What to do if you're in an abusive situation during COVID-19
Hello all, this week was a little different than before. I reached out to ask our audience what topic they would like to hear about, and someone asked about resources for people in abusive situations during this pandemic. This is a very important issue, and I'm glad that I could put together some advice from experts along with a long list of resources that are available to Albertans right now.
This topic sort of ties in with last week’s topic of healthy relationships. Many of us right now are striving to maintain healthy relationships with the people we are living with (and that is definitely a challenge) which is why I wanted to talk about relationships in lockdown. However, I know that there are also those in abusive situations/relationships in this pandemic that are now stuck with their abusers, and they are going through a very different situation.
The first and most important thing to know, and I’m quoting Julie Lalonde here, "'is that shelters are still open, sexual assault centres are still open, and also, that you can call a shelter even if you’re not looking for housing and just say ‘I’m thinking of leaving this person, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know where to go,’ says Julie Lalonde. ‘People are still working, they’re still picking up the phones, volunteers are still there to support you,” she adds. ‘Because there’s been such a lockdown, people really do assume that everything is on hold right now and that’s not the case.’” (Martins, 2020, https://edmonton.citynews.ca/2020/04/19/help-available-advocate-advice-women-abusive-relationships-covid/).
Additionally, “In Canada, funds recently committed by the government could help boost the capacity at shelters. [On April 4], the Prime Minister announced that the government would contribute $40 million to Women and Gender Equality Canada. About $30 million of that will go to more than 500 women’s shelters and various sexual assault centres across the country. The remaining $10 million will go to Indigenous women and children’s shelters” (Sachedina & Forani, 2020, https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/domestic-violence-increases-with-stay-home-pandemic-response-1.4885597).
Remember, you are not alone in this. There are people out there whose job it is to help you, and they are still hard at work right now. I found a guide for victims and survivors of domestic abuse: https://safelives.org.uk/news-views/domestic-abuse-and-covid-19 that you can look at if you need it.
From Kristen Fuller’s article “Intimate Partner Violence and Child Abuse during COVID-19” she notes that: “although many domestic violence service providers are not seeing as many clients in person because of the virus, and are pivoting their services to hotlines, phone consultations, and virtual sessions, shelters are deemed an "essential business," and therefore are still open" (Fuller, 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-is-state-mind/202004/intimate-partner-violence-and-child-abuse-during-covid-19).
She also recommends developing a safety plan:
· “Have a list of local domestic violence shelters in your area and find out if they are accepting walk-ins. This should be the first step in your action safety plan.
· Have a trusted friend or family member who you can "shelter in place" with if you are in imminent danger.
· Communicate with your friends and family daily for support.
· Develop a code word with friends or family if you are in danger and need to get out quick.
· Find the safest place in your house where you can escape if an argument or violence breaks out.
· Always keep your cell phone on you, in case you need to call a friend, a shelter or 911.
· If you are in an emergency, call 911” (Fuller, 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-is-state-mind/202004/intimate-partner-violence-and-child-abuse-during-covid-19).
One issue I ran across was that because so many of the prominent articles about this issue originate from the United States, a lot of the resources they recommend aren’t useful as for Albertans or Canadians. With that in mind, I found the Ending Violence Association of Canada’s website (https://endingviolencecanada.org/getting-help/) which includes information about sexual assault centres, violence against women shelters and transition houses, provincial associations and organizations, and crisis and support lines.
I’ve put together all the relevant information for Alberta residents, including a list of sexual assault centres and women’s shelters/transition houses with the name, location (where available), phone number, email (where available) and website. There is also a list of crisis lines. I hope that anyone who needs it can use it as a comprehensive list for the services available in Alberta.
I’d like to end with one thing I’m grateful for today: this is a little exercise I’ve started after one of our practicum students mentioned it in a Zoom call, and we all went around naming one thing that we’re grateful for right now. In times like these when every day we hear the same news and are under a lockdown, I think it’s important to remind yourself of what you’re grateful for if you get the chance.
Today, I am grateful for the beautiful weather we’re having and that the snow is almost all gone. It’s so lovely to look out the window and see plants starting to wake up after a very long winter’s sleep. And I’m enjoying getting outside (going in the back garden) and relaxing and reading in the sun.
Sexual Assault Centres
Alberta OneLine – All Alberta
Phone/Text: 1 866 403 8000
Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS) – All Alberta
Phone: 403 237 6905 ext 3
Calgary Sexual Assault Response Team (Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre) – Calgary, AB
Phone: 403 955 6030
Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse – Calgary, AB
Phone: Toll Free Support and Information: 1 877 237 5888 / Support and Info Line: (403) 237-6905
Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton – Edmonton, AB
Phone: (780) 423-4102
Southeastern Alberta Sexual Assault Response Committee – Medicine Hat, AB
Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre – Red Deer, AB
Phone: 24 hr line: 1 866 956 1099 / (403) 340-1124
Dragonfly Sexual Assault Services – Bonnyville, AB
Phone: 780 812 3174
Text: 780 207 7535
Waypoints – Fort McMurray, AB
Phone: 1 780 791 6708
Pace Community Support Sexual Assault & Trauma Centre – Grande Prairie, AB
Phone: 1 888 377 3223 / 1 780 539 6692
Saffron Sexual Assault Centre – Sherwood Park, AB
Phone: 780 449 0900
Chinook Sexual Assault Centre – Chinook, AB
Phone: 1 844 576 2512 / 403 694 1094
YWCA Lethbridge (Amethyst Project) – Lethbridge, AB
Phone: 1 403 329 0088 / Crisis Line: 403 320 1881 / Toll Free: 1 866 296 0477
Association of Communities Against Abuse – Stettler, AB
Phone: Toll Free: 1 866 807 3558 / 403-742-3558
Bow Valley Harmony Project – Bow Valley, AB
Phone: 403 760 3200
Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses
Alberta Human Services – 24/7 Help Line for Domestic Abuse
Phone: 310 1818)
Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters
Website: https://acws.ca/shelters (includes a list of crisis phone numbers depending on the location you’d like to contact)
Family Violence Crisis Line: 1 780 743 1190
Alberta Victim Services
Alberta One Line (for sexual violence): 1 866 403 8000
Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse: 1 877 237 5888
Central Alberta Sexual Assault Centre: 1 866 956 1099
Dragonfly Counselling and Support Centre (Bonnyville): 780 812 3174
Lloydminster Sexual Assault Services: 1 306 825 8255
Waypoints: 1 780 791 6708 (Sexual Trauma Support) / 1 780 743 1190 (Family Violence Support)
Pace Community Support Sexual Assault & Trauma Centre: 1 888 377 3223
Chinook Sexual Assault Centres: 1 844 576 2512
YWCA Lethbridge (Amethyst Project): 1 866 296 0477 (Sexual Assault Support)