Newfound and Labrador’s minister responsible for the status of women says there has been a recent rise in calls to the province’s domestic violence helpline, but there are services available to assist women living with violence.
Lisa Dempster says the rise in calls is disturbing. However, she has encouraged that women are calling for help, despite the public health restrictions in place.
“While we are in lockdown, you do not have to feel you are locked down at home with an abuser, so we do know that there’s been some increase in calls,” she said.
Dempster did not give particular details regarding the number of additional calls that the line is receiving.
The domestic violence helpline was introduced in June. When someone texts or calls, the system will automatically detect the region they are in and link them with a trained professional at the closest transition house.
If necessary, they can then be linked to services, such as women’s centers or police, for further assistance.
Non-profit organizations reported a significant rise in domestic violence calls during the initial phase of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dempster said the pandemic had had a major effect on women, and restrictions can create additional pressure for women living with violence. Because of it, the types of calls the line is receiving have additionally changed, according to Dempster.
“Prior to the pandemic, we would get various calls to the line, could be around financial abuse, different types,” she said.
“But right now — and we know the pandemic has been really difficult for many people and it’s not impacted all of us equally — we know that some of the calls coming in are more focused on physical violence.”
During an election, the government is in caretaker mode. However, Dempster is still the minister, and she says has been checking in with employees in the department at least once a week. She said the rise in calls started within the last week.
“Yesterday, maybe, when I learned there had been an increase, I felt compelled to get out, to do my part to hopefully reach some women that are in unsafe situations,” she said.
Help available for women experiencing domestic violence
Dempster urged women not to stay in an unsafe situation at home because of the public health restrictions in alert levels 4 and 5.
“To women who are struggling with violence in their lives today, I want you to know that help is available,” she said.
“There are services right across this province, and when you feel you are ready and you feel that it’s safe for you to reach out, there are organizations waiting to help you.”
Dempster said transition houses across the province are open and have room to accept women in need. She said the transition houses are now at around 55% on average capacity.
“While we’ve made good strides and we’re moving in the right direction, certainly there is progress that can be made,” she said.
“We’re grateful that we have fared better than many other provinces. Still, we have our own issues — all is not well, and we need to get out, and we need to talk about those. We need to hear from folks out in the community, and we need to put whatever services in place that we can to support them.”