It has been widely reported that the pandemic has resulted in increased intimate partner violence. Many women, including those living in YWCA Metro Vancouver’s second-stage transition housing, are also experiencing other forms of abuse.
“What we’re seeing is that abusive ex-partners are using the COVID-19 situation as a vehicle to further control and manipulate women,” said Lisa Rupert, YWCA VP of Violence Prevention and Housing Services. “Particularly, making unsafe requests for the handover of children, refusing to return children after visits or withholding spousal and child support payments while the courts are only dealing with emergency cases,” she said.
Help is available
With restricted movement, Lisa also said many women ‘sheltering in place’ are stuck in unsafe or precarious living situations. However, the huge demand on crisis lines – some reporting an increase of 300% – is not translating to the same demand on transition houses, she said. Despite the high numbers of calls to crisis lines, YWCAs across Canada have seen a 20% increase in demand for transition houses.
Lisa believes this may be because first-stage transition houses are communal living situations and some women may be reluctant to live communally during the pandemic. In addition, if a woman is sheltering at home with an abusive partner, the opportunities to discretely make plans to move locations may be limited.
Making the situation more precarious is that many of the emotional, financial, social and health supports that women used to access have closed or restricted services. YWCA housing and violence prevention staff have been working hard to provide support and resources through phone calls and emails and this work continues.
Thanks to a generous donor, the YWCA can offer hotel rooms* for emergency housing for women and their children. Each room has its own kitchen and washroom suitable for isolating during this time.
The YWCA wants to remind women that safe accommodation is available to them and to reach out if support is needed.
This article was originally published on YWCA's Contact Newsletter | Spring/Summer 2020 - COVID-19 Response Issue.
*The hotel cannot be named for safety reasons