Decline in domestic violence calls cause for concern, says Sudbury Women's Centre
Since March, the centre says it's only received 35 calls from women
The world can quickly become a narrow place for women experiencing domestic violence — particularly during a global pandemic.
While staying at home and practising physical distancing can help to keep COVID-19 at bay it can bring abusers closer, as women have been forced in many cases to spend more time at home.
Giulia Carpenter, the executive director with the Sudbury Women's Centre says a situation like a pandemic offers little opportunity for women to reach out for help. She said the pandemic has had a dramatic impact on women in situations of domestic violence.
"Prior to [COVID-19] we used to see 150 to 200 women at the centre who would drop in for a variety or programs, to come into My Sister's Closet or to get support from one of our peer support workers," she said.
Calls down dramatically
Carpenter said it's made devising safety plans with clients difficult to navigate over the last several months.
Since March, Carpenter said the centre has only had 35 women reach out specifically for help on domestic violence related items — that's down to about a third of the calls it would normally receive.
She said it could be one of the reasons why the organization has noticed a spike in calls from concerned friends and family.
She also noted the pandemic has limited the number of safety plans the centre has been able to devise with its clients because women are just unable to find time to call. Since, the pandemic began, the centre has only completed about 15 safety plans.
Having someone sit in front of you and feeling the feelings, and providing that support that they need is so much different than being on the telephone.— Giulia Carpenter, Sudbury Women's Centre
'Restraints of telephones'
As women are in the home more and potentially stuck with their abusers for extended periods of time, phone calls with clients have had to be brief and Carpenter worries they aren't as constructive as staff with the centre would like.
"Having someone sit in front of you and feeling the feelings, and providing that support that they need is so much different than being on the telephone," she said.
"We're not able to help our clients to the best of our ability because of restraints of telephones or not having technology."
To help make the best of circumstances, some of the centre's programming has pivoted to online models such as the centre's partial Sewing Circle online, its new grocery program and adapting My Sister's Closet with a new online store.
Carpenter noted the My Sister's Closet online store will be made available beginning mid-September.