As the economic fallout from COVID-19 is laid bare, a light shines on the inequities that make women vulnerable to domestic violence, says the manager of Victoria’s Cridge Transition House and Outreach Services.
“Violence against women was huge before COVID,” Marlene Goley says. “COVID has added more layers of complexity but my fear is … when [COVID] is out of the news because we’ve got a vaccine, there’s going to be the impression that violence against women isn’t that bad now.”
The Cridge Centre for the Family offers various services, including shelter and resources for adult women. While the volume of women seeking services hasn’t necessarily spiked, Goley says the severity of violence was worse in 2020, particularly over the summer months.
“The cases where women were reaching out to us, they were experiencing a lot of serious types of violence, and there was more police involvement than we have typically seen,” she says. “COVID has added complications to a serious issue that was already there.”
Those complications include a five per cent rise in call volumes to the Vancouver Island Crisis Society, with many callers reporting anxiety and depression. The Vancouver-based Battered Women’s Support Services reports its crisis line – available 24/7 during the pandemic – saw a 300 per cent increase in calls.
Violence against women will continue unless women’s access to housing, childcare, higher incomes and stable employment is improved, Goley says.
In B.C., young women under 25 experienced the worst job losses in the province, with a 41 per cent drop in employment, compared to 27 per cent for their male peers. That data, collected from a Statistics Canada labour force survey, found that women were more likely to lose their jobs than men, who were more likely to experience cuts in hours, but keep their jobs. Job losses were worse across the board for recent immigrants.
That can exacerbate an existing dependency, Goley says. And a lack of childcare – already an issue – was made even less accessible by the virus.
“The fundamental, systemic issues are things that keep women vulnerable and feeling the need to stay or try to make it work,” Goley says. “They feel trapped, understandably, when they don’t see that they have any options.”
In April, B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner said family violence was on the rise, listing economic pressure and uncertainty as factors.
“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,” says Jennifer Charlesworth, B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth.
For more resources for women experiencing domestic violence, or for those supporting women, visit cridge.org/cthw/resources.
VictimLinkBC provides information and referral services to all victims of crime and immediate crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence. It is a toll-free, confidential and multilingual telephone service available 24/7 at 1-800-563-0808 or emails can be sent to VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca.
B.C. children and youth can also use the Helpline for Children at 310-1234. No area code is required and callers are not required to give their names.