BY MITZI DEAN
Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity
In a world where we are isolated at home, what happens when home is a place of violence, intimidation, threats and fear? We know that in times of crisis, domestic violence can increase.
That’s why our government has secured nearly 300 additional spaces in communities throughout British Columbia for people leaving violent situations during the pandemic, with more spaces to come. Most are women, two-spirit people and children.
Domestic violence is sadly commonplace and occurs behind closed doors in all communities and cultures. Sometimes it starts with insults or verbal abuse and unwanted sexual demands. It can escalate to punching walls, throwing objects, threatening children, physical violence and death.
From volunteering at a women’s transition house, to my role as a child protection worker, as a national manager at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and then an executive director in British Columbia, I have always served families, women and others impacted by abuse.
Having worked in the social sector for over 30 years, I have heard too many stories from women about the horrors that can happen at home. Every story is different, but everyone in these situations needs to know help is available. Every person facing domestic violence needs to know it is not their fault.
Abusers often use threats and violence, while others use money, as their means of control. A young mom I knew through my work was in an abusive relationship. He did massive damage to her home before she was able to get him out. Repairs cost her a fortune. What was even more difficult to repair was the psychological impact of his violence.
I know another woman who was never allowed by her husband to have her own bank account. As part of her safety plan, she began to secretly save money so she could leave. Her abuser found this out and took her cash so he could maintain his control.
I recently met a woman whose partner put a gun up to her head in front of their children. She survived that night. Some do not.
Hundreds of women are admitted to B.C. hospitals each year with severe injuries caused by their partners. In an average year, 12 lives are tragically lost to domestic violence.
As government, it’s our job to make sure that when people ask for help in leaving violence, we provide a safe place for them to go. In 2018, we made the first significant investment in transition housing in over two decades.
Through the Women’s Transition Housing Fund, the Province is investing in creating 1,500 new transition house beds, safe homes and second-stage homes so that there are places for women and children to sleep safely at night. Unfortunately, we are playing catch-up because of years of unmet needs.
The COVID-19 virus has forced us to stay home and keep our distance from friends and family, creating a perfect storm for the escalation of abuse. More than ever, people facing violence or abuse – many with children – need our help to find a safe place to stay.
If you are in immediate danger, please call 911 immediately.
If you or someone you know is being abused, or if you are concerned about someones safety, contact VictimLink BC through its toll-free 24/7 confidential, multilingual telephone service at 1 800 563-0808 Or by email: VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca
VictimLink BC’s trained victim service workers can provide immediate crisis support for victims of family or sexual violence. They can also connect you to safe housing, provide information and referral services for all victims of crime.
Domestic and sexual abuse is not a private matter to be kept behind closed doors. Violence against women should never be tolerated not during this pandemic, not ever.
As government, we will be there for people who need our help and a safe place to go, day or night.