Media Release: COVID-19 containment contributing to domestic violence

St. Joseph’s Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Program is available 24/7

May is Sexual Assault Prevention Month

LONDON, Ontario –The same measures that are helping London and region flatten the COVID-19 curve are contributing to another significant danger – domestic violence and sexual assault. 

“With stay-at-home orders, the stress of confinement, financial uncertainty, attitudes about gender roles and a desire for control during disaster times all contribute to increased risks for domestic violence and sexual assault,” explains Cassie Fisher, Coordinator of the Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Program (SADVTP) at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “This is why all of our supports and services are still being offered to those who are needing to reach out to us.”

Some areas of Ontario have reported a staggering 22 per cent increase in domestic violence and sexual assault reports, says Fisher. Across Canada, there have been reports of a 30-50 per cent increase in calls to crisis centres regarding intimate partner violence. At the SADVTP, the number of people coming into the centre have declined while call volumes have increased by about 35 per cent, which is attributed to risk factors that lead to an increase in domestic violence in the community.  

Measures taken to minimize the spread of COVID-19 have been essential but they also create environments where violent behaviours can flourish, explains Dr. Susan McNair, Medical Director of the SADVTP. 

“For many, home is not a safe place, and our biggest fear is that people are experiencing domestic violence and/or sexual assault and are unable to reach out during certain times because the abuser is home or they are too afraid of COVID-19 to seek the care and supports they need.”

The specialized team of nurses, doctors and social workers at St. Joseph’s SADVTP is available 24/7, virtually and in person. A nurse is onsite at St. Joseph’s Hospital at all times who is specially trained to support those who have experienced an acute sexual assault and/or domestic violence, as well victims of human trafficking. Care and support are offered to individuals of all ages, sexual orientation or gender identity – at the time of the assault and in the months following. There are many options for care and each individual can choose what he or she wants to do. 

“Domestic violence and sexual assault affects all races, ethnicity, socioeconomic strata, gender identities, sexual orientations, ages and relationship statuses,” says Fisher. “It is so important that people in our community know that St. Joseph’s and the Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment program are here to support them.”

For more information:

Dahlia Reich, Communication Consultant
St. Joseph’s Health Care London
Office: 519.646.6100 ext. 65294
Cell: 519 619-0971, pager 10117

About St. Joseph’s Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Program 

The Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Program at St. Joseph’s Hospital provides care in the region for women, children and men who have experienced sexual assault/sexual abuse and/or domestic violence. A team of specialized nurses, doctors and social workers are available 24/7 to provide care at the time of the assault and in the months following the incident. Depending on the nature of the assault and the time since the assault, numerous services are offered:

  • Medical treatment and follow up care
  • Forensic collection
  • Documentation
  • Counseling
  • Safety planning
  • Referral to supporting community agencies
  • Primary care
  • Consultation with other health care professionals
  • Support with contacting police services
  • Support contacting victim services
  • Education and presentations to community agencies and schools

To access the program:

  • Call the program at any time, day or night, at 519-646-6100, ext. 64224
  • Go to St. Joseph’s Urgent Care Centre or any emergency department in London, Middlesex, Oxford, or Elgin Counties and ask to speak to the nurse on call for sexual assault/domestic violence. 

About St. Joseph’s Health Care London

Renowned for compassionate care, St. Joseph’s Health Care London is a leading academic health care centre in Canada dedicated to helping people live to their fullest by minimizing the effects of injury, disease and disability through excellence in care, teaching and research. Through partnership with Lawson Health Research Institute and our collaborative engagement with other health care and academic partners, St. Joseph’s has become an international leader in the areas of: chronic disease management; medical imaging; specialized mental health care; rehabilitation and specialized geriatrics; and surgery. St. Joseph’s operates through a wide range of hospital, clinic and long-term and community based settings, including: St. Joseph’s Hospital; Parkwood Institute; Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care; and the Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care.

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