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Dispelling Myths about Intimate Partner Violence

By | News

Gender based violence (GBV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) are taboo topics that many people do not feel comfortable addressing nor discussing openly. However, when it is a topic of conversation, many people have a lot to say, and some may appear to have a lot more of an intimate knowledge on the issue. The claims and statements made by people who have not experienced gender-based violence, can sometimes be inaccurate.

Here are 6 myths of gender-based violence and intimate partner violence and some facts to help dispel false information.

Myth #1: If it was really that bad, they would leave:

There are several impediments that stop women from leaving a dangerous relationship such as abusive threats, psychological manipulation, lack of sufficient job opportunities, limited education, or worse, the threat of serious physical assaults and death threats if they try to leave.

Myth #2: The victims provoked the violence.

This is a common statement made in defense of the abuser, that the abuser was triggered by something the victim did and thus there is justification for the abuser’s actions. This essentially puts the blame on the woman, which is a form of manipulation and sexism.

Myth #3: Sexual assaults are usually only committed by strangers.

In reference to domestic violence, this is an extremely dangerous and false narrative that needs to be eradicated. In fact, women in relationships are more likely to face sexual assault from their boyfriends or husbands rather than from an unknown person. A study by The Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women, discovered that 33% of women 18 years of age or older were sexually assaulted by a friend and 25% by a spouse or boyfriend.

Myth #4: Women cannot be sexually assaulted by their husbands or boyfriends.

This is entirely not true, according to the Canadian civil marriage act, women have a legal right to reject any form of sexual intimacy, which requires consent; this includes women in any type of relationship. When a woman is in a relationship with the perpetrator of her sexual assault, it is less likely that it will be recognized as a crime. It is important to listen to and support women who experience sexual violence from their current or former partner or spouse.

Myth #5: Gender based and intimate partner violence predominately occurs in families with lower socio-economic statuses and in racialized communities .

This stigma is incredibly erroneous because your race and socio-economic status is not a leading factor in abusive relationships. Intimate partner violence and gender-based violence affects women of all levels of income, education, racial backgrounds, ethnicities and occupation.

Myth #6: Gender-based violence is not just a crisis that affects women, so why focus on women?

Absolutely, men also experience and suffer from intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Intimate partner abuse and violence by males or females, is wholly unacceptable. However, according to statistics, 90% of gender-based violence is perpetrated by men, abusing the women in the relationship. While it’s important to eradicate all violence towards men and women, women and girls are the group that is predominantly affected by violence and they are in need of sanctuary and support.

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog we hope we were able to clear up misinformation, dispel myths and re-educate about gender-based violence and intimate partner violence. Please feel free to share this important information with others in your life to educate and end the stigma around violence against women and intimate partner violence.

Sources

Civil Marriage Act

Washington Post:  Five myths about domestic violence

Marjaree Mason Center: The Cycle of Violence and Common Domestic Violence Myths Debunked

Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, Myths about Intimate Partner Violence and Moral Disengagement

Women’s House, Saving Bruce and Grey: Sexual Assault: Dispelling the Myths

The Reality of the Shadow Pandemic of Intimate Partner Violence

By | News

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down. It has also revealed persisting inequities and systemic issues within our society. While COVID-19 itself has been widespread and deadly, there is a second, shadow pandemic at work here–one of gender based and intimate partner violence. Gender Based Violence (GBV) refers to harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender, while Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is violence committed by one partner against another in an intimate relationship. This crisis may be less outwardly visible than COVID-19, but it is just as deadly and isolating. While GBV and IPV are generally believed to be a “series of isolated incidents,” we know that this is not true – gender based violence and intimate partner violence are connected to a patriarchal belief system that values certain lives above others. In other words, this is a systemic issue.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these forms of violence, with helplines for women experiencing abuse reporting dramatic increases in calls as well as an increase in the severity of the violence itself. It is clear that gender equality must be at the centre of post-pandemic rebuilding plans if we are to create a future of safety and security for women.

So what is it about the COVID-19 pandemic that has increased acts of gender based violence? There are a number of combined factors that have effectively increased the pressure of home environments, creating the conditions for increased conflict and tension in many households.

For many, the pandemic has meant heightened economic insecurity; in May of 2020, Canada’s unemployment rate sat at 13.7%, making it the lowest of the G7 countries. When households are struggling financially, tensions are high and conflict is more likely to occur or be more severe. This explains why we have seen increasingly violent domestic violence crimes occur during the pandemic.

Social isolations and quarantines also create barriers to escaping abusive situations. Women find themselves cut off from informal supports such as colleagues and friends, while remaining increasingly exposed to the perpetrators of the violence. Being stuck inside with their abusers also means that these women have less privacy and are therefore unable to call, for example, a domestic violence hotline for support.

Times of unrest and uncertainty inevitably result in the breakdown of supports and structures, and this can lead to increased difficulties for victims of GBV and IPV. On a societal level, there has been a reduced access to health and first responder services during the pandemic. On a more personal level, instability in all realms of life may mean that victims are choosing to remain with their partners because of emotional attachment or fear of separation.

The pandemic may have highlighted and heightened the issue of gender based and intimate partner violence, but it has also given us an opportunity to pause and reconsider how to institute systems and programming that better support the victims of these crimes. We must recognize that this is indeed a systemic crisis, and that it is not a series of unrelated incidents. We must acknowledge the ways that COVD-19 has exacerbated this issue, and work to rebuild systems that will improve the lives of victims and survivors. Some policy changes that could support these goals include expanding and reinforcing social safety nets, improving violence related first response systems, and increasing shelter and temporary housing space for survivors.

Sources

Globe and Mail: What if we were as serious about ending violence as ending the pandemic?

Globe and Mail: Canada-wide survey of women’s shelters shows abuse more severe during COVID-19 pandemic

Globe and Mail: Women’s shelters, forced to adapt again during this pandemic, are essential for the recovery of Canadian society

VAW Learning Network

Centre for Global Development

Who should be held accountable for repeat offenders of intimate partner violence?

By | News

Victims of intimate partner violence entering the court system face a particularly challenging experience, overwhelming intimidation from being in court but also from the distinct challenges brought on by the nature of intimate partner violence. The Canadian court systems, by design, take power away from the survivor, making them relive traumatic experiences and having to defend their credibility to complete strangers, all while their abuser is innocent until proven guilty. In the case of intimate partner violence survivors, this trauma is compounded by other challenges such as the financial burdens of legal aid, further traumatizing their children and the stigma of coming forward about their abuse. The Canadian justice system needs to take greater responsibility for the historically unjust treatment of survivors of intimate partner abuse and better support women taking legal action against their abusers. Much of this support needs to be dedicated to offering assistance to survivors of intimate partner violence in court and holding repeat offenders accountable and serving justice where it is due.

The Canadian justice system and law enforcement have a long history of letting survivors of intimate partner violence down. One of the biggest signs of this failure to protect women is the lack of trust between law enforcement and survivors of abuse. Because of this lack of trust and care, there is a severe under-reporting of the incidences of intimate partner violence. Due to this, the true statistics on recidivism of offenders is unknown, but experts estimate that recidivism rates fall anywhere from 39% to 66%.[1] Additionally, two-thirds of households that report incidents of intimate partner violence to the police are not likely to report subsequent incidents of physical violence, speaking to the high rates of recidivism among abusers and the lack of confidence between families and law enforcement.[2] This lack of trust between law enforcement and abuse survivors speaks to the systematic betrayal of abuse survivors and the lack of accountability of abusers by the justice system.

Intimate partner abusers are a unique type of criminal. Many abusers also have other charges on their criminal records, not for abuse but rather for assault, property damages, and theft – crimes that have similar risk factors to intimate partner abuse but present differently to law enforcement. This allows for these abusers to face lighter sentences for their other crimes, while their abuse goes without punishment. Further, violent abusers are less likely to face justice; they are often released on bail and despite bail orders prohibiting contact between abusers and survivors, there is a high danger to victims for a potential re-assault by their abuser between arrest and trial.[3] This unfortunately is common in Canada as well as all over the world.

Law enforcement and the Canadian justice system owe survivors of intimate partner violence justice against their abusers and safety from harm whilst pursuing justice. What is needed is efficient communication to address the safety and security of families between abuse survivors and police services, and better funding for shelters and programs like Interval House to offer targeted and specific support to abuse survivors and their children.

 

[1] Jordan, C. E. (2004). Intimate partner violence and the justice system: An examination of the interface. Journal of interpersonal violence

[2] Gondolf, E. W. (2012). Physical tactics of female partners against male batterer program participants. Violence Against Women

[3] Scott, K., Heslop, L., Kelly, T., & Wiggins, K. (2015). Intervening to prevent repeat offending among moderate-to high-risk domestic violence offenders: A second-responder program for men. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology

Sign Petition for National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence

By | News, Uncategorized

Intimate Partner Violence needs to be a key element of The National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.

Violence against women is at crisis levels across the country. Even before the pandemic, a woman was killed by her intimate partner every six days. Now 1 in 10 women are very concerned about the possibility of violence in the home during COVID-19.

Interval House is the first centre for abused women and children in Canada. For nearly 50 years, it has been our mission to create a world without intimate partner violence. Interval House offers survivors across the GTA a safe escape and the tools to rebuild their lives, but the question remains … what more can be done at the national level?

The Federal Government has released a Joint Declaration for a Canada free of Gender-Based Violence.  Although, this is a step in the right direction, we need action now.

The global pandemic has created more isolation, economic stress, and widened the already-dangerous gender inequalities in Canada. Isolation has further put thousands of women, girls, trans, non-binary and BIPOC people at an all-time high risk of violence at home.

Women are suffering at home at the hands of their abusers right now.

That’s why Interval House stands with women’s organizations and shelters across Canada to call for a national action plan – immediately.

We must coordinate our systems from coast to coast to coast to prevent and respond to intimate partner violence. We must acknowledge that 1 in 3 women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime; that number is even higher if she is black, Indigenous or a woman of colour.

The UN called for all countries to implement a plan by 2015 and still Canada does not have a comprehensive strategy to deal with gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence.

Although this joint declaration is a good first step; survivors and people at risk can no longer afford to wait.

The National Action Plan to end Gender Based Violence needs to:

  • consult experts from IPV support services, shelters, and organizations,
  • ensure a collaborative response with municipal, provincial, and national governments,
  • include organizational structures such as law enforcement, judicial systems, health care.

Interval House cannot remain silent as the pandemic swirls around us. The National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence must specifically include Intimate Partner Violence and it’s overwhelming impact on racialized women.

We must rise up and demand the government builds a bold action plan that:

  • prevents violence through education and awareness;
  • ensures the legal justice system responds to lived realities of women facing violence;
  • increases access to services and protections for women living in fear; and
  • breaks down barriers to housing, employment and child care;
  • invests in further supports for women to rebuild their lives.

Together, we can prevent and end intimate partner violence in Canada.

Please sign this petition to raise your voice and support the call for a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.

Why is it important include intimate partner violence in the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence?

  • Even before the pandemic, a woman was killed by her intimate partner every six days.[1]
  • 1 in 10 women is very concerned about the possibility of violence in the home during COVID-19.[2]
  • Intimate partner violence, including both spousal and dating violence, accounts for one in every four violent crimes reported to police in Canada.[3]
  • Violence against women costs taxpayers and the government billions of dollars every year: Canadians collectively spend $7.4 billion to deal with the aftermath of spousal violence alone. [4]
  • Globally, 1 in 3 women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime; that number is even higher if she is black, Indigenous or a woman of colour[5]
  • It has a profound effect on children: Children who witness violence in the home have twice the rate of psychiatric disorders as children from non-violent homes.[6]
  • The rate of domestic violence is likely much higher than we know; 70% of spousal violence is not reported to the police.[7]

Share this petition and help us spread the word!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Stats Canada via https://canadianwomen.org/the-facts/gender-based-violence/

[2] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200408/dq200408c-eng.htm

[3]  https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2013001/article/11805/11805-3-eng.htm#a1

[4] https://canadianwomen.org/the-facts/gender-based-violence/

[5] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women

[6] https://canadianwomen.org/the-facts/gender-based-violence/

[7] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2013001/article/11805/11805-3-eng.htm#a1

Isolation due to COVID has increased the risk for women experiencing intimate partner violence

By | News

On CBC Radio stations across the country, Arlene McCalla Executive Co-Director of Interval House shelter, discussed the reality of a pandemic within the COVID-19 pandemic.

November 25th, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is also the start of the 16 Days of Activism, a pledge to work collaboratively and speak out against violence against women, renew our commitment to its eradication and provide education to the public about this issue.

When COVID struck, we were already in a crisis, we already had a pandemic, violence against women is already a pandemic that we have been dealing with for many years. Together we can speak out, to hopefully get others to listen; get it out of the darkness and into the light so people understand that it is happening and that there are ways you can help.

CBC Radio Stated – The pandemic has led to more domestic violence against women and children in this country- And it has put a strain on women’s shelters. Now, with winter closing in, those shelters need more resources to better support the women and kids who are knocking on their doors.

Arlene acknowledged that all shelters have experienced daily challenges, operating in a constantly changing emergency environment, it was the first time for everyone. Shelters had to think very quickly, prioritize, and manage risk because there was no instruction manual for this situation and existing pandemic plans did not suffice.

When the pandemic hit and shelters were deemed essential services, the health and safety of residents and staff was prioritized by devising new health and safety policies, procedures and protocols, that met both local and provincial health regulations as well as any emergency orders that came about for congregate living settings. Healthy and Safety protocols include, daily symptom screening for residents, staff and essential visitors, outbreak and isolation procedures and proper use of Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) measures such as, handwashing, wearing masks and face shields) and physical distancing.

CBC Radio asked: What are we learning about violence against women during COVID?

Women who are experience intimate partner violence are completely isolated if they are stuck inside with their abuser and so shelters have received less calls.

During the spring lockdown, shelters were saying that fewer women were reaching out, which is incredibly concerning because women experiencing intimate partner violence are still out there, but they are not reaching out.

Lockdown left women completely isolated in their homes, with their abusers. When the Prime Minister said “Go home, stay home” that meant staying home with your abuser. Even though these women did not feel safe at home, there was so much uncertainty, anxiety, and fear about the virus. They thought they had less chance of catching COVID by staying home, so they had to do a balancing act, “What is going to keep me safer?”

Isolation due to COVID has increased the risk for women experiencing intimate partner violence, they are at home with their children, at home with the abusive partner, perhaps they are working at home or their partner is working at home or both, they don’t have any privacy to have a confidential conversation, or even the time to make the initial call. Fear and uncertainty about the pandemic, adds stress and frustration for the entire family which can lead to increases in incidents of abuse.

Also, some social services needed to shut down temporarily while they are adjusted their procedures, so there was even less resources at a critical time for women.

In the summer, when COVID case numbers were going down and there were less restrictions, we saw that calls increased slightly, perhaps there was a little more time and opportunity to reach out and shelter staff were getting creative about how to tell women how they can reach out and when.

More women have been calling for support, to let someone know that this is what is happening at home, figuring out ways to deal with their situation while still being at home, some women are still seeking space at shelters and we are doing the best we can to ensure that we have space for them.

CBC Radio asked: What resources do shelters need?

Shelter across Canada need continued operational financial support to provide these essential services to women experiencing intimate partner violence. Some shelters are experiencing challenges meeting their fundraising budgets because they are unable to fundraise in the same way. Many shelters are not physically configured to support physical distancing, so they may need financial support to develop and implement alternative shelter options. Technology and technological support required to sustain ongoing remote and virtual services is costly, so shelters will need assistance with that as well.

Also, there is a need for more transitional housing spaces that include options for women and children. There is an ongoing need for more access to private market units that are affordable. Finally, there is a need for education and awareness for landlords, to stop discrimination against people who are on social assistance or other benefits from the government. Shelters are supposed to be a short stay, not a long stay, and there needs to be affordable housing for these women to find their next safe home.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please remember that shelters are open and safe.

Shelters are more than just a bed. Shelters remind women that they have choices and are not alone, they’ll help make safety plans and safe exit plans, provide counselling, resources and information, and help women navigate complicated social systems and difficult challenges, and during this time when there is lots of isolation, they provide them with a support system. We help women to rebuild their lives, after abuse, even during COVID.  If you do not feel safe in their home, please call 911 or Assaulted Women’s Helpline 416-363-4144

Thank you to CBC Radio for offering a platform to share Interval House’s mission. As Canada ‘s first shelter for women and children experiencing abuse, we remain trailblazers in the campaign for women’s empowerment and independence, providing innovative, specialized and transformative services that help to break the cycle of intimate partner violence. We envision a world without intimate partner violence against women and their children.

 

Listen to the CBC Radio Interviews Here:

Ontario Morning from CBC Radio with Julianne Hazelwood – Wednesday November 25, 2020 – Part 1 

Ottawa Morning with Robyn Bresnahan – Nov. 25, 2020: A new report out by Women’s Shelters Canada

 

Arlene McCalla is executive co-director of Interval House shelter, Canada’s first ever shelter for women and children.  Arlene is also the Toronto Region, Chair of the Board of Directors for Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH)

 

You can read more about the SHELTER VOICES, the annual report of Women’s Shelters Canada here

 

If you do not feel safe in their home, please call 911.

Crisis Support: info@intervalhouse.ca

Phone: 416-924-1491 or 1-888-293-5516

Assaulted Women’s Helpline 416-363-4144

Signs of Abuse & Resources for Young Adults

By | News, Uncategorized

It’s never too soon to learn about the dangers of intimate partner violence. That’s because young adults are especially vulnerable to dating violence and abuse. Girls and women aged 16-24 experience rates of intimate partner abuse at a much higher rate than overall average, and LGBTQ+ youth are even more vulnerable due to discrimination and lack of sex education centering their experiences.

Adolescence into young adulthood is a difficult period of transition, with varying levels of maturity and preparedness for adulthood among peers. It’s also the time when a person is likely to first exhibit abusive tendencies.  Becoming informed about the risks, signs and effects of intimate partner violence early can empower you to make smart decisions in the dating world. Did you know those who experience abuse in romantic relationships at a young age are also at risk of continuing to experience and perpetuate abuse later in life? This is why learning about it now will have an ongoing positive impact on your life.

Take the opportunity now to recognize and learn how to navigate experiences with abusive behaviour. Widespread awareness is key to breaking the cycle of abuse and protecting future generations from falling into toxic situations.

1) Do you understand what abuse is?

When we talk about intimate partner violence or domestic abuse there is a tendency to focus on physical violence. But abuse goes beyond physical harm. Emotional abuse, verbal abuse, coercive control, stalking, and financial abuse can be equally as damaging and toxic. With a solid understanding of what abuse means, you can better recognize abusive behaviours. Know the signs of abuse, so you are prepared to set healthy boundaries in an intimate relationship.

2) Do you know how your relationship should look if it is truly healthy?

For young adults who are new to intimate relationships it can be hard to discern the healthy ones from the unhealthy ones. This is exacerbated by romanticized depictions of obsessive and controlling behaviour in popular media. Abusive relationships are never black and white. And a partner having some good qualities doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t also abusive. Asking questions about your relationship and how your partner makes you feel can help you figure out if you are in a stable and healthy relationship.

3) Have you gotten a second opinion?

Intimate partner abuse can be complicated. It’s always important to have a support system beyond your romantic relationships. Talking to your network about your relationship can help you see from all angles what kind of a relationship you are really in.

If you don’t feel comfortable or safe talking to your friends or family about concerns you are having, many universities and colleges offer free student support services

Below are just some examples of resources in the Toronto area.

Good2talk – this helpline provides confidential support services to post-secondary students in Ontario and Nova Scotia

University of Toronto

Ryerson University

OCAD

George Brown College

Centenntial College

As always, it’s so important to stay in touch with your feelings and instincts. Try to ensure you get enough alone time to process your experiences and tune into how you’re feeling. If you are uncomfortable or unsure of your connection with someone, it’s important to analyze that to find out if it’s just excited nerves or if perhaps it’s a red flag. Having a strong sense of self and connection to your own emotional state can really be your best defense against dangerous situations. You deserve to be in safe, loving relationships that make you feel free.

Coping in the Chaos

By | News, Uncategorized

The coronavirus pandemic has officially disrupted everyday life.  Almost everyone has been thrust into a new way of being.  You might be feeling the effects in a number of ways — physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially.

In this period of extreme stress, most people’s usual coping strategies for self-care are not an option. Exercise classes are cancelled, social events postponed, meeting a friend for coffee is off the table for now. But there are still ways to lower anxiety and stress and it’s more important than ever to prioritize what keeps your mind and body healthy. This is a great opportunity to think outside the box about what can bring a smile to your face and calm your mind. Here are a few ideas to get you started…

1) Explore the world of online connections.

Even when life hasn’t been turned upside down, the internet can be a means to fulfilling your social needs. This fact has been taken to a whole new level since the implementation of mass social distancing. You can video chat with your friends or watch a live performance by your favorite artist. And if you feel like you’re struggling or just miss being able to go to conventional counseling, there are countless online therapy options. Sites like bigwhitewall.com and 7cups.com allow people to connect through peer-to-peer support networks moderated by mental health professionals. This is a challenging time that may spark difficult emotions like fear and grief, and keeping options like online therapy in your back pocket can help.

2) Practice mindfulness with social media.

Social media can be a friend and a foe. With so many options for connecting online, it’s important to be aware of your stress levels and make sure to take breaks when you need them. Social media is an amazing avenue for connection when practicing physical distancing. It can help you stay in touch with loved ones and the outside world. But social media as a source of information and accurate news is not always ideal. There are countless voices and opinions on these platforms but it’s often hard to discern what’s fact. Social media can be detrimental to mental health when it’s over-consumed and constant. Scrolling a vast wall of updates about the current pandemic may heighten your fight or flight response, which is harmful to your physical and mental health. Tuning out is important, especially in times when bad news is outweighing good news.

3) Find an activity for your body and mind.

Although self-care should be a priority, you don’t want your self-care routine to become overwhelming. Despite the stressful circumstances we are living through, the responsibilities of everyday life continue. Finding activities that nourish your body and mind at the same time can help simplify your self-care routine. Yoga, stretching, and long walks (if possible) are just a few examples. If you feel like your to-do list is too long with working remotely or caring for family, a 30-minute yoga practice or walk around the neighbourhood might be the right choice for you. Check the websites of exercise studios in your area to find out what online classes are available for you.

4) Indulge in comfort TV.

People love to re-watch their favourite sitcoms over and over again and there is actually some science behind why. Watching reruns of your favourite TV shows can be a relaxing escape during a stressful period. It’s an activity that doesn’t require emotional investment, or a sense of unknowing. Especially when we are being constantly bombarded with media messaging around COVID-19, watching a series on Netflix is a safe activity when you feel like you’re in need of a break.

5) Feed your soul.

With all the extra time at home, self-quarantine presents a great opportunity to think more consciously about what you cook and eat. What you eat impacts your mental health, so it’s a good idea to consider your choices when taking your weekly trip to the grocery store. Some foods that can help reduce stress and anxiety include those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, potassium, zinc and more. If you love to cook or bake, you can experiment with the ingredients. If cooking isn’t your thing, just remember these items when planning your weekly grocery list: pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, and chamomile tea. These easy-to-prep foods can all support your mental health.

Even for the brave essential front-line workers heading to jobs every day, the call for social distancing means more time at home. Take this opportunity to slow down and think about what makes you happy and what calms your mind. Try different activities and explore new ways to communicate. You might even discover new and effective coping strategies that you’ll bring along when our world returns to “normal”. But until that time comes, remember to take care of yourself one day at a time.

Connecting in the Chaos

By | News

In difficult times we see the resilience and creativity of the human spirit in action. In the face of COVID-19, much of the world has been pushed into the confines of homes and shelters to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. The sudden change in routine due to social isolation has been jarring. Distance from others can cause a great deal of loneliness and despair. Fortunately, people are natural problem solvers. It has been heartening to see over the past couple of weeks a whole new world of connection. It’s unlike what existed before this global pandemic. People are taking to the internet to fulfill their social needs.

Entertainers, promoters, content creators, and community members have stepped up to fill the gap that mass social distancing has created. There have been so many options for connecting with friends and strangers alike in virtual communities. Informal coffee dates, 15-minute dance breaks for people working from home, exercise classes, costume parties, book clubs, movie and television viewing socials, group meditations, online courses, cyber game nights — these are just some of the gatherings and events that have popped up. And as the call for social distancing persists, people are only coming up with more interesting ways to connect.

Clients in the Building Economic Self-Sufficiency Program (BESS) are also getting into the spirit of creating the virtual reality they want to see in the world. With in-person workshops suspended for the time being, the BESS Program has gone online. While program staff have been sure to keep the online group for BESS active and engaging, clients themselves have been adding their own value, looking out for their friends in the program. Program staff are thrilled to see clients coming together in this way.

“They’ve been connecting around ways to stay healthy and sane while indoors, they’ve been sharing Zumba and Yoga workouts that they can do at home, tips and resources for those who have mental health and isolation challenges, articles on different topics related to social distancing and social isolation,” Says Chantel Nelson, Housing Partnership Coordinator at Interval House. Clients have also been sharing podcast recommendations and arranging their own cyber-hangouts to keep themselves entertained. What’s happening really highlights the deeper power BESS has to facilitate community and friendship.

With no clear picture of how long the pandemic will last, social distancing is difficult. But the good news is that with today’s technology, it’s possible to get together with others. Whether you’re a host at heart or a party person with no place to go, there’s something out there for you. Just a quick scroll through your emails or social media feeds will yield options for entertaining or educational virtual events. Even NOW Magazine’s events listing page is featuring online events these days!

Humans are wired for connection — our survival depends on it. During these strange times, finding ways to stay in touch with others is more important than ever. Call your friends to check-in. Email a daily update to your family. Invite your friends to that cool virtual dance you heard about. Send reading recommendations to your neighbours. There are countless ways to stay close to those you care about. Get creative! Hard times sometimes present the best opportunities. And we now all have an opportunity to pull through and support each other in meaningful ways. Take this time to cultivate love, friendship, and caring relationships, and remember to take that spirit with you when the world returns to normal.

COVID-19 — A Burden Felt by Women

By | News

As the world hunkers down in an attempt to curb the transmission of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, most everyone is feeling the burden on some level. There’s no doubt that burden will weigh heavily in women’s lives.

For starters, it is largely women who are at the front lines of this crisis. Comprising 82% of health workers in Canada, women are the ones caring for the sick as coronavirus spreads at an exponential rate. These healthcare workers have the highest risk of exposure to coronavirus. And working in gruelling conditions with little time for rest and recuperation renders them even more vulnerable, as rest is essential for a strong immune system. These workers are going home to their families exhausted, while still having to manage the impact the virus is having on their children and loved ones.

The majority of single-parent households in Canada are helmed by women. And even in dual-parent homes, women still take on the majority of unpaid labour to facilitate their families’ lives. With children home from school for the foreseeable future, women will have their hands full at home — even more so than usual. This will be particularly challenging for mothers who are trying to work and maintain their livelihood while their kids are out of classes.

We are also seeing how this worldwide health crisis is impacting workers with low job security. As it turns out, women are over-represented in precarious jobs. Contract workers, freelancers, food industry professionals, part-time employees — these are people who work hard for their money with no benefits or sick pay. They may also be ineligible for regular employment insurance benefits in lean times. Many of these workers are reporting loss of jobs and income amid the measures being taken in response to the novel coronavirus, and this is going to have long-term effects for them and their families.

With loss of income comes concern over potential loss of housing too. The housing crisis in Canada’s major cities is already hurting low income Canadians across the country — particularly women.  And as we are being directed to self-isolate in our homes, we are seeing more than ever why lack of housing is such a huge barrier to well-being. For those without homes, the potential for harm caused by coronavirus is all the more stressful and frightening.

While self-isolation is the best thing to do during this time, it may have a negative impact on abuse survivors who are still living with their abusers. Times of stress often lead to an escalation in abuse, especially when that stress in financial. Some women are living a nightmare, locked up at home with their abusers, not a moment of reprieve. Even if they want to leave, being holed up constantly will make it near impossible for some women to escape until the threat of the virus has passed and life can return to normal. In China, activists say cases of domestic violence have risen, as many have been isolating and quarantined. We have to assume that cases are rising here in Canada too, and that women who might have been ready to leave an abuser behind may now have to wait until a safer time to do so. Shelters like Interval House will see the results of this when everyone is cleared to return to work and activities as usual. There will likely be heavier demand for services.

So, you might be asking, what can you do to support women during this difficult time? We have a few ideas:

  • If you know someone who is being abused, share Interval House’s crisis line with her if it is safe to do so. We continue to monitor our crisis line around the clock.
  • Reach out to your loved ones, friends and family regularly to check-in and stay connected while we are in social isolation.
  • Connect with single parents and offer whatever support you can while their kids are off school.
  • Check in with your friends who have precarious employment and ask if you can help them. Whether you can help with finances, send supplies, or just provide moral support, your care and concern will go a long way.
  • Set up chat groups and video conferences to keep everyone you love connected for the duration of isolation.
  • Reach out to health workers and other essential workers you know and say thank you! They are keeping this ship upright in a storm and we owe them a great deal of praise and appreciation for the hard work they are doing.
  • Donate to Interval House to help ensure we have the resources we need to help women escaping abuse after the threat of coronavirus has passed.

We are all dealing with an unprecedented threat on public health. Now is the time to come together (virtually) to make sure our most vulnerable don’t fall through the cracks. We have the power to help each other out. That’s a responsibility each of us bears.

The Power of Setting Goals

By | News

 

Have you made a New Year’s resolution? Whether you have or not, this is a great time of year to consider and set goals.

The quiet aftermath of the holidays lends itself well to reflecting on the past and setting intentions for the future. It’s an easy time to remember to check in with yourself. January is a still time of year that you can spend sowing the seeds of your future. When you visualize the life you want, it leads to finding the steppingstones that will get you there.

Start by looking back at the past year. Consider what goals or intentions you had. Did you accomplish them? If so, how does that make you feel? Does this accomplishment lead naturally into a new goal for the year ahead? If you didn’t accomplish them, consider why not. Perhaps the intention is no longer relevant to your desired future or maybe you lost track of time and want to try again this year. Understanding the obstacles that kept you from achieving a past goal can help you clear a path for anything you want to accomplish going forward.

Next, think about your future. What does the life you want look like? How is it the same or different from your present circumstances? What needs to change to get you from here to there? Be realistic with yourself in this process. If you get ahead of yourself, you may become frustrated and give up. For example, if you hope to be a leader in your field of expertise and are currently in an entry-level position, aiming to be a CEO by next year is not a practical ambition. But there are things that can get you closer to that coveted role—taking a course, meeting with industry leaders for advice and mentorship, or volunteering in a relevant capacity for more experience are all pragmatic ways to move towards your desired end point.

Keep the SMART goal method in mind to ensure your aspirations are manageable. Goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Putting parameters around your aspirations helps you keep track of them and follow through. And taking time to reflect on past goals helps you take stock of what’s really important to you. If you look back and realize you didn’t do what you set out to, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s okay if you didn’t make as much progress as you hoped to. Life gets busy. Just take that as a prompt to review and recalibrate. Carry forward goals that still matter to you. Figure out what you require to make them more achievable this year. Would it help to schedule time specifically for your goals? Should you find an accountability buddy to help you stay on top of what you plan to do? Create an environment for yourself that supports your ambition.

Whether you plan to learn a new skill, read more, do more creative projects, or focus on fitness, the plans you make shape the life you will lead. When you plan for your future, you take control of it. This is especially empowering for survivors of intimate partner violence, who have experienced powerlessness and diminished agency. Checking in with yourself each year helps you see your progress. It shows you how much you can achieve on your own. It gives you permission to envision and go after the life you want.

You don’t have to call it a resolution. But if you take the time to plan the landscape of your life while the ground is frozen and the nights are long, you will be amazed to see what blossoms in the sunshine you invite into your life.

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