The Women’s Contact Society in Williams Lake offers many supports, including programs for victims of domestic violence. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

COVID-19 creates a massive protection risk: Women’s Contact Society

So far the Women’s Contact Society in Williams Lake has not seen an increase in domestic violence over the last few months, but these are still early days within the realms of the pandemic, warned Diane Lowe, Stopping the Violence counsellor and advocate.

“COVID-19 has created a massive protection risk,” Lowe said. “Reduced community interaction puts those vulnerable individuals at risk and into desperate situations.”

To track domestic violence incidents the Women’s Contact Society works very closely with all other related agencies in town such as RCMP victim services, Canadian Mental Health, Ministry for Children and Families, Axis Family Resource Centre and the Boys and Girls Club of Williams Lake and District.

“We are part of the Interagency Case Assessment Team that works with those in high risk domestic violence cases,” Lowe said. “We are also part of the Violence is Preventable team that meets once a month to discuss ways forward with education and delivery on violence.”

Williams Lake RCMP Insp. Jeff Pelley said events that include domestic violence and disputes have been trending upward in the last several years.

“In March 2020 we saw a large increase compared to months prior, but it appears in April of 2020 that our statistics dropped below the running trends,” Pelley said.

When asked what more needs to be done in the Williams Lake area to tackle the issue of domestic violence, Lowe said there are higher stakes here.

The rural outlying areas are a catchment for this type of violence, she added.

“Isolation, lack of communication abilities and travel puts those at higher risks. Smaller communities need to ensure that they are staying in contact with their neighbours. Learning to listen closely to what is not being said.”

Lowe encouraged those in need to get in touch with the Women’s Contact Society so staff can provide the education and information that is needed to stay safe.

There are so many things that are needed, such as a women’s health care centre and access to facilities like treatment centres, she added.

“You can go to detox for seven days, but cannot get into a treatment centre for four months. We need second stage housing for women leaving treatment centres and transition houses, we need affordable housing.”

Women often go back to their abuser because they have no where else to go, or because of underlying issues such as the Stockholm syndrome.

“It’s the devil you know!” she added. “We need another shelter. We need a place that women and their teenage male children will be accepted.”

Flexibility of public transportation to and from the bigger cities is also needed.

Lowe said if the public ignores domestic violence that won’t help solve the problem.

“Don’t hide from it, if it is happening in your neighbourhood call the police and ask them to check if you hear or see something suspicious,” Lowe said. “Get involved, you could be saving a life.”

Abuse comes in many forms such as physical, mental, emotional, financial, spiritual and verbal.

“Let’s not forget the possibility of human trafficking and how that may affect the vulnerable people in our community,” Lowe said.

READ MORE: BC unveils $5 million for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Human trafficking is not just about prostitution, she explained, noting people are being brought in from other countries to work for little to no money. They are brought in as wives and used as slaves and sex toys.

They may have language barriers and lack of accurate information about their rights, they may be in fear of being deported, she warned.

“Listen carefully to your friend when they tell you their story. Get involved with Take Back the Night and the Purple Ribbon Campaign.”

When asked what supports are in place, she said people in the community never have to feel alone, there are many branches of support.

All of the services at the Women’s Contact Society are free, such as Stopping the Violence counsellors, advocates that help with tenancy, disability, pensions, and more, including a family law advocate.

“B.C. Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equality has reassured victims and survivors if you reach out there is a safe place during this emergency no matter where you live in B.C.,” Lowe said.

The government has just put forth an Immigration program for abused women in Canada without permanent residency status to receive a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) as well as interim federal health coverage and a work permit free of charge.

When asked if only women are supported, Lowe said they try to help all people irrespective of gender, race, LGBTQ+ but the main client base is female.

“We counsel all who need our help and we will do our best to find the appropriate placement for all individuals. We do help men in all other aspects of our organization.”

The Women’s Contact Society can and does help with the smallest and largest of issues and anything in between.

“Our organization should be your first “go to” place when you need help.”

The Women’s Contact Society is a non-profit organization that strives to help all people in Williams Lake and surrounding areas with quality women’s and children’s clothing.

There is a food shelf that holds non-perishable items as well as women’s hygiene products, and a small supply of diapers and formula. The childcare and resource and referral department has information and resources, training and networking, childcare subsidy information and assistance, a library for toys, equipment and book lending.

The society’s Good Food Box program supplies its members with a box of fresh, nutritious food at an affordable price.

“Even if you don’t think there is help for you, believe me we know how hard it is for you to take that next step…call us 250-392-4118 or email us: d.lowe@womenscontact.org or even visit our Facebook page, Women’s Contact Society,” Lowe said.



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