Workers helping women in domestic abuse situations warn against self-isolation but distancing measures due to the pandemic is causing concern in the sector.

In 2015, Statistics Canada reported that sixty per cent of violent crimes in Canada occurs between intimate partners.

"The reduction in reaching out is something that is deeply concerning."

Lorie English, the Executive Director at the West Central Woman's Resource Centre, says one of their greatest concerns is they have found that fewer women have been reaching out to them than normal.

"What we know in our experience working with women who have experienced intimate partner violence is that with increased isolation also comes increased violence," English says.

English says that they typically advise women on how to avoid becoming isolated with an abusive partner, but because of the physical distancing rules, many cannot find comfort in the typical resources the centre offers.

"More than likely violence is actually on the rise. The reduction in reaching out is something that is deeply concerning," she says. "When women are isolated and potentially isolated at home with their partner it becomes increasingly difficult for them to reach out for help."

English says the most important thing for women is to be in contact with someone on a regular basis.

Workers at the centre have been connecting with women to create safety plans and help them find safe spaces.

"I think our entire city is struggling right now."

The West Central Woman's Resource Centre will typically provide resources and connections to those seeking assistance, but physical distancing has put a strain on its abilities. English says that even counselling services have become difficult to do. 

"One of the things we have been able to do is set up a bit of a code system," English says.

Workers have been working to find ways to provide women options to leave if they need them. English adds that because of the pandemic, many shelters have been unable to accept new residents.

The Charis Centre, which is part of Union Gospel Mission, works to help women overcome addictions and other difficulties, is experiencing COVID-19's impact.

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Pray for our Community Please pray for our homeless and guests from the community. The idea of self isolation is not a comfortable or practical one at this time. #ugmwinnipeg #bemissionaware #walkwherejesuswalked #addictions #recovery #mensaddictions #womensaddictions #newlifeinchrist #CharisCentre #familyministry #familylifecentre #StreetMeal #streetministry #AdultEducation #ChristianSchool #ChristianEducation #childrenandyouthministry

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Loriann Tulk, the Charis Centre's Program Manager, says that due to concerns over COVID-19 the centre is pausing new resident applications for the time being. 

"We had two newborn babies, and other children here and some older women who may be at risk or ladies with some serious health concerns," Tulk says about the decision.

Tulk has noticed that other shelters are making the same decision to put a hold on intakes.

The decision to refrain from adding new residents to the shelter was difficult for the centre, which mostly welcomes women who are rehabilitating from addictions.

"You feel very torn because obviously our heart and our mission is to help these ladies... it is heartbreaking," Tulk says.

The center continues to reevaluate its decision to pause intakes.

"We've had to pray our way through it, pray for wisdom and guidance."

Physical distancing also means they have had to make changes in how the centre operates, including how they transport people for their shopping and regularly-scheduled programs.