The COVID-19 pandemic has obliged Quebecers to practice self-isolation and social distancing. These measures are essential to protect public health. However, they can also lead to increased incidents of domestic violence and can leave victims feeling even more isolated.
If you’re a victim of domestic violence, or you know someone who is, here’s some important information.
Help is still available
Call 911 if you fear for your safety or you know someone who needs immediate assistance. Even if you do not say anything to the 911 operator when you make the call, the police will usually visit the home from which the call was made.
You can still leave your home
The Quebec and federal governments have banned all types of gatherings and strongly recommend that people stay home. However, people can still go outside. If you are the victim of domestic violence, or you believe you are in danger of violence, you have the right to leave your home.
Services are still available
Services to assist victims of domestic violence continue to function during the pandemic. Emergency assistance lines are operating and women’s shelters are open.
SOS violence conjugale
Contact SOS violence conjugale if you are the victim of domestic violence or you know someone who may be in danger. The people answering will offer information, support and referral to resources that can help you. You can reach SOS violence conjugale at 1-800-363-9010 at any time.
Despite the pandemic, shelters are open across Quebec to receive victims of domestic violence as well as their children. Shelters have adopted strict rules to prevent infection from spreading. For example, some shelters require that new arrivals remain in isolation for 14 days and some provide sealed-off rooms for people showing symptoms of Covid-19.
To find a shelter, call SOS violence conjugale or consult the list of shelters of the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale (coalition of women’s shelters) or the la Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes (federation of women’s shelters – both websites are in French only).
If you do not want to call from home you could, for example, make the call while you are out of the house for a walk or to buy groceries.
Financial help is available
Some victims may be hesitant to leave their home if they are unsure how they will support themselves. A number of special programs are in place to provide financial assistance during the pandemic. Consult the “Compensation Programs” section of our Covid-19 Web Guide for more information on these programs. Quebec’s regular program of social assistance (welfare) remains available as well.
How to assist a victim of domestic violence
Try to remain in regular contact with them (for example via telephone calls or text messages). Without putting pressure on them, show that you are there to help. Isolation is already a severe problem for victims of domestic violence and the current Covid-19 isolation measures make them even more vulnerable.
Inform the victim of the different services available to assist them. Tell them to call 911 in case of emergency or to go to the hospital in case of injury. If you believe someone is in imminent danger or needs immediate assistance, call 911 yourself.
Contact the Director of Youth Protection (DYP) for your region if you believe that a child’s security or development is in danger. You don’t have to be 100% certain the child is in danger to report a situation to the DYP. It’s better to be safe than sorry. You can make an anonymous report to the DYP.