Local women's agencies anticipate high demand as restrictions lifted
LONDON, ONT. -- Local agencies that serve abused women say they’re expecting an increase in demand for their services as pandemic-related restrictions are gradually lifted.
Jessie Rodgers of Anova told a virtual news conference Friday that during lockdown their phone lines have often been eerily quiet.
“Why can’t women get to the phone? What, or rather who is stopping them from coming to our door?”
She says some women have been isolated at home with abusive partners, and those are the people the agency expects to hear from.
“We anticipate that as we emerge from public health restrictions we will experience a deluge of request for services from community members who have been trapped in their homes.”
The concerns over what lies ahead come after a challenging year of helping abused women and families during the pandemic.
A community snapshot unveiled by the London Coordinating Committee to End Women Abuse (LCCEWA) says that in the first six months of the pandemic, from April to Sept. 2020, Anova had 1,064 domestic violence and sexual violence crisis calls - a 227 per cent increase over the same period one year earlier.
The Regional Centre for Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence reported a 53 per cent increase in crisis calls from men, women, and children. And Atlohsa reported a 227 per cent increase in Indigenous crisis calls.
Andrea Jibb, director of Community Planning for Atlohsa Family Healing Services, says the statistics only show the victims who have come forward.
“We know that we are not able to provide support to everybody that reaches out. And for those of us who work in the violence against women sector, we know that the statistics don’t show the whole picture. We know that we are only able to capture those ones that reach out to us.”
LCCEWA is calling for an increase in core funding to maintain programs that have been borne out of the pandemic.
“The worry that I have is what the next year will bring,” said Rodgers. “We've been able to sustain this for a year, can we still sustain this further?”
London Abused Women’s Centre outgoing executive director Megan Walker urged the group to reach out to all levels of governent for support.
“...so that we are never in a position of turning women away. We are always in the position of having funding to accept all women into ours services.”