British Columbia

Rise in family violence hotline calls amid pandemic worry advocates

The Officer of the Human Rights Commissioner is raising concerns about incidents of family violence during the COVID-19 pandemic as people experience more economic pressure, and uncertainty. It has led to a 300 per cent increase in calls to the Battered Women Support Services based in Vancouver.

B.C. Human Rights Commissioner says families are facing greater economic pressure, uncertainty

Advocates say measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have led to more financial stress on families and fewer places to escape violence. (Sinisha Karich/Shutterstock)

Advocates for children and human rights are concerned about a rise in family violence calls to a Vancouver-based crisis line during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Officer of the B.C. Human Rights Commissioner says families are facing greater economic pressure and uncertainty with fewer places to go for help.

Advocates say physical distancing measures to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus are also affecting services and resources for people fleeing family violence.

Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender said Vancouver's Battered Women Support Services has "reported a 300 percent increases in calls related to family violence during the pandemic."

While essential to stopping the transmission of the COVID 19 virus, advocates say stay-at-home orders "can increase the likelihood of abusers exerting power and control."

B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth said isolation at home can cut families off from the outside world. 

"Social distancing means fewer 'eyes on families'; fewer community members who can witness and report family violence; fewer places where people can go to safely reach out for help or escape violence; and increased pressures on shelters," said Charlesworth.

She is encouraging people to stay connected to each other for support and reach out to resources such as the VictimLinkBC phone line  at 1-800-563-0808 and Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868

Even though support groups say they are experiencing an increase in reports, the Vancouver police department has said it has not received an increase in calls related to domestic violence.

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