Family violence rose during COVID-19 pandemic: UCalgary study

November is Family Violence Prevention Month (FVPM) in Alberta, and according to a study by the University of Calgary (UCalgary), the rate of domestic violence has risen during the course of the pandemic.

The study highlighted how COVID-19 restrictions may have increased the risk factor for the frequency of family violence incidents in communities.

The mandatory social isolation resulted in an increase in asking for and receiving help for personal crisis situations, such as through women’s emergency shelters.

“And what seemed to be happening during COVID-19 is people didn’t want to go to emergency rooms, for various reasons, they didn’t want to go because they’re afraid to get COVID, or they couldn’t go because of shelter in place working at home,” said Dr. Nicole Letourneau, UCalgary professor and research chair in Parent and Child Mental Health.

Letourneau says in pre-COVID times, families were less susceptible to domestic violence situations due to being preoccupied with ongoing in-person activity, such as work and school. However, during the lockdown, all avenues to receiving help in a controlling situation were limited.

“Family violence is any act of physical, emotional, sexual, financial … against a family member. And intimate partner violence is usually between marital partners, husband, wife kind of thing, but not necessarily married,” said Letourneau.

Due to social distancing and constantly shifting COVID-19 restrictions, young children were especially vulnerable to violence, the study found.

“Kids were being schooled at home, and the perpetrator of the violence was controlling the people who would go to emergency rooms, or who would contact police. And so, those reports are down and the visits were down,” said Letourneau. “That seemed to be the big conclusion that it was either because of fears of going into the public domain and getting COVID-19 themselves or [being] prevented from doing so because of perpetrators who are controlling people.”

Some key recommendations from Letourneau’s study include educating healthcare providers and social services to be more attentive in informing the public where there’s potential for violence and abuse in the context of public health restrictions.

This is alongside providing resources to healthcare professionals, social workers, and counselors to be more comfortable and vocal about providing assistance, and making connections with those experiencing domestic violence.

“It’s really about being more vigilant and providing guidance to health and social service providers to get in those spaces where people aren’t accessing support,” added Letourneau.

Meanwhile, Letourneau says there are numerous detrimental impacts when it comes to the long-term effects of family violence on early childhood development.

”And so it’s kind of disturbing and concerning that so many more children likely have been exposed to family abuse and neglect, because of COVID-19,” she added. “And potentially because of the stresses of COVID-19, or because they weren’t able to be identified, and supported due to the lockdown measures that prevented early identification and kind of treatments for it.”


How to help children recover from mental health set backs caused by the pandemic?

Calgary man who killed girlfriend, toddler must serve 22 years before parole

Gabby Petito’s family files wrongful death suit against Moab

She says domestic violence can lead to mental and physical health problems, and early signs are most evident when preschool-aged children have difficulty relating to their peers.

According to Letourneau, domestic violence rates can be reduced by providing treatment after someone has experienced a traumatic situation, supporting men to not be violent perpetrators, especially through men’s counseling services, and working with couples before they become parents.

Letourneau adds proactively raising awareness and having result-oriented solutions are also critical.

“We do know that there are ways to promote resilience of people that have been exposed to family violence with treatment and support, and there definitely are interventions that can help prevent those negative outcomes like counseling,” said Letourneau.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today