When the phone rings at police stations in Ukraine, women are often on the other end of the line experiencing domestic violence.

According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Social Policy, the National Police of Ukraine (NPU) received more than 90,000 complaints related to domestic violence in the first nine months of 2018. Women were on the line in 90 per cent of those calls. These 2018 figures show an alarming trend – before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on movement, such as self-isolation.

“When data was released in May, there was a clear connection between the rise in domestic violence numbers and enforced quarantine measures in the spring,” said Tom Monastyrski, Project Director for the Canada-Ukraine Police Development Project (CUPDP), funded by Global Affairs Canada through its Peace and Stabilization Operations Program.

Monastyrski explained how CUPDP was already working on supporting the NPU in domestic violence prevention and response, but the pandemic amplified the issue. According to police partners and media reports, the number of reported domestic violence incidents doubled since quarantine measures went into effect in March 2020 – bringing CUPDP’s domestic violence programming to the forefront of the project.

CUPDP collaborated with the RCMP and NPU on a six-module course to help officers develop unique skills needed to respond to the complexities and demands of domestic violence incidents. The course is practical, rather than theory-based, and reflects on-the-ground realities, such as barriers that prevent women from leaving abusive relationships.

“It was evident that we had to deliver this information to more front line officers,” said Sergeant Steve Rose of the RCMP and former Police Trainer with the Canadian Police Mission Ukraine (CPMU).

“By supplementing in-person training with online modules, we have a greater impact on domestic violence by giving officers the skills and confidence needed to professionally respond to, investigate and support the victims of this heinous crime.”

Through the course, officers develop soft interviewing skills to conduct a risk assessment and determine if the situation calls for an Emergency Protection Order to remove the offender. They learn how to help victims and survivors prepare a safety plan and exit strategy specific to each situation.

Officers leave the course understanding domestic violence can affect anyone at anytime regardless of background, history or circumstance.

To increase safety for the youngest Ukrainians fleeing violent homes, CUPDP and Global Affairs Canada also provided car seats to be installed in patrol cruisers. These steps will continue to support officers in helping victims and survivors as the pandemic persists, and in the future.

“Domestic violence is a serious criminal matter with a huge impact on society,” said Tracy Hardy, the CUPDP’s Senior Police Training Advisor and retired Assistant Commissioner with the RCMP. Hardy served as a member of the RCMP for 34 years.

“Police working together with community partners can stop this violence.”

On November 25, CUPDP and Alinea join the world in marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.