WINGHAM, ONT. -- Domestic abuse is constant and persistent problem in Ontario during the best of times, but COVID-19 could be making it worse.

Calls for domestic disturbances are up five per cent over last year from January to March, according to West Region OPP.

There are fears that those numbers will rise, as we live through the worst of this pandemic, causing financial and relational stress for families across the province.

Cory Leduc is a mental health counselor in Huron County.

“When there’s sudden and unexpected changes, especially unwanted changes like COVID-19, all those stresses add on to relationships and families and communities. There is help out there,” says Leduc.

That’s why the Huron Domestic Assault Review Team, the first committee in Canada specifically designed to review domestic assault cases, is reaching out to men specifically during this time, to let the know there is help out there.

Michael Murdoch is a former Huron County Crown Attorney and current member of the Domestic Assault Review Team.

“A lot of these guys don’t want to be offending, but sometimes under the circumstances, they don’t have the skill set to deal with the stresses they are under. That’s why you reach out for help,” he says.

Alcohol and drug use, also possibly increasing during these stressful times, only add fuel to the fire.

“They may be experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety and depression and maybe using alcohol or drugs, and these are contributing factors to domestic violence,” says D.A.R.T member, Steve Frayne.

Nearly 1700 times, West Region OPP officers responded to domestic assault calls the first three months of this year. That number could rise, as the COVID-19 stress mounts.

“If you’re a victim or you’re living in fear. If you’re that person whose struggling, you just feel like you’re going to lose it, please take a moment, can call us,” says Huron County OPP Const. Jamie Stanley.

“It doesn’t mean you’re weak, just because you want support, it shows strength,” says Leduc.

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