Online chat and text service launches for women living with abuse during COVID-19 pandemic
OTTAWA -- We have been asked to "stay home and stay safe" during the COVID-19 pandemic but, for some, home isn’t a safe place.
Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly has publicly said he's concerned about a reduction in calls about domestic violence.
“The abuse reports are concerning, because we know it’s continuing and possibly increasing," Sloly said.
A new support tool for survivors of domestic violence is now online.
The Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW) has partnered with Crime Prevention Ottawa, Interval House Ottawa, and the Eastern Ottawa Resource Centre to launch a new service called 'Unsafe at Home Ottawa.'
"The service was created for those who may find it impossible to reach out by calling a crisis line when trapped at home with their abuser due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and physical distancing measures," Erin Leigh, Executive Director of OCTEVAW, said in a press release. "We want to make sure women have access to the services they need."
Unsafe at Home Ottawa is available seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to midnight. It features safe, encrypted technology to keep conversations confidential and secure. Users will be connected with trained counsellors who will provide support, referrals and advice in English or French.
- Text (613) 704-5535
- Chat online unsafeathomeottawa.ca
Online chats are erased as soon as each conversation ends, but the service recommends users only connect from a device they know is safe to use. It is recommended users clear their browser history after chatting and delete texts if using the text service.
"Unsafe at Home Ottawa is designed to keep you safe. However, nothing is 100% secure. When you chat online with us or text us, please make sure you’re using a device or computer that’s safe. If you think someone else could have installed spyware onto the device you’re using, you may not want to use this service," a note on the site says.
Anyone in immediate danger is still asked to call 9-1-1.
In March, the Ottawa Police Service Sexual Assault and Child Abuse and the Partner Assault Sections encouraged people to remain vigilant about the potential for abuse towards women and children, considering they may be further isolated due to physical distancing and self-isolation measures.