Domestic abuse victims trapped during COVID-19 pandemic

Elin Molenaar / May 14 2020

A VICTIM’S STORY

Erin Smith – whose real name has been left out to protect her identity – got married two years ago. Early on, verbal fights with her partner would escalate – he became intimidating and threatening. Erin used to be in a wheelchair because she was in physical rehab due to an ongoing medical condition, this had a big impact on how her partner treated her.

“In terms of a relationship it was awful. It meant I was reliant on him entirely, and he used it as a guilt trip and to make me feel lesser. It pushed me to get a mobility scooter so I could be independent.” – Erin Smith, victim of domestic abuse

At this time she has improved a lot and only uses a walking stick at times.

Normally, Erin would have a way out of the fights but the lockdown made things harder for her.

“Normally when he goes off the rails, I’d go to like a coffeeshop and that would kind of be safe because it was public. It was somewhere to go to sort of get a break and where there were like, witnesses.” – Erin Smith, victim of domestic abuse

The couple’s last fight was different; Erin could not leave the house and was stuck with her partner. Eventually neighbours called the police but her partner had left before they arrived. This was the first time she opened up about what was going on, but still not fully. The police officers helped her get into the transition home where she is now staying and receiving emotional and financial support.

THE NUMBERS

243 million females aged 15-49

all over the globe, have been subjected to sexual and/or physical violence by an intimate partner in the past 12 months, United Nations reports.

Ending Violence Association of BC has not yet noticed a change in numbers of domestic abuse reports. However, they are preparing for this to happen. During other crises, disasters or periods of economic uncertainty, the association has seen an increase in reports of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.

“It is important to remember that statistics about gender-based violence and the COVID-19 pandemic are still emerging, and that both increases and decreases in calls for service from people experiencing gender-based violence are concerning.” – Kate Rossiter, Research and Projects Manager Ending Violence Association of BC

Rossiter explains that an increase in calls to anti-violence agencies and/or police could mean an increase in sexual and/or domestic violence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas, a decrease would be equally concerning – this could mean that victims are unable to reach out for help because their devices are being monitored by their abusers.

She stresses that victim services remain available at this time as they’re considered essential services.