May 10, 2022
By Amy Au,
Registered Social Worker
While millions of Canadians stay home to keep safe and help flatten the curve of pandemic, many victims of domestic violence found their home to be more dangerous than ever. Many experience a greater threat as they are confined to their homes with their abusers. In an interview with CBC News1, Maryam Monsef, Canada’s Minister for Women and Gender Equality, says that the COVID-19 crisis has empowered perpetrators of domestic violence as consultations reveal that abuse rates are rising in parts of the country (CBC news, April 27, 2020). According to a survey about COVID 19 impacts done by Statistics Canada in March and April 20202. One in 10 women say that they are “very or extremely concerned” about the possibility of violence in their home.
S. is living with her partner and children. She is scare whenever her partner is around. He criticizes everything she does, the way she cooks, the way she cleans, the ways she walks… He blames her for everything that goes wrong. He tells everyone that she is a bad mom. He criticizes all her family and friends, saying that they are no good to her. There were a few times when he was drunk, he hit her hard. S.gets a breakwhen he is out to work or when she takes her children to the community centre. The “Stay at Home” order brings a heavy storm to her life. There is no place for S. to hang out. He was laid off. Now he stays home all the time. He brings home more liquor….
Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. Behaviors can include the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation.
According to Canada Department of Justice3, there are many forms of violence, including physical, sexual, emotional, financial abuse and neglect.
- Physical abuse is the intentional use of force against a person without that person’s consent. It can cause physical pain or injury that may last a long time.
- All sexual contact with anyone without consent is a crime. This includes sexual touching or forcing sexual activity on a spouse, a common law partner or a dating partner. Even when married, a spouse cannot be forced to have sexual contact.
- Emotional abuse happens when a person uses words or actions to control, frightens or isolates someone or takes away their self-respect.
- Financial abuse happens when someone uses money or property to control or exploit someone else.
- Neglect happens when a family member, who has a duty to care for you, fails to provide you with your basic needs.
It is not always easy to tell at the beginning of a relationship. Some of the signs of an abusive relationship include a partner who might:
- tells you that you can never do anything right
- controls every penny spent in the household
- discourages you from seeing friends or family members
- threaten to hurt you or your children
- threaten to have you deported from Canada
- threaten to take your children away from you
- force you to do things you do not want to do sexually
Suddenly, you find it hard to make decision. You start to doubt your own ability. You find yourself penniless. You do not want to meet people. You are isolated. You feel depressed and trapped. You feel helpless and hopeless!
It is very common for people who experienced domestic violence to have mixed emotions, including fear, confusion, anger, or even being numb and not feeling much of anything7. You may feel guilty or shameful. You may try to minimize the abuse or hide it by covering bruises and making excuses for the abuser.
There are long term mental health effects on people who experienced domestic violence4, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. If you are easily startled, feel tense or on edge, have difficulty sleeping, or have angry outbursts; if you have trouble remembering things or have negative thoughts about yourself or others; if you are feeling depressed; if you are anxious about everything which interferes your daily life, you can get help from a mental health professional.
Please remember that you are not alone.
If you are in immediate DANGER or fear for your safety, please CALL 911. Police are still responding to domestic violence calls. Police stations are still open for walk-ins for domestic violence victims.
Many services are available to you, including counseling, shelters, financial help, legal assistance, etc. If you don’t know where to start, you can call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline (416-863-0511) which offers a 24-hour crisis line for emotional support, information and referrals, etc.; or you can call the Canadian Centre for Men and Families, at 647-479-9611.
You can also find many helpful resources online. Remember that your computer can be monitored by your abuser and is impossible to clear your tracks completely5. However, you can erase two things on your computer browser to reduce the chances that someone can find out what you have been reading online:
- Cache: this is where the computer stores copies of files you recently looked at with your browser.
- History List: this is a single file containing the addresses of the places you recently visited.
Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities is also here for you, right in your community. Our experienced counselors in the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre, Inter-professional Primary Care Team and Community Health Centre are able to provide support and counseling, offer options and help you navigate through the services. Call us at 416-642-9445. Our friendly staff will direct you to the right program for help. We keep your information confidential.
- CBC News, April 27, 2020, https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/domestic-violence-rates-rising-due-to-covid19-1.5545851
- Statistics Canada, Concerns expressed by Canadians about COVID-19 impacts, March and April 2020, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200408/t001c-eng.htm
- Canada Department of Justice, Family Violence, https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/fv-vf/about-apropos.html
- US Department of Health and Human Services, Effects of violence against women, https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/effects-violence-against-women
- Assaulted Women’s Helpline, Web Security- Erasing Your Tracks, http://www.awhl.org/social-media-web-security