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Domestic abuse shelters in Alberta report 10-year high in number of calls for help

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The Alberta Council of Women's Shelters says domestic violence is on the rise in the province and shelters are struggling to keep up.

A report, titled On the Front Lines: Striving to End Domestic Violence and Abuse Together, was released Monday. It compiled data from April 2022 to the end of March 2023 for 39 organizations operating 53 domestic abuse shelters across Alberta.

"It's sobering," Jan Reimer, executive director of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, said in an interview.

"Because we're seeing in some areas some all-time highs and trends that are going in the wrong direction."

The data indicates there were more than 59,000 calls for help answered by the shelters, which is a 10-year high. It also shows a decade high in reports of forced sex and strangulation, which the council said increases the risk of being killed by 750 per cent.

Reimer said they are also seeing more requests to bring children into shelters.

The report says about 8,400 people, an increase of 19 per cent, received help at shelters and almost half of those people were children. Shelters could not, however, accommodate another 30,000 requests for admission, which is the highest number in the past decade, due to the lack of shelter space and growing complex needs of some survivors.

"This is a serious and an urgent issue that needs to be dealt with," Reimer said.

"We need elected officials. We need leaders in the community. We need businesses all to step up and to really look at what they can do and how we can collaborate together to end this violence.

"For women's shelters, it definitely means some additional funding."

Reimer said women's shelters have faced stagnant budgets since 2015 alongside ballooning costs and population growth.

"In some cases, our demand is outstripping population growth. All of these are big areas of concern."

She said shelters are concerned for domestic violence survivors in Alberta without additional resources.

No one from Alberta Children and Family Services immediately responded to a request for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2023. 

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