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by Eric Thompson
February 17, 2021
The pandemic has led to a rise in reports of domestic violence across the nation, but West Nipissing has not been following that trend.
In January, West Nipissing OPP investigated 28 domestic related incidents, five of which resulted in someone being charged with a criminal offence. Throughout January 2020, local police investigated 34 domestic related incidents, 13 of which resulted in someone being charged with a criminal offence.
December 2020 saw nine fewer reports and three fewer cases of someone being charged than December 2019.
A decline in reports to police doesn’t mean there are suddenly fewer cases of domestic violence. The Canadian Press reported that “Canada's Assaulted Women's Helpline fielded 20,334 calls between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, compared to 12,352 over the same period the previous year.”
However, local support services aren’t seeing nearly as many people reach out as they did prior to the pandemic.
“We’ve all seen a big decrease in calls and we just don’t know why,” says Linda Lafantaisie Renaud, executive director of the Horizon Women’s Shelter. “In the beginning we were thinking maybe it was because of the CERB; people weren’t fleeing because at least they had money? Maybe they are afraid to leave their home because of the lockdown? I really don’t know what’s going on, but it’s been like that in the whole Nipissing area.”
Lafantaisie Renaud notes that calls have been picking up over the last few months, but still aren’t at pre-pandemic levels. She just wants to remind anyone who is suffering in a bad situation, the women’s shelter is still there.
“We can still help them,” says Lafantaisie Renaud. “Even though we’re going through a pandemic, we’re still here, we’re still open. Our crisis line is still open 24 hours a day and we will help them. We’ll find the resources to help them.”
COVID-19 has been a challenge for the Horizon Centre. A small shelter to begin with, they aren’t able to operate at full capacity in order to allow for social distancing. New residents need to self-isolate for 14 days or until they get a negative COVID-19 test. That means staff have to take up extra duties just to help their residents: from extra cleaning to grocery shopping to expanding their online services.