‘Love a Shelter’: Alberta campaign launched as domestic violence calls increase for Valentine’s Day

"We’ve had a 20% increase in crisis calls in this week alone." Domestic abuse on the rise ahead of Valentine’s Day. Jillian Code on how to address the issue.

By Jillian Code

In the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, an Alberta campaign has launched, calling for more awareness to be brought to those in abusive situations.

A 2017 study from the University of Calgary shows there is a stark increase in calls reporting domestic violence in the days before the holiday.

In addition, Jan Reimer, executive director at the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS), told CityNews that calls to shelters are “going up, up, up.”

“At the start of the pandemic, everyone was ‘stay home, stay safe,’ right? And then with each wave, we see more and more women, and that’s continuing at the same time shelter resources are really stretched.”

The council is hosting a “Love a Shelter” promotion” for school-aged kids to send letters of support to their local shelter workers and those using the support.

According to the ACWS, the Valentine’s letters are a way to participate in “social advocacy to create change” and show support to survivors of domestic violence that they are not alone, “they are loved and supported by their communities.”

Those same kids will also receive information on domestic violence and how to address it.

“There’s lots of children that come to the shelter, and for those who’ve not visited a women’s shelter, it’s often the first thing you hear when you walk through the doors. It’s children,” Reimer said.

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Nicole Taylor, the program manager of WomenatthecentrE, says Valentine’s day can be used as part of the circle of violence.

She says aggressors buy gifts or chocolates for their victims in the hopes those being hurt, emotionally or physically, will not think their situation is so bad.

Taylor adds they have experienced more calls leading up to Valentine’s.

“We’ve had a 20 per cent increase in crisis calls this week alone,” Taylor said.

“It’s not always seen, especially in public, because I think aggressors are quite strategic, and most abusive partners are those who present as quite charming and charismatic, and this is very intentional,” Taylor said.

She says preventative work doesn’t just fall on survivors, as there is more of a push for men to recognize warning signs in those they associate with.

“Take a stance against misogyny, against gender-based violence, against comments that ridicule women or really anyone from high-risk vulnerable populations,” Taylor said.

For those in an abusive situation, Taylor says to develop a safety plan with a trusted person, with a code word for dangerous situations and details on which documents you need to leave, especially if kids are involved.

According to the ACWS, its shelters housed over 300 survivors and their children on Valentine’s Day in 2022. 

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