Report Unveils Alarming Surge in Domestic Violence Cases in Alberta, Straining Shelters Amid Funding Challenges

by Staff

Findings from the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelter (ACWS) reveal a concerning surge in domestic violence indicators, reaching a ten-year high. The latest report, “On the Front Lines: Striving to End Domestic Violence and Abuse Together,” highlights a dramatic increase in calls for help, with more than 59,000 calls answered by domestic abuse shelters – the highest in a decade.

Among the distressing statistics are reports from survivors indicating a ten-year high in instances of forced sex and strangulation. This is particularly worrisome as strangulation is identified as a significant predictor of future lethal violence, elevating the risk of being killed by 750%.

The report, compiled from data gathered by 39 organizations operating 53 shelters across Alberta, points to a growing need for support. In the past year alone, shelters accommodated over 8,400 survivors, marking a 19% increase from the previous year, with nearly half of them being children. However, the surge in demand outpaced shelter capacity, with shelters unable to accommodate thirty thousand admission requests, the highest in the past decade.

Jan Reimer, Executive Director of ACWS, expressed concern over stagnant budgets since 2015 amid escalating inflation, hindering shelters’ ability to meet the complex needs of survivors. Shelters, particularly smaller ones, face funding challenges in addressing issues such as substance-use treatment, 24/7 childcare, and specific mental health care requirements.

“Shelters across this province are working overtime to respond to the increasing number of survivors of domestic violence and their needs,” Reimer said in a media release on Monday, Nov. 27. “Unfortunately, women’s shelters have faced stagnant budgets since 2015 alongside ballooning inflation. Without additional resources, we are concerned for survivors in this province.”

The report also sheds light on the intricate challenges survivors face, including language barriers, precarious immigration status, and financial constraints. ACWS member shelters provided almost 60,000 services last year, extending beyond basic shelter needs to include security planning, childcare, securing affordable housing, and court preparation.

While the report details the successes of shelters, including a 45% completion rate of shelter programs and goal achievement by 81% of survivors surveyed, it underscores the critical need for increased funding and partnerships. ACWS President, Dr. Gaye Warthe, emphasizes that the report serves as an alarm, signaling a growing societal issue that demands immediate attention.

“This report sounds an alarm. Domestic violence shelters provide an important indicator of Alberta’s social wellbeing. The data in these pages show there is a growing fever that needs immediate attention. Increased funding and additional partnerships are key to a sustainable response,” Warthe said.

The “On the Front Lines: Striving to End Domestic Violence and Abuse Together” report can be viewed online.

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