Beyond shelters: addressing domestic violence

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Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor
editor@journalpontiac.com

The pandemic has affected almost every aspect of daily life. Most noticeable are things right in our faces: shortages of stock, business closures, limited crowds for events and private gatherings, etc.

Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor
editor@journalpontiac.com

The pandemic has affected almost every aspect of daily life. Most noticeable are things right in our faces: shortages of stock, business closures, limited crowds for events and private gatherings, etc.
Less visible is the effect COVID has had on things that happen mostly behind closed doors.
More than 40% of women and 33% of men have experienced some form of intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime, says Stats Canada (2018). However, during the pandemic, shelters and help lines reported unprecedented numbers of calls and interventions.
IPV encompasses a broad range of behaviours, ranging from emotional and financial abuse to physical and sexual assault.
Shelters and support networks have called on society as a whole to play an active role to help victims: anyone can call help lines for services for a victim, for advice, or to report an abuser; increased co-operation between police and community workers; more government funding and free helplines; etc.
In mid-April, Québec announced $222.9 million over five years to help victims of IPV; $92 million was earmarked for women’s shelters. Other funding was directed to services for Indigenous people and agencies that offer services for violent men.
These are areas where help and additional support is obviously needed, but a number of other less obvious issues need attention too. There are a number of ways society – through various rules, policies and processing delays – perpetuate some forms of abuse (eg. emotional, financial) and help maintain the hold abusers have on victims.
Example: a friend recently left a troubled relationship and has been fighting for months to stop her ex-partner’s bill payments from being taken from her personal bank account, particularly those from the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ). Why the trouble for a seemingly simple-to-solve problem? The agency requires his permission to cancel them.
In order to maintain her credit score – an asset when starting over – a joint debt payment has fallen solely on her shoulders while awaiting court orders, which can take several months or even years.        
Additional funding for shelters is great, but there are many issues IPV victims face. These may seem small in comparison to shelter, but can have drastic effects on victims’ morale, financial and metal health, and their decision to leave/ stay gone.
Everyone – government and its agencies, banks, the court system, etc. – need to focus on addressing these problems too: policy revisions, accelerated court processes, temporary delayed loan payments, etc.
Launching a survey of IPV victims, with input from support networks working with them first-hand will identify where more support and changes are needed, and that’s a good place to start. It will lead to what’s needed: an in-depth, collaborative, all-encompassing approach rather than slapping a Band-Aid on the biggest bruise. It could literally save lives.