Over the past two weeks, I have been receiving calls from survivors, in fear of how the COVID-19 will inevitably lead to frustration in their partners, which in turn will inevitably lead to an escalation in violence directed towards her and or the children. The social distancing that has been mandated for the community is an abusers’ dream and a survivor’s nightmare because it legitimises their strategy of social isolation of their partner. Whereas in the past, she may have been able to go to work and possibly get some respite from the violence, now, as she is inextricably bound to the home and to him.
Now, more than ever, we must all do more to outreach and connect with colleagues, family members, friends and neighbours who may be experiencing violence. Being cooped up, with no way of knowing how long this COVID-19 pandemic will last, may lead to escalation of anxiety, frustration and violence in some, which they then take out on others.
What can you do?
Check in on each other and instead of just asking ‘Are you ok? How are you doing?’ – ask ‘Is there anything I can do to support you?’ Show that you are a safe person for her to confide in, because it will let her know that people have not forgotten or abandoned her.
Physical and social distancing impacts survivors’ ability to get help because it severely restricts movement in the community. Survivors are limited in their options, and are now heavily reliant on technology and their phones. But we know that these are not always safe or secure spaces and devices. Abusive partners may be monitoring their devices, which is why friends, families and colleagues must be doing more proactive checking in on one another.
To survivors, I want you to know that firstly, as an organisation by and for survivors, it’s not your fault. We understand what you’re going through and want you to know that you are not alone, even though it might feel like that. Secondly, your safety, and that of your children, is the biggest priority, which is why we urge survivors to rely on their gut instincts as they navigate situations that pop off during isolation. Finally, despite the fact that services are stretched thin, the Canadian federal government has set aside $50,000,000+ to support shelters and sexual assault centres.
So, be strategic, using any means at your disposal to reach out to an agency near you, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org any time.
We’re here. Stay safe.