Sudbury domestic violence support moves downtown to improve accessibility during pandemic
Published Thursday, April 23, 2020 4:10PM EDT Last Updated Friday, April 24, 2020 9:47AM EDT
SUDBURY -- Sudbury's Violence Intervention and Prevention Program has a new home for the duration of the pandemic, downtown inside the Health Sciences North building on Cedar Street.
The decision was made after stakeholders got together and tried to figure out how those in need of the program could better access its services.
Police are seeing an increase in the cases of domestic violence, but the VIPP wasn't seeing those individuals come to the hospital during the pandemic.
"We weren't really sure why that was happening," said manager Nancy Horan. "The only cases that were presenting to the hospital were ones that were significant and severe injuries, so we kind of assumed that people were a little bit fearful, that people were afraid of coming to the hospital location."
Horan says with an off-site location, they are hopeful they might be able to entice those few clients who need their services but might be fearful of going to the hospital to visit them downtown instead.
"We know that isolation is potentially an escalating factor of violence, so one of the primary things over domestic violence is power and control and isolation of the victims. And so when you're made to self-isolate, you're isolating with that perpetrator. And when you look at children, I mean, basically, their abusers are someone who is known to them or someone who lives with them, and now they're not going to school where a teacher can identify abuse," Horan explained.
The service moved into the new shared space with its counterparts at the Voices for Women Sexual Assault Centre. And so far, they've already had two or three women visit them at the new location.
Officials at the centre have done everything to try and adapt to their new space in hopes of making their clients feel as comfortable as possible.
They've also set up a new exam room to assist the staff in their work.
"For this area, we've made it as best as we could. It is what it is, very gender-neutral, but it has all of the equipment that we need for our clients. We're hoping that they feel very comfortable in a private area, where they can speak to us and we can provide services," said Pamela O'Bumsawin, a nurse with the program.
VIPP currently has a team of 13, mostly nurses and one nurse practitioner.
The service is hopeful the women, men and children who need their services will be comfortable with stepping in through the door of their temporary location.
For now, it's being treated as an interim spot for the duration of the pandemic.
"I think when we start releasing the restrictions from COVID-19, that we will see potentially an increase of victims that were subjected to violence during the isolation process," said Horan.
The Ontario government recently announced funding of $2.7 million to help victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes.
The European Institute for Gender Equality says the financial insecurity and pandemic are going to make it tough for women to escape certain domestic situations. They're asking neighbours to be vigilant, to call on behalf of those victims who might not be able to seek help.
"We've done a lot of work behind the scenes in the last couple of weeks to get ready and we just opened our doors, so we've let our community stakeholders know that we're here," said Horan. "We want those people to be able to reach out and seek support, this is about accessibility."