The Parksville Qualicum Beach region saw the number of domestic violence calls rise by 16 per cent in 2020 over the previous year.
According to Const. Tara Gueulette, the domestic violence co-ordinator with the Oceanside RCMP, there were 244 calls in 2020, up from 211 in 2019. She believes the increase in calls are related directly to the COVID-19 global pandemic
Gueulette said the figures reflect calls related to domestic violence such as spousal assaults and also related offences like harassment and peace bond requests.
“We know that there’s a lot more going on,” said Gueulette. “These are the ones that have just been reported… There’s probably a lot more (people) that don’t come to us, that might go directly to community based victim services and such.”
She said if someone feels more comfortable with going to a community based victim services, like the Haven Society Victim Services, then specifics of that incident are kept private unless the person chooses to come forward to the RCMP, or if someone’s life is in danger. She said as the domestic violence co-ordinator, she and the community victim services in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area have a good relationship and communicate often.
“They call and ask questions, but if I hear something specific I do have to act upon it. But if it’s a question like, ‘what would this look like?’ or ‘what would that look like?,’ a lot of the times (victims) do end up reporting to us because they’ve got that support. And some of the barriers that they were concerned about have been dealt with.”
During the pandemic, public health orders state citizens should keep in-person contact to a minimum and social interactions to just household members.
“I’ve heard directly from people that there’s so many stressors. Some situations where maybe the partner would leave for work and then come back, but they’re home now 24/7.”
Gueulette said she’s been told that “things were OK and manageable until COVID,” but that now it’s just no longer manageable.
The Canadian Federation of University Women Parksville-Qualicum (CFUWPQ) Club held a virtual panel discussion on domestic violence in November 2020, where Dawn Clark, the housing manager for the Haven Society, said that while the Haven Society has served fewer clients in its shelter in 2020, the stays have been longer. She said though that there has been an increase in women calling for emotional support, information about their program, resources information and safety planning.
“Many are not ready to leave due to COVID-related fears, or report they are in the constant eye of their offender and fear what might happen if they try to leave,” said Clark.
She said that stays at the Parksville Qualicum Haven House are generally seven to 10 days, but in 2020 stays were longer due to low vacancy rates and low rents, which she attributed to the pandemic making it more difficult to find a rental.
Gueulette encourages anyone who feels unsafe in their current domestic situation to either talk to the Oceanside RCMP detachment or reach out to a community based victim services organization for help.