Ombudsman's statement on intimate partner and family violence and the supports/resources available during COVID-19
April 1, 2020
Amid our third week of physical distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, I am mindful of the thousands of women and children who are unsafe in their homes due to intimate partner and family violence. The isolation required to protect us from this pandemic means that increased levels of power and control may be exercised by abusers over their victims. I recognize that isolation is an abuser’s tactic, and this pandemic has the effect of making this abuse even more hidden.
Families are more stressed than ever due to the economic implications of this pandemic. People are out of work. The children are home 24/7, increasing stress. Shelters continue to lack bed space across Canada. Sexual assault centres don’t have enough counsellors to meet the demand. In northern and remote communities, escaping violence can be dangerous, as 1 in 3 people in the territories live more than 100 km from a domestic violence shelter.
I am pleased the Prime Minister announced $50M in additional funding for shelters and sexual assaults centres, and hope it can be provided quickly enough to address the urgent need on the ground. This money needs to reach frontline agencies and NGOs delivering supports urgently, so they can build capacity and access additional resources they may need to get women and children to safety. These agencies also need to be able to fund technological solutions like crisis lines, live chat and texting to help reach and support victims during this pandemic.
Women and children affected by violence should know they are not alone; supports and resources are still open to ensure their safety during COVID-19.
- Shelters - Women’s shelters and transition houses are open during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect women and children fleeing violence. If you or someone you know needs help or wants to speak to a shelter worker, you can find your closest women’s shelter and their crisis line on this website, www.sheltersafe.ca. Remember that you can get advice and safety planning through their crisis line without moving into the shelter.
- Sexual Assault Centres & Community anti-violence programs – Find services near you & read more about why additional funding during COVID-19 is important for sexual assault centres (Source: Ending Violence Association of Canada)
- Health & social services – In many Canadian provinces, you can call 211 to find information about community based health and social services. Some cities can also connect you to a social worker in order to discuss relationships, parenting challenges, abuse or violence in the family. Visit online at http://211.ca/ where live chat and texting supports are also available.
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime