Josee St-Onge · CBC News · Posted: Oct 13, 2020 6:00 AM MT
When COVID-19 arrived in Alberta, it was no surprise to police the pandemic brought with it a jump in domestic violence calls.
Domestic violence rates typically go up when people are faced with a crisis, says RCMP Staff Sgt. Colette Zazulak, who oversees Alberta’s community policing unit.
“It’s like when you apply pressure to a rock and the fissures start to form. You would see increased violence and likely more severe violence as well.”
From mid-March to mid-September, RCMP in Alberta recorded a 12 per cent rise in calls involving domestic violence over the previous year.
Edmonton police saw a similar rise, 13 per cent more calls in the first nine months this year over the previous three-year average.
What many find surprising however, is that women’s shelters, where victims often go to seek refuge, were empty.
“We really saw a drop in calls, not only in Alberta but really around the world,” said Jan Reimer, executive director of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters.
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Restrictions set in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 isolate vulnerable people, limiting opportunities to safely leave an abusive situation, Reimer said.
Fear of contracting the virus in a communal setting like a shelter may also have prevented them from leaving, she said.
“It makes people scared to go out and seek help, scared for their children and what they may be exposed to.”
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