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ACWS Data Release 2023: Report Reveals Ten Year Highs for Domestic Violence Indicators in Alberta

For Immediate Release: Edmonton, Alberta

November 27, 2023 – New domestic violence shelter data out today reveals a range of indicators showing domestic violence in Alberta is trending up. Calls for help to Alberta Council of Women’s Shelter (ACWS) members hit a ten year high with over 59,000 calls answered by domestic abuse shelters.

Also at a ten-year high are reports from survivors of increasing instances of forced sex and strangulation—one of the most significant predictors of future lethal violence as strangulation increases the risk of being killed by 750%.

ACWS’s 2022-2023 report, On the Front Lines: Striving to End Domestic Violence and Abuse Together, gathered data from 39 organizations operating 53 shelters across Alberta and reveals increasing need. Last year, over 8,400 survivors found shelter and support at shelters—a 19% jump over the year before. Of these individuals, almost half were children. Despite helping so many, shelters were unable to support almost 50% percent more children than last year because of limited shelter space available.

In fact, shelters could not accommodate thirty thousand requests for admission. This is the highest number recorded in the past decade and was due to shelter space constraints, as well as growing complex needs of some survivors. Many small and medium-sized shelters just do not have the funding to support some complex needs like substance-use treatment, 24/7 childcare, and certain mental health care.

“Shelters across this province are working overtime to respond to the increasing number of survivors of domestic violence and their needs,” says Jan Reimer, Executive Director of ACWS. “Unfortunately, women’s shelters have faced stagnant budgets since 2015 alongside ballooning inflation. Without additional resources, we are concerned for survivors in this province.”

Seventy-five percent of survivors who accessed shelter support in 2022/23 needed increased help with basic needs. The report also offers many stories from shelters and survivors on the front lines that explore the growing complexity of survivors’ needs. For instance, if a survivor has more children or no personal money, language barriers or precarious immigration status, their path to leaving an abuser becomes more complicated and more support is needed. To these survivors, ACWS member shelters offer far more than a bed. Last year, they provided almost 60,000 services to survivors including supporting survivors to develop security plans, providing childcare, securing affordable housing, preparing for court among many other needs.

The report details the successes shelters have achieved. Goal planning is key to supporting survivors in their healing journey and almost half (45%) of survivors who left domestic violence shelters successfully completed the shelter program and met their goals. Considering it takes survivors seven to nine times to leave an abuser, this goal achievement shows the success a suite of supports can bring to survivors in their difficult journey. Further, 81% of survivors surveyed made progress with at least one goal they set.

“Our shelter staff spend significant time working with survivors to make and achieve goals. I am excited to see last year’s collective success. The word “shelter” doesn’t fully capture what we do. More accurately, we provide a critical form of temporary, supportive housing and must be a key part of the province’s approach to housing and homelessness,” says Cindy Easton, Executive Director of The Mountain Rose Centre.

“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,” says Dr. Gaye Warthe, President of ACWS.

On the Front Lines: Striving to End Domestic Violence and Abuse Together gives insight into the essential work of Alberta’s women’s shelters, and a critical picture of the pressures many individuals face and the courage these survivors need to be free of abuse.

Read the Report

Other information included in On the Front Lines: Striving to End Domestic Violence and Abuse Together:

  • Shelters in rural communities face additional challenges. The rates of intimate partner violence for rural women are 75% higher than the rates for urban women.  Those who live in rural or remote locations face greater danger than their urban counterparts when abused with 73% of survivors surveyed being at severe or extreme danger of being killed.
  • Lack of affordable housing continues to be one of the most significant barriers to with 76% of survivors surveyed by shelters saying they have experienced moderate to high barriers in accessing safe and affordable housing.
  • Systemic oppression and marginalization was inequitably experienced by survivors, with 61.5% of those survivors surveyed by shelters reporting experiencing moderate to high exposure.
  • Many newcomers are accessing shelters and these individuals made up almost a quarter of survivors surveyed.
  • Insight into the important preventative work ACWS does, including expanding The Healing Brain, their trauma-informed education for childcare workers on how to support kids affected by domestic abuse, and their Leading Change program which engages men and boys to be national leaders against gender-based violence.
  • Innovation Stories from both ACWS and domestic violence shelters.
  • Issue Deep Dives take readers deeper into a bigger, more systemic problem.
  • Calls to Action reveal work that need to be done to move towards ending domestic violence and abuse for all.



The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) Annual Data Release

The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) brings close to four decades of experience and knowledge to serve our 39 members operating over 50 shelters across the province for people facing domestic violence and abuse. Every year, ACWS compiles and analyzes the data provided by its members from the previous fiscal year. This data provides important insight into the experiences of domestic violence survivors and the frontline agencies that support them.




For Media Inquiries:

Contact Carissa Halton