Women check out shoes at the popular annual She Shoe Swaps held at Okanagan College in Salmon Arm in May 2019, with half the funds going to the SAFE Society. That fundraiser and others are postponed. (File photo)

Effects of COVID-19 isolation on domestic violence a concern for Shuswap women’s shelter

Salmon Arm’s programs and services still running but funds, supplies needed

The Salmon Arm Women’s Shelter is open while programs to help women experiencing domestic violence are still operating, if only by phone or video.

This is the message the Shuswap Area Family Emergency (SAFE) Society wants women experiencing abuse to know during the isolation and stress that is accompanying the COVID-19 virus.

“In cases of domestic violence there is a real possibility of an increase to serious bodily harm or death at the hands of an abusive partner. That is something we take really seriously,” said Paige Hilland, SAFE Society spokesperson. “As an organization, we want to make sure that people have information and support.”

She points out that during this time there can be increased control in unhealthy relationships, with it being easier for an abuser to isolate their partner when people can’t go to work. Because families are forced to stay at home in close proximity to their abuser, it’s easier for manipulation to occur. Similarly, the possibility of kids being exposed to domestic violence increases.

“If your abuser is always with you, it’s pretty difficult to make a phone call to a shelter for support.”

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However, the women’s shelter continues to be quite full, Hilland said. Social distancing and stringent cleaning practices are in effect.

She notes criminal and family court have been suspended, and the Ministry of Children and Family Development has suspended in-person visitations by parents to children in care. However, she emphasized if a court matter is deemed urgent, people can get some access by phone.

Police-based and community-based victim services continue to be very busy helping people navigate through the court system.

“All our programs are continuing in some capacity.We just modify things where we can to do support by phone or by video.”

To call for support or to receive information on programs and services, the 24-hour number is 250-832-9616.

Although the need for support continues, receiving funds and donations is getting tricky.

The shelter is asking that people don’t drop off used clothing or household goods at this time, but essentials are still needed.

Basics such as non perishable food, toilet paper and cleaning supplies are needed. If anyone wishes to donate these items, simply call 250-832-9616 and arrangements will be made.

Also, disposable gloves are in short supply and the shelter would be happy to have some masks.

“We’re trying to get masks at the moment, but we’re also trying to be respectful to those in the health-care field who need masks,” Hilland said.

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Financial donations are also extremely helpful.

Donations can be mailed to the women’s shelter, Box 1463, Salmon Arm, V1E 4P6 or can be made via the Canada Helps website by searching ‘Shuswap Area Family Emergency Society.’

The postponement of the SAFE Society’s major fundraisers this year means financial donations are more important than ever.

Hilland expressed gratitude to all the people who support the SAFE Society, including MP Mel Arnold who recently donated his pay raise to the women’s shelter and food banks.

Hilland also encouraged the community to be reaching out to their friends and neighbours, sharing food, asking if they’re safe, even asking specifically about abuse, offering the use of their phone or even offering to call the shelter for them.

“Small things can go a long way to help someone in an abusive relationship.”

According to yearly statistics, on any given night in Canada, more than 6,000 women and children are staying in shelters.

In Salmon Arm, “the shelter is still open, so we really want people to reach out,” Hilland says. “We want people to know we are available to them.”


marthawickett@saobserver.net
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