Domestic violence aggravated by containment measures, according to a Quebec study

A study by the University of Sherbrooke (UdeS) shows that the containment measures imposed during the first waves of the pandemic caused the number of cases of domestic violence to explode.

According to data compiled by three medical students — Ariane Pelletier, Alycia Therrien and Marie-Aude Picard-Turcot — under the supervision of Dr. Mélissa Généreux, more than one out of six Quebec women in a couple (17.6%) say domestic violence in October 2021, 3.2% of women declaring that they had suffered physical violence.

“Behind every femicide, there is a high number of women living in unsanitary conditions,” said Dr Généreux, referring to the increase in the number of deaths after domestic violence.

“[Before the study]we didn’t know the extent of more invisible domestic violence, which can fly under the radar.”

The researchers obtained data from online questionnaires sent to more than 3,500 women in relationships at four key times during the pandemic, between November 2020 and October 2021.

The Montreal region was the most affected in the province with 22.5% of respondents having experienced domestic violence in October 2021.

Violent behavior towards women peaked in February and October 2021 when COVID-19 infections were particularly high and the government imposed strict measures, according to the study.

Violence rates were at their lowest in June 2021, as restrictions eased in Quebec during the warmer months.

Dr. Généreux said domestic violence is not a new phenomenon, but has been seriously exacerbated by the health crisis, which has reduced access to community support resources and support networks for individuals.

She hopes that by making the new data public, the population will be more attentive and on the lookout for signs of abuse.

The study shows that for each femicide recorded in Quebec in 2021, there are “nearly 3,000 women victims of violence in the marital context” and “more than 16,000 women victims” of one form or another of violence. domestic violence, including verbal or psychological violence.

“If, for example, your spouse repeatedly yells or speaks scornfully to you, that has a name. It’s called verbal abuse or emotional abuse, and it’s no more acceptable than physical abuse” , said the professor of the department of community health sciences. .

Following these findings, UdeS researchers aim to propose new solutions to continue to fight against domestic violence. They plan to release a detailed report of their findings with possible solutions in June.

A public health issue

Dr. Généreux, who specializes in public health, believes that domestic violence is a serious public health problem and must be treated as such.

During her research, she encountered a lack of knowledge about the extent of the phenomenon in the province. With the exception of certain data gleaned from Statistics Canada, there was practically nothing to measure the prevalence of conjugal violence in Quebec in a sustained fashion.

“I think that sends a pretty clear message that we would benefit from better understanding how lower-level violence plays out in households,” she said. “We cannot say that one woman in six experiences domestic violence and stop there, we must continue.”

She said that this type of violence makes many collateral victims, starting with the children of a household. Figures also show that a woman experiencing violence in a relationship is twice as likely to suffer from anxiety or depression and three times as likely to have suicidal thoughts.

And as the pandemic seems to be slowly giving way to a return to normalcy, Dr. Généreux worries for thousands of women trapped in toxic relationships because they can’t otherwise find or afford housing.

“We could say to ourselves ‘it’s linked to confinement, everything will be back to normal’, but that’s not the case!” she says. “A relationship that has deteriorated is not going to get better all of a sudden.”

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