The general belief in our society is that our home should be where we feel the safest. On the news we hear about shootings, car accidents and now the spread of COVID-19, the one place where none of those things are supposed to reach us is our homes. The reality for 100,000 people in Canada is that the home they live in may be shared with a person that hurts them. While most of us are practicing social distancing in hopes to "flatten the curve", the UN has reported a "horrifying global surge in domestic violence towards women and girls, linked to lockdowns imposed by governments responding to the COVID-19 pandemic." When our world was operating as "normal", we lived in a world that had 1 in 3 women experiencing some form of physical or sexual violence in their lives. The economic and social stresses that COVID-19 has added to the lives of many is a major contributing factor to the 300% of increase of calls one service provider in British Columbia has seen over the past few months.
In Canada, the month of May is Sexual Assault Awareness/Prevention Month (SAAM). This month we take extra effort in raising awareness to issues related to and promoting ways to prevent sexual violence. This year, with the situation that the world is in, it is extremely pressing that we are louder than ever to ensure the least amount of harm is done to those in dangerous situations. While the news often reports on rape incidents that occur in parks or alleyways in the middle of the night, 8 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone that is known to the victim.
Recently, many people on social media such as Facebook have been posting messages instructing people that are living with toxic or abusive partners to message them about buying soap while including their address so they can discreetly notify the police. It is definitely positive that people are creating a simple way to have a safety plan in place, in addition to this, everyone posting this message should take time to familiar themselves with the best way to support someone that is being abused.
If the person is immediate danger, calling 911 is what you should do. However, the reality we live in is that calling the police isn't always the best way to support people experiencing domestic violence. If the person is not in immediate danger, then connecting the victim to services that specifically specialize in providing violence against women support services is a good option to consider. Sheltersafe.ca is a website with contacts to local shelters across Canada. Even if they do not stay at the shelter, getting in contact with staff at these agencies can be very important because they are able to support them with creating a safety plan or an emergency escape plan. Like most websites supporting women that are experiencing violence, there is a button on each page that allows them to quickly exit the page and switch to another like Google. It is important to keep in mind that many abusive partners monitor the victim's computer and phone usage and messages. So reminding the victim to delete messages and browser history is important if the abusive partner is still present.
If the person decides not to contact support services, Luke's Place wrote and article about some things you can encourage them to consider in case their partner becomes violent again.
1. Identify which room in their home that has a solid door and lock. Or a room that furniture can be moved to block the door. They should consider a room with a large window that can serve as an emergency exit.
2. Move away from the kitchen. Pots, pans and knives are too easily accessible and can be used against them. Bathrooms are not safe either because they don't have second doors of large windows.
3. Make a list of all weapons the partner has in the house and where they are located. This should be kept somewhere private and easily accessible to them.
4. They should avoid wearing necklaces and scarves.
5. Keep their car with a full tank of gas. If possible, keep a space set of car keys and some money somewhere outside of the home that they can get to in case they need to leave quickly.
One of the horrible byproducts of COVID-19 is the rise of gender based violence. It is incredibly vital that we find a way to end gender based violence across the world. One of the important first steps we can do to keep people safe is being familiar with the services in their community that can best support them. This month, Red Dot Project will focus our blog posts on raising awareness to sexual assault awareness and prevention.