This past week Canadians have been hit, once again, with sweeping new changes and strict public health orders. According to health officials, the restrictions come on the heels of rising COVID-19 case counts, however, these measures have defenders and advocates for women’s safety very concerned.
Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS), has been at the forefront of the national conversation about domestic sexualized violence against women work since 1979. In the past year, with increased vulnerability from economic stress and social isolation stemming from COVID-19, Vancouver saw a 300 per cent rise in demand for the support services offered by BWSS. Police forces across the country have reported increases in the number of calls related to domestic violence and social services have cited an increase in the severity of the violence women are experiencing during the pandemic. Most recently, however, some regional service organizations have seen a sharp decrease in reported cases leading into the holiday season, signaling problems with isolation.
BWSS is acutely aware of the increased risks of partner violence, sexualized violence, and emotional abuse associated with the country’s new restrictive measures, stressing the rise of domestic violence and femicide during the pandemic requires unprecedented attention to the matter as well as unified coordinated action to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence against women and girls across Canada.
Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of BWSS, says, “Immediate safety is more important than physical/social distancing or self-isolation measures. Staying at home may not always be a safe option for everyone. It’s a critical time, now is the time for us to act, and to work together to keep women and girls safe. If you or someone in your family or community is at risk of, or experiencing physical violence, sexual assault, or psychological abuse in the household, there are services to help assess the risks and to help create a safety plan.”
As part of this anti-violence work, BWSS shares important life-saving information and urges victims of gender-based violence to seek services:
- Are you at risk of, or experiencing violence in your household? If you are experiencing violence or abuse in your household, please know that violence and abuse are never acceptable.
- In addition to physical violence or sexual assault, which may not be immediately present in every abusive relationship, common indications of escalating risks can be:
- increased forced isolation from friends, family, and employment (even via phone, social media, or the internet);
- constant surveillance;
- strict, detailed rules of behaviour;
- restrictions on access to such basic necessities as food, clothing, and sanitary facilities;
- threats: for example, threats to harm the individual, children, and/or other family members, and pets;
- emotional abuse: including insults, intimidation, neglect, control, and isolation;
- financial abuse: including withholding, stealing, or controlling money; and
- spiritual/cultural abuse: restricting spiritual or cultural practices or beliefs.
- If you need to leave an abusive home environment and seek a safe place with family, friends, or outside your community, please do so. If possible, please make a plan before you leave as the act of leaving might increase risk.
In sharing this information, there is an opportunity for increased awareness that can lead to pathways that eliminate gender-based killings and violence, and ultimately, it can save someone’s life.
BWSS is a charitable organization at the forefront of the national conversation about domestic sexualized violence against women. Since 1979, working from an intersectional, anti-oppression, and feminist framework that promotes equality, BWSS has been intimately involved in providing education, advocacy, training, and support services to assist all women in its aim to work towards the elimination of violence.
SOURCE Battered Women”s Support Services