Pandemic stress contributes to spike in domestic violence: EPS

The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) released statistics Friday showing a 13 per cent rise in the number of domestic violence victims it encountered last year compared to the year prior.

It said in 2020 there were 9,545 violence victims compared to 8,406 in 2019.

Police also said the number of serious assaults related to domestic violence "increased dramatically."

"The number of violent assaults causing bodily harm and/or with a weapon increased by 31.6 per cent," said Insp. Sean Armstrong with the EPS serious crimes branch during a Thursday media availability.

"This unsettling trend includes one of the most serious forms of violence, that being strangulation."

EPS said 166 victims were strangled, choked or suffocated last year.

Police also reported a steep rise in sexual assault violations and domestic incidents involving firearms and knives.

"I can tell you without question there is a direct correlation between the increased number of domestic violence incidents that are being reported and the societal pressures being created by the pandemic," said Armstrong.

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The executive director of WIN House told CTV News Edmonton the numbers come as no surprise and that shelters are consistently at capacity.

"About 1,500 (people) in the past year that we've had to say,'No, we just don't have the room,'" said Leslie Allen about being forced to turn some away.

While space isn't always available, she said outreach workers will connect victims to other shelters, make referrals and offer other help.

Sgt. Alexa Simpson with the EPS domestic offender crimes section also said police keep in constant contact with resource providers.

"To understand who has the capacity to do what, where we can compliment one another and where we as police can refer victims to services that are still available despite the challenges presented by the pandemic," said Simpson.

Although there are no simple solutions, Allen said educating the public on how to recognize domestic violence and get help goes a long way.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Amanda Anderson