At the start of the pandemic, there were fewer women coming to Richmond’s transition house, Nova House, as women were stuck at home, often isolated with their abuser.
During this time, however, the number of calls to CHIMO Community Services' crisis line increased significantly.
And in the past four months alone, calls to the crisis line have increased by 50 per cent.
CHIMO’s executive director Tabitha Geraghty chalks this up to the stress of the pandemic and its related economic recession, as domestic abuse is often exacerbated when there are societal pressures.
“Any high stress event - holidays, recessions, pandemics - create increased stress and pressure on a relationship, which (results in) increased incidents of domestic violence,” Geraghty said. “And I think we just saw a pandemic that caused an intense, two-year, high-stress environment.”
Increasing awareness about CHIMO’s services is one way to help women who need to leave an abusive relationships, Geraghty said, and if someone needs help, she encourages them to call for help. (They discourage drop-in visits to their office at the Caring Place, but Geraghty said they won’t turn anyone away.)
This includes seeking help for a loved one or friends who might be in crisis or in a bad relationship.
“If it’s their neighbour, if they have a niece, if it’s their sister, how do we let them know there’s help out there,” Geraghty said. “It’s increasing awareness of services like ours.”
Women can be subjected to financial abuse, emotional abuse and psychological abuse on top of physical abuse, explained Geraghty.
Geraghty describes an abusive situation when “a woman feels disempowered in a relationship, when she doesn’t have the ability to make choices that she feels are best for her, when she’s being … restricted from doing activities that fulfill her life, like going to work, spending time with friends that fills her soul, having financial independence, having friends and family and being able to live an autonomous life.”
According to Statistics Canada, in 2017, intimate-partner violence accounted for 30 per cent of all violent crime reported to police in Canada, with almost 96,000 victims between the ages of 15 and 89. Seventeen per cent was between dating partners and 13 per cent was between spousal partners.
For the second year in a row, a fundraiser at Shoppers Drug Mart is supporting Nova House, the transition house for women fleeing domestic abuse that is run by CHIMO Community Services.
Geraghty said she’s grateful to Shoppers for choosing Nova House as its target for fundraising this year again - last year’s campaign raised more than $18,000 for the women’s transition house and its services.
There are eight Shoppers Drug Mart locations in Richmond and at the point of purchase, the cashier will ask customers if they want to donate to Nova House through the “Love You” campaign, which runs until Nov. 5.
Regional transition houses collaborate
The pandemic and its related health orders – like physical distancing - mean there is less capacity at the transition house, even while there is increased demand for services.
CHIMO was given funding from BC Housing, however, to accommodate some women in hotels, and, luckily, the transition house never had to shut down during the pandemic, Geraghty said.
Regional transition houses work collaboratively to shelter women fleeing abuse, and Richmond’s Nova House sometimes takes people from other communities, either because they can’t stay in their home community or because there isn’t room in a local shelter.
CHIMO started 48 years ago as a crisis line for Richmond residents and it’s just kept on adding services as needed, Geraghty said.
It now offers a wide variety of services – from counselling, settlement services, help filling out tax forms, outreach work as well as providing safe shelter – Nova House - for women fleeing abuse.
Counselling is available in Mandarin and Cantonese and the transition house offers services in four different languages.
The outreach and advocacy office offers services in 12 different languages.
“It’s hard enough to navigate the narrative and have it come out of your mouth without having to struggle with ‘how do I say it in another language,’” Geraghty said.
CHIMO’s crisis line is available from 8 a.m. to midnight at 604-279-7070. Nova House crisis line is open 24/7 at 604-270-4911.
There is also a chat room available from Thursdays to Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight. For more information, click here.