The COVID-19 stay-at-home measures put in place to keep people safe may have the opposite effect on victims of domestic and family abuse. The Government of Alberta defines family violence as “an abuse of power in a family or other trusting relationship where people rely on each other. When someone experiences family violence, their well-being, security and survival are threatened”.
Perpetrators of family abuse seek power, control and will isolate victims from friends and extended family. In light of COVID-19 restrictions, such as social distancing, it can be difficult to identify the signs of abuse or forced isolation. Other forms of abuse that may be heightened by the COVID-19 measures includes physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.
Many of the resources available to victims of family abuse have had to adapt to the COVID-19 landscape. Extra precautions are necessary to ensure that those living in a communal setting and the employees facilitating same are safe and staying healthy. Shelters in Calgary are considering various and innovative ways to provide support to victims, including telephone counselling services, online chat, and establishing safety plans.
The Calgary Courts Centre continues to hear emergency applications despite the shut-down of regular operations. Under the Protection Against Family Violence Act (“PAFVA”), a claimant can apply for an Emergency Protection Order (“EPO”) without notice to the respondent. In order to obtain an EPO, the claimant must establish:
- That family violence has occurred;
- that the claimant has reason to believe that the respondent will continue or resume carrying out family violence, and
- that, by reason of seriousness or urgency, the order should be granted to provide for the immediate protection of the claimant and other family members who reside with the claimant (PAFVA section 2.1).
The EPO acts similar to a restraining order and allows for police enforcement if there are any breaches of the terms. The EPO will be scheduled for a review date at the Court of Queen’s Bench for which the Respondent will be provided notice.
The Calgary Domestic Violence Collective issued a statement regarding COVID-19 noting that “it is still important to practice social connection while maintaining social distance”. As a community we must continue to reach out to people in our lives, especially those that may be in vulnerable situations.
In the event of an emergency or threat of danger, a victim should contact 911. Further support and resources provided by the Calgary Domestic Violence Collective are as follows:
- The Family Violence Information Line (available 24/7) 403-234-SAFE (7233)
- The Family Violence Support Line (available 24/7 in more than 170 languages) 403-310-1818
- Alberta Safety Line Chat (online service available between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8 p.m. MST)