There is concern that the stress of families being isolated together at home during the coronavirus pandemic is increasing the potential for violence.

Canada’s minister for women and gender equality says the crisis has empowered perpetrators of domestic violence in parts of the country.

Maryam Monsef says “self-isolation measures, with the closures of some of the support systems,” results in a powder keg.

Debbie Berg, the executive director of Cowichan Women Against Violence, says they have not seen an increase in abuse reports at this time, but are worried that if there is an increase in domestic violence, it’s going to remain hidden for the time being.

Berg thinks women are concerned about going out into the community to find help while there is a threat of becoming invected by COVID-19.

“I think that people are afraid of coming into anything communal.” Berg adds that they may be thinking that they will “just trade-off for getting sick, instead of dealing with what I already know in my own home.”

She also says some women may be under the impression that the women’s night shelter operated by Cowichan Women Against Violence is now closed.

Berg says they did close the shelter briefly in mid-March due to a lack of staff.

She says shelter workers were forced to stay home to care for others in their families and the staffing levels were reduced by about half.

The group has now found an alternative site to house women and children fleeing domestic violence.

If you are facing family violence and want to seek help you can contact Cowichan Women Against Violence at 250-748-8544, or visit their website.