As Brandonites face their second week of recommended self-isolation due to COVID-19, organizations — concerned for those experiencing domestic violence and abuse — are working hard to keep resources available.
"We’re very concerned there will be an increase in domestic violence with self-isolation," said Heather Symbalisty, executive director of the Westman Women’s Shelter and the YWCA of Brandon.
"People will be extremely stressed and experiencing high anxiety, not only about potential job losses but also being confined to smaller quarters. … There’s just all these extra pressures on everyone where we feel there is going to be a higher volume as the self-isolation occurs."
Research also shows that being isolated is already an issue for women who are in abusive relationships, said Kim Iwasiuk, director of counselling and advocacy with The Women’s Resource Centre.
"They’re already very isolated to begin with, and now this on top of everything, we’re very concerned for folks in our Brandon community and our Westman area," Iwasiuk said.
"It’s really difficult to leave the home to go to supports or family members if they’re also in self-isolation."
The YWCA is working very closely provincially with all the other shelters to make sure that space is being utilized, Symbalisty said.
"In Brandon, the Westman Women’s Shelter is not closed, we are still working 24 hours, seven days a week," Symbalisty said.
"The only thing we’ve stopped doing right now is providing support groups to outside residents at this time, but we’re still providing counselling over the phone and in any way we can."
The Westman Women’s Shelter as well as Meredith Place has also implemented extra cleaning as outlined by Manitoba Health, Symbalisty said. Clients have also been assisting in cleaning.
"We’re working together to make sure everybody stays safe and healthy," Symbalisty said.
The YWCA is having trouble finding masks and hand sanitizer, which they need desperately, Symbalisty said.
"I know places are looking for these items across Manitoba and Canada, but we are looking for any other community resources, such as construction sites or anything like that, that might have a supply on hand that they are currently not using," Symbalisty said.
"If they would consider us that would be wonderful."
The Women’s Resource Centre has closed to the public, Iwasiuk said, but employees are still on site working on a rotation and practising self-isolation while assisting clients over the phone as much as possible.
They’re also putting together care packages for women in the morning and setting them outside the front door, Iwasiuk said, along with a variety of breakfast items for those in need.
"We’re really trying to keep resources available as best we can at this time," Iwasiuk said.
Those resources include helping women gain access to a shelter if needed, which is still recommended, Iwasiuk said.
Brandon police are also still available for immediate assistance and if a police report needs to be made, Iwasiuk said.
Family members who might be concerned about a loved one’s situation are encouraged to reach out to them through a phone call, video chat or social media so that they know they are supported, Iwasiuk said — even if it’s from afar.
"We want the community to know we’re still working, we’re still here and we’re still helping out," Iwasiuk said.
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