vulnerable to family violence," Charlesworth said. "If you have concerns about anyone’s safety, reach out to local or provincial resources. They are open and available to help."
Last week, the provincial government issued a statement promising support and a safe space to go for those experiencing violence during the pandemic.
The province said it is working with BC Housing and other organizations to find support for women and children fleeing violence, adding that support may include hotels. The announcement included relatively few specifics, but did encourage anyone experiencing family violence to contact the provincial hotline, VictimLinkBC.
Charlesworth and Govender repeated that recommendation in their statement.
VictimLinkBC is available 24-7 in multiple languages. It can be reached toll-free by calling 800-563-0808 or emailing VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca. The service is confidential and available across B.C. and Yukon.
The commissioner and representative also encouraged children experiencing violence to call the Helpline for Children at 310-1234. No area code is required. That line is also available 24-7, and children are not required to give their names.