SUDBURY -- With domestic violence calls increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, a special webinar set for Friday asks people a simple question: are you safe?

It's part of the 'Looking Ahead Project,' a collaborative effort between the Greater Sudbury Police Service and the N'Swakamok Friendship Centre.

The spike in domestic violence across the country has agencies and organizations concerned for people's safety.

"It's for women and men -- we have had some inquiries from men as well," said Viviane Snowboy, Aboriginal women violence prevention coordinator with the Greater Sudbury Police Service. "It's tips and resources on how to get out of an unhealthy relationship, or relationships that are typically abusive."

With the pandemic, Snowboy said a lot of programming had suddenly been suspended in Greater Sudbury, even as domestic violence numbers were increasing.

The webinar will also look at the issue from an Indigenous perspective. Snowboy will be joined on the panel by social worker Lisa Osawamick and Nicole St-Jean from Sudbury Area Victim Services.

"We are here, you can trust us and we can help," said Snowboy. "And also that we hope to reach out to the community, especially those going through domestic abuse."

The participants hope those experiencing violence will feel more comfortable about coming forward if they can put a face to the name.

Osawamick said she will be focusing on the safety plan.

"Violence can happen to all genders -- women, men, two-spirited individuals who are at home with the abuser," Osawamick said. "I think it's really important for right now that the information get out ... To be prepared, to be ready, even if they have children involved, how does that look? How does that plan look with safety and ensuring their children are not witnessing violence."

Having a plan in place reduces the chances of violence occurring when the person is ready to leave, she said.

Run through the scenarios

"You run through the scenarios prior to it happening or ever happening, for an example, a code word," Osawamick said. "I'm going to call my friend and say, 'It's a beautiful day out' and when I say that, they know something's happening and they know I need to get help."

St-Jean said the numbers of gender-based violent incidents they're seeing are up.

"We've had nearly 1,000 referrals to our services (over the last three months) for all types of violent crime and tragic circumstances, however just under 500 of them are intimate partner violence related," she said. "So half of the cases we've dealt with in the last few months do deal with domestic partner violence and intimate partner violence. And for us, typically we see 100, 200 cases a month, so we're seeing an increase of about 200 more cases than we typically would."

They know it can be hard to reach out for help, St-Jean said, and the webinar is a way to ease that process.

"We're doing this webinar, this platform over Zoom so they can see us, we can see them, they can type in the chat box to us and ask questions, so it's just putting a face to the name," St-Jean added.

The webinar is slated to run from 1:30 to 4 Friday afternoon.

To register, email Viviane at