N.W.T. RCMP advise public on dangers posed by life in isolation — exploitation and abuse

In a pair of news releases sent Thursday afternoon, RCMP in the Northwest Territories offered the public some advice on how to navigate the potential dangers of life in isolation.

Child exploitation, domestic abuse may rise as people are asked to stay at home

The N.W.T. RCMP sent out a pair of releases advising the public to look out for signs of distress in friends and family. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

In a pair of news releases sent Thursday afternoon, RCMP in the Northwest Territories offered the public some advice on how to navigate the new potential dangers of life in isolation.

First, the RCMP's Internet Child Exploitation Unit advised parents of the increased risk of online exploitation as children spend more time at home and online.

Police followed up with a release highlighting the elevated risk of domestic violence under isolation.

"As a community, we can support each other, by looking out for one another, and keeping an eye on those we believe may be at risk," the second news release reads.

Children at risk of sexual exploitation

In their first release, the RCMP highlighted some of the ways that kids, left unsupervised on the internet, could fall victim to child predators.

Often, predators pose as children online to coerce sexually explicit images, police say. Other times, "predators come across as a trusted adult forging a relationship with a young person online."

"Then later arrange to meet and abuse the young person," the release states. "Often in cases involving adults and youth, they are manipulated into believing the person is their boyfriend/girlfriend."

Police say as children spend more time at home, they face an increased risk of being exploited online. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The release advises parents to educate children on online safety, review games and apps before downloading, keep electronic devices in a common room, and encourage kids to report requests for explicit photos.

It also advises parents to "pay attention to interactions between adults and children … [and] model appropriate boundaries," as well as keep an eye out for sudden changes in behaviour.

"Often children will communicate more through behaviour than words when distressed," the release reads.

Heightened risk of abuse for women, children, LGBTQ+

RCMP's second news release highlighted a further risk to children and adults: domestic abuse.

"Stress and the disruption of social and protective networks can exacerbate the risk for violence against women," the release reads. "Children, men and Two-Spirit-LGBTQ community may also be at risk."

In the release, the RCMP says it's "responding to all calls for service 24/7/365."

"If you are a victim or you believe [someone] is experiencing violence, please call," say police. "Family, friends and neighbours can all be part of the support network."

Local RCMP detachments can still be contacted via local -1111 emergency numbers or, now, via 911.

The release also says family violence shelters continue to be "available 24/7" in Fort Smith, Hay River, Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk and Yellowknife.

In addition to those resources, residents have access to three 1-800 help lines:

  • the N.W.T. Help Line at 1-800-661-0844;
  • Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868;
  • and the Hope for Wellness Line at 1-855-242-3310.

Due to the high volume of calls to the 1-800 number system, some calls are not immediately being connected.