While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread social, economic and healthcare hardship across the province over the past two years, the same time period has also seen the rise of a second equally troubling crisis in communities large and small.
Specifically, instances of domestic violence have increased sharply over the past two years, with women and children being by far the largest group of victims, according to newly released information from Legal Aid Alberta.
Whether the rise in family violence will decrease as the COVID pandemic winds down remains to be seen. What is known is that stakeholders, including the provincial government, have an obligation to do whatever it takes to protect victims and to ensure abusers pay the price for their crimes.
The increase in family violence has lead to sharp increase in requests for emergency protection orders (EPOs) from victims seeking legal and physical protection from abusers.
“The majority of individuals filing EPOs are women, and most of those are women with young children,” said Christina Riddoch, staff lawyer with Legal Aid Alberta. “They’re trying to escape an abusive husband or boyfriend – a situation that may have been exacerbated by isolation requirements or stay-at-home orders during the pandemic.”
And it is not only women and children who have been increasingly victimized in recent months – many of Alberta’s elderly are also being targeted.
“We are seeing an increase in situations where an adult child or stepchild is abusing their elderly parent, something that could be the result of the cost of living becoming harder to manage,” she said. “So, we’ve been working in tandem with support services for elder abuse victims to try and help get these vulnerable people out of these situations.”
The fact that a large portion of Alberta’s population is facing an increasing risk of being victimized by close family members is both sad and extremely troubling.
The provincial government, the police, and other stakeholders must make concerted new efforts to address this unacceptable situation.
- Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan