Intimate partner violence numbers on the rise across the GTA

 Those on the frontlines of fighting violence against women in Ontario say deadly incidents are on the rise. There have been 23 murders in the last six months alone and most women were killed in their homes by men they knew. Since 2018, the number of women killed each year in Ontario has gone up [[{“value”:”

Those on the frontlines of fighting violence against women in Ontario say deadly incidents are on the rise. There have been 23 murders in the last six months alone and most women were killed in their homes by men they knew.

Since 2018, the number of women killed each year in Ontario has gone up by 68 per cent, according to the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, which tracks femicides from media reports. In 2018-2019, there were 37 femicides, increasing sharply in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing. By the end of 2023, 62 women had been killed that year.

But these tragedies are a small part of a bigger crisis that is taking place. The data shows many other women are suffering, with calls to police on the rise.

In York Region, domestic violence calls have risen 31 per cent in the last five years. Calls to The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, which offers legal services and counselling for women dealing with abuse, have also dramatically increased.

“At the clinic, we were serving around 8,000 people pre-pandemic in 2019. Last year, in 2023, we served around 14,000 people,” said Deepa Mattoo, the clinic’s executive director.

That represents a 75 per cent increase, and Mattoo expects this year’s numbers will be even higher. At the same time, shelter leaders say it is getting harder to help women in crisis escape violence, as their facilities are full.

Last year, Nellies, a gender-based violence shelter in Toronto, had to turn away 177 women in crisis who were seeking refuge.

“We are constantly turning women away…It is absolutely frightening. When you’re turning a woman away, you just hope they can survive until they can find the space they need and get to safety,” said Jyoti Singh, executive director of Nellies.

She added all of the gender-based violence shelters in Toronto are turning women away. Part of that problem is women are staying longer because they have nowhere else to go due to the lack of affordable housing. In theory, they are supposed to stay at a crisis shelter for about three months.

“If we could get them out in six months, I’d be happy,” said Singh, adding that many end up staying closer to a year. The backlog adds to the danger. “You have to turn more women away, fewer spaces for women who are literally in danger for their life.”

Toronto currently has 14 gender-based shelters. Singh says the city would need to double that amount to meet current needs. She added that she believes the rise in violence against women reflects socioeconomic pressures.

“Increased stress, lack of affordability, increased mental health issues, all of these things compound and will lead to some form of violence,” she explained.

Fartumo Kusow’s daughter Sahra Bulle was murdered a year ago in Windsor, Ont., after allegedly suffering years of abuse in her marriage. Kusow said her daughter had just moved into a shelter three weeks earlier to escape the violence. Her former husband is charged with her death.

“This is a public health crisis, you can’t tell me otherwise,” she told CityNews.

The Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses recommends a website that compiles support services available for survivors of gender-based violence.

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