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

By | News

Today 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.

Today 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.

Teachers – Allies in Ending Teen Dating Violence

By | News

Being a teenager is hard. Suddenly everything changes — one’s body, mind, responsibilities, hormones and desires. Yet, with so many grown up expectations emerging, teens are often still infantilized and talked down to. One major example of this is the way teens are told to abstain from dating altogether, as a safety measure. The problem is, a desire to date as a teenager is completely natural. When caregivers don’t accept that, it only drives adolescents to keep secrets. The truth is when parents talk honestly about dating and give their kids freedom to experiment with relationships, those kids are more likely to engage in safe and healthy dating practices. An open approach to teen dating allows parents to set parameters and chaperone dates. This helps them to guide their kids towards healthy connections. Especially with so many unrealistic and unhealthy examples of love in the media, it’s important for teens to get real information so they can draw boundaries and advocate for themselves.

Of course, there will always be those children whose parents or guardians never talk to them about relationships or prepare them for love and romance at all. There will be kids coming from abusive households who have never witnessed healthy relationships. For these kids, teachers can play a vital role in steering them on the right path. As teens begin to date and flirt within school walls, teachers can look out for them. School employees may be the first to witness signs of abuse in teen relationships.

This is why knowing the signs of teen dating violence is a good place for educators and other school employees to start. What are they?

  • Unexplained Changes in behaviour such as a shift in attitude, dropping grades, lower focus, change in interests or extra-curricular activities, etc.
  • Isolation from former friends. This may look like a teen neglecting their own friends in favour of their partner’s friends or not hanging out with anyone besides their partner at all.
  • Name-calling or belittling from a romantic partner. When playful teasing crosses the line and becomes mean-spirited, it’s obvious. If belittling is witnessed and there’s a co-occurrence of a child’s confidence sliding, that’s a major red flag. Kindness and consideration should be at the core of any relationship
  • Unexplained bruises or injuries. If a student begins showing signs of physical harm, that’s worrisome. A sudden series of clumsy accidents may not be accidents at all.
  • Signs of anxiety or depression. A student becoming depressed or anxious is always a bad sign. Regardless of the reason why, signs of a mental health crisis should never be ignored.
  • Constant contact with a dating partner. It’s normal for anyone to be excited about a new relationship and to make room in their life for a romantic partner. But if a teen suddenly seems to lack all independence and is never disconnected from their dating partner, it’s a sign of a toxic and consuming relationship.

Once educators know the signs of abuse, they need to know how to address suspected abuse, prioritizing the safety of the abused student. For starters, teachers should always cultivate a supportive, nurturing classroom environment. Knowing they can trust their teacher increases the likelihood of students disclosing difficult personal information. Hopefully that means a student will turn to their teacher when they realize they are being abused. But they may not.

In that case, a teacher can approach a student personally in a private meeting or ask a guidance counsellor to do so. Before getting information from the student about their situation, the teacher needs to make it clear that they have an obligation to disclose certain information to parents or guardians, the Children’s Aid Society and/or law enforcement. This will mean that the student has informed consent if they disclose parental abuse or anything criminal. The teacher can then gently mention the changes they’ve noticed in the student’s behaviour and ask if there is an explanation. If the student opens up and discloses dating abuse they are experiencing, the teacher should listen carefully and non-judgementally. The teacher should speak very little, giving the student plenty of air to share. Empowering language can encourage the student to make the best decision for their life.

If the student is not ready to end an abusive relationship, the teacher should do their best not to become frustrated. Instead, they should let the student know their door is always open. They should remind the student of their self-worth and agency. Applying pressure for the student to make a decision is not a good strategy. The teacher should provide resources that the student can take away such as information about the signs of abuse, information about healthy relationships, and contact information for Kids Help Phone, where support is available at any time.

It’s very important that the teacher maintains confidentiality, within their capacity to do so. Under no circumstances should the teacher confront the abuser or facilitate communication between the abused student and their abuser, even if the teacher is familiar with both. This could heighten danger for the student being abused. Maintaining confidentiality signals to a student that they can trust the teacher and they may turn to that teacher again in the future. Having one person to trust and confide in can make a significant difference in a child’s life.

This conversation may be hard on the teacher and that’s completely understandable. They should be sure to look out for their own well-being after having a tough talk with a student.

One of the hardest parts of supporting abuse survivors is knowing they may not make the decision that seems best right away. For students coming from challenging home environments, their abusive partner may seem like the only person they have. That can make it really difficult for them to leave. But when a teacher or counsellor shows they care, that can shift the student into a more confident frame of mind, giving them the strength to disconnect from the abuser.

One present, observant teacher can save a child from harm. A teacher may have a better sense of a child’s day-to-day life than their own parents, so the influence a teacher can have must not be understated. Educators do so much more than teach academic lessons. They model healthy interactions, boost children’s confidence, teach life skills, and watch over their pupils. Teachers are like first responders to children’s challenges. Their role in resisting and preventing teen dating violence is so very important.

The Importance of Government Involvement in Ending Gender-Based Violence

By | News

Gender-based violence and discrimination fester and spread when unchecked by legislation. The government’s role in ensuring gender equity is therefore paramount. Women and allies have been crusading for fair treatment, equal pay, and minimization of violence in Canada since before Confederation. More than 150 years later, the fight continues. Thankfully, the Canadian government has pledged to be a partner in that fight with its Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence.

When Interval House was founded in 1973, laws supporting and protecting women were weak. Married women were seen as their husbands’ property and had little social support to turn to when they found themselves living with abuse. It was only nine years earlier that women gained the right to open a bank account without a husband’s signature. Still, financial, emotional and physical abuse persisted in homes across the country and politicians along with the general public viewed family violence as a private issue to be kept behind closed doors. This was famously illustrated in 1982 when NDP MP Margaret Mitchell raised the issue of widespread domestic violence in the Canadian House of Commons. She was met with an eruption of laughter and ridicule by her male colleagues. Despite women’s calls for justice and a wave of shelters having been opened for survivors of intimate partner violence, concerns around violence against women were not being heard and honoured by the men in power.

Advocates like Margaret Mitchell and the founders of Interval House did manage to effect change by pushing women’s issues and gender-inequity into the spotlight. 1982 was also the year that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was signed into law, ensuring equality for women and visible minorities. This gave marginalized groups a legal foundation from which to build their cases for better treatment. The following year, Bill C-127 passed, making it illegal for men to sexually assault their wives. We can see historically how each law passed to support marginalized groups became a plank on the bridge to the next major milestone. Everyone committed to ending gender-based violence continues to walk on and build that bridge today.

As far as we’ve come in the quest for gender equity, there’s still a long way to go. Every 2.5 days in Canada, a woman is killed. 53% of those women are murdered by a current or former intimate partner. The rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women continue to alarm Canadians. Canada’s hate crimes statistics exclude transgender and non-binary individuals to this day. Shelters for abuse survivors are at capacity and unable to keep up with the demand. A lack of affordable housing and childcare puts extreme financial strain on single parents—most of whom are women. Women continue to take on the bulk of domestic labour, in addition to working jobs outside of the home. Women make up the majority of Canada’s minimum wage workers. Women who take maternity leaves earn less than their childless counterparts. And despite the Canadian Human Rights Act passed in 1977 prohibiting discrimination and requiring equal pay for work of equal value, there is still a gender wage gap in Canada with women working full-time making 75 cents on every dollar made by men.

This is why the Canadian government’s commitment to stand with activists and work towards a brighter future for women, trans and non-binary folks continues to be so important. It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence was launched in 2017 and was it ever time! Based on the pillars of prevention, support for survivors and their families; and promotion of responsive legal and justice systems, the strategy aims to address some of the most pressing concerns in regards to gender-based violence today. There have been some major accomplishments in the two years since the strategy was launched. Specialized training for the RCMP has been implemented; the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline was launched; boys and men have been engaged in the conversation and educated about gender-based violence; the government committed at least 33% of National Housing Strategy funds to projects geared towards women; recommendations from the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women have begun to be implemented including a fund to support victims’ families; and more.

The Canadian government’s commitment is appreciated. Still, we must acknowledge that commitment comes in response to the tireless advocates pushing for a better quality of life for women, trans and non-binary folks and a minimization of gender-based violence. Interval House has been at the forefront of this advocacy for 46 years, bolstered by our many supporters. We have always known that when it comes to violence, it’s never a private matter. Because violence felt by one reverberates far and wide, creating a darker world for all of us. It is so necessary for the government to uphold the pillars of prevention, support and justice. It makes the load a little less burdensome for those on the front lines, determined to make this country, this world, a little bit kinder and fairer for everyone.

 

4 Tangible Ways You Can Help Prevent Abuse

By | News, Uncategorized

November is Woman Abuse Prevention Month in Ontario. The need for awareness and prevention is still so great—the statistics highlight that clearly. In 2018 alone, 148 women and girls were killed in acts of gender-based violence across Canada. Every six days a woman in this country is killed by her current or former intimate partner. Children who grow up in violent households are more likely to be victimized as adults or perpetrate abuse themselves. Individuals who have experienced intimate partner violence are more likely to experience abuse in multiple relationships throughout their lives. Abuse is cyclical in nature.

Whether or not you’ve been directly impacted by abuse or intimate partner violence, everyone has a role to play in preventing abuse from continuing to negatively impact and sometimes even end the lives of women and children in our communities. Here are 4 tangible ways you can help prevent abuse and participate in the campaign to end gender-based violence.

1) Help create protective environments in your networks

Hold people accountable, believe survivors, and encourage change within your networks. By doing these things, you will start a ripple effect to prevent abuse at a larger scale. If you are a parent, teach your children to question gender roles that don’t feel right to them. If you are a teacher, intervene when bullying occurs and set examples of tolerance and acceptance. If you are a trying to date someone, be respectful, seek consent, and graciously accept rejection. If you are a university student, join or start a club that advocates for sexual safety and gender equality. If you are an employer, train staff about the signs of domestic abuse, offer employee assistance programs, and make a commitment to prioritizing the safety of your employees. By creating and fostering protective environments, you can support survivors and prevent abuse. Read more about the role employers have in supporting abuse survivors.

2) Talk to your friends & family about gender stereotypes and toxic masculinity

Over the last few years the idea of toxic masculinity has become top of mind. Movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp have pushed gender-based violence and systemic gender inequality into the spotlight. The more we talk about these issues, the better chance we have to change societal attitudes for future generations. You can help change the attitudes of friends and family members by calling out instances of toxic masculinity and confronting gender stereotypes. Abuse thrives in secrecy and requires an imbalance of power in relationships. In order to prevent it we have to raise our voices against it. Read more about toxic masculinity and challenging patriarchal entitlement.

3) Support consent-based sex education at all levels of school.

Teaching children consent at a young age helps them recognize if their boundaries are being crossed. Consent-based sex education, which promotes mutual respect and self-empowerment, can help prevent toxic relationships and gender-based violence later in life. Consent is not a difficult concept to grasp, but it a life skill that should be practiced and internalized. It’s an important part of healthy relationships whether they are sexual or not, and supporting curriculum that discusses issues like consent will ensure healthier relationships for more and more individuals. Read more about consent.

4) Donate to front-line organizations that support survivors

Understanding that abuse is cyclical, we must also acknowledge that preventing future abuse means intervening and breaking the cycle of abuse happening today.  Supporting survivors of intimate partner violence is a tangible way to prevent abuse and gender-based violence. People who leave Interval House with a solid support network, housing options, employment, strengthened life skills, etc. are less likely to experience abuse with future intimate partners. They are also empowered to break the cycle of abuse once and for all, changing the trajectory of their children’s lives by protecting them from abuse and demonstrating healthy relationships moving forward.

Our Residential Program is designed to expose women and children to a healthy home environment of trust and support. Our BESS Program helps survivors achieve economic self-sufficiency. We rely on donor support to ensure that we are able to provide these programs and services, so if you have the capacity to give to front-line organizations like Interval House, this is an incredibly meaningful way to help prevent abuse and end gender-based violence.

Donate today.

No Memes No

By | News

It is said that who you are is simply the sum of all the decisions you have made throughout your life. It’s the culmination of all the times you’ve said yes and no. The choices you make influence more than just the split second in which you make them. Indeed, they lead you down unique paths and help you find direction when you reach a fork in the road of your life journey.

Boundaries and consent factor into the choices you make. Checking in with yourself regularly to understand your limits can help you make the best decisions for yourself. Having a strong sense of your boundaries and those of others is a mandatory life skill that will strengthen your sense of self as well as your interpersonal relationships.

If consent is obtained without the person being aware of exactly what they are consenting to, it is not informed consent and is therefore invalid. For example, if your friend invited you to their cottage for a fun weekend, you might say yes without hesitation. But what if you got to their cottage and found out you were expected to work the whole time, fixing the deck and painting the siding? It’s possible you would have said yes either way but by leaving out the fact that you were being invited to their cottage to help with work, your friend would have failed to get your informed consent to the trip.

Sometimes feelings of obligation, guilt, or pressure can make it difficult to say no. For example, if someone suggests they may self-harm  or withdraw emotional connection if they don’t get the answer they hope for, it might be difficult not to comply with their wishes. If you ever get a sinking feeling that your boundaries have been crossed or that you have crossed someone else’s boundaries, even though the answer was yes, think of FRIES. Consent is only valid if it is freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic, and specific. Anything less is unacceptable.

Sometimes when you say no, there will be people who have a hard time hearing it and they may bring up your own history to manipulate you into changing your answer. It’s okay if you let someone else use your iPod but said no when James asked if he could. It’s okay if you were comfortable around other people in your bathing suit but aren’t comfortable wearing a crop top to the party. It’s okay if you said yes to a sleepover with friends in the past but feel like saying no now. Your past decisions don’t negate your right to say no now. Don’t let people boil your consent and boundaries down because of what you said yes to in the past.

No. It’s a complete sentence. There’s no need to explain beyond it if you don’t want to. And you aren’t owed an explanation when someone says no to you either. Especially for women and folks assigned female at birth, there is socialization towards people pleasing. This can make the word no feel heavy and uncomfortable to speak aloud. Try practicing it. Say no to yourself in the mirror, firmly. Say no when your instinct is to say maybe or to avoid answering altogether. Say no when something you’re watching makes you uncomfortable. The more you practice saying no, the easier it will be to use the word when a difficult situation arises. Never let feelings of obligation or guilt overpower the instinct to say no.

Of course, no isn’t the only way to say no. You might say, “I’m not really up for it” or “I’m uncomfortable with that” or “sounds cool but I don’t know” and that’s completely okay. Remember, anything less than enthusiastic consent is a no. It’s important to pay attention to tone and body language when seeking consent because sometimes the body has an easier time saying no than the voice.

When you have a giving nature, it can be especially hard to draw boundaries. But saying no does not make you a bad person. Giving is wonderful and virtuous but it should never be done at the expense of your own needs. You must nourish yourself first before you can nourish others. If you push past your needs in favour of giving to others, you will be sure to burn out. Then you’ll have nothing left to share. Say no when you need to so that you can say yes when you are able to. You are still kind and loving, take a moment to show that kindness to yourself.

Since no isn’t the only thing that means no, perhaps you’re wondering what means yes, besides yes. When it comes to giving consent, the only thing that can be taken in the affirmative is an enthusiastic, freely-given, yes—remember FRIES! Nothing you wear, nothing you do, nothing you think, nothing you have said yes to in the past, nothing at all besides yes means yes. It’s important not to let anyone shame you for things that happened to you against your consent. No one is ever asking to have their boundaries crossed.

 

 

 

Consent really is simple—as simple as tea! This video details the nuances of consent very clearly. Just remember: yes means yes, no means no, and anything in between means no too! Be mindful of how you feel when giving consent and take note of the non-verbal cues of others when requesting theirs. I’m sure you don’t want to do anything that would make you or anyone else uncomfortable so always accept a no gracefully and compassionately, the same way you would want someone else to take a no from you.

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