Brockville mourns ‘a beautiful soul’ lost to domestic violence

Audrey Hopkinson would have turned 34 today, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

It’s also the day the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses publishes its annual femicide list. This year, Hopkinson’s name will be on that list. 

Hopkinson was a nurse and a mom in Brockville, Ont. She was expecting her third child when she was killed in her home on April 1 by her partner, who then killed himself, according to Brockville police.

Women report they had trouble leaving their communities and could not get away from partners. This only increased the violence as women were trapped.– Women’s Shelters Canada national survey

It happened less than a month into the pandemic lockdown in Ontario. The week before, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the pandemic could “exacerbate risks of violence for women.”

“As distancing measures are put in place and people are encouraged to stay at home, the risk of intimate partner violence is likely to increase,” the WHO stated in a report released March 26.

‘We were like sisters’

Melissa Adams, a close friend and colleague of Hopkinson at Brockville General Hospital, met her in training and the two were later on maternity leave at the same time.

“She was a beautiful soul,” said Adams. “She was the type of person that would always remember your birthday, any special occasions, and she would always do something special…. We were like sisters.” 

But Adams said Hopkinson’s new partner soon alienated her and other close friends.

Hopkinson, left, and Melissa Adams, right, trained as nurses together and took maternity leave at the same time. (Submitted by Melissa Adams)

Hopkinson lived close to the Leeds and Grenville Interval House in Brockville, but according to its executive director, Chalene Catchpole, she never sought out the shelter’s services. 

Catchpole said it was “so sad and such an awful time with all the messaging around: stay at home, stay at home.” She said the killing in this small, eastern Ontario city had an immediate impact on women — even those who never knew Hopkinson.

“Our phone lines at that point exploded. I had to re-deploy some of our staff to come in and assist on the phone, because our staff who were working in the shelter weren’t able to keep up,” said Catchpole.

Disturbing trends’ in violence

Women’s Shelters Canada released its national survey of shelters and transition houses on Wednesday. 

The study notes that violence against women (VAW) shelters are working in ever-changing environments due to COVID-19.

Comments received from VAW agencies reveal “disturbing trends in the violence front-line workers were seeing, including an increase in physical attacks (specifically stabbing, strangulation and broken bones), forced confinement, sexual violence, emotional and financial abuse, increased human trafficking and an overall higher frequency of abuse in all forms,” according to the study.

Adams said she and Hopkinson, left, were ‘like sisters.’ (Submitted by Melissa Adams)

The report also expresses specific concerns about rural, remote and Indigenous women, who are not always able to leave their isolated communities.

“Women report they had trouble leaving their communities and could not get away from partners. This only increased the violence as women were trapped,” notes the report.

Ottawa Morning6:35A new report out by Women’s Shelters Canada

The pandemic is making it harder for women and children suffering abuse to leave their homes and their abusers. A new report out by Women’s Shelters Canada tells us how shelters across this country are trying to help. 6:35

Rallying cry 

Adams said she’ll never get over the loss of her friend but hopes Hopkinson’s death can serve as a rallying cry for others. She had this message for other women who are isolated and are being controlled or abused by partners.

“Reach for that hope, because there is a hand on the other side waiting to help. That’s why they have these crisis hotlines,” said Adams. 

Colleagues at Brockville General Hospital set up this memorial after Hopkinson was killed. (Submitted by Melissa Adams)

Meanwhile, she said the community of colleagues at Brockville General Hospital is also suffering a loss. 

Hopkinson “is our guardian angel. We have lanyards now that we wear [commemorating her],” Adams said. “She lives on within our hospital and within each of us…. She was an amazing nurse, an amazing mom and I was blessed to have her as a friend.” 

Ottawa Morning5:54Brockville mourns ‘a beautiful soul’ lost to domestic violence

She was a nurse, mother and friend to many in Brockville. Today, her name is one on a long list of women who were killed in the past year – many through domestic violence, which has gotten worse since the start of the pandemic. 5:54

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, there are resources available at ShelterSafe.

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