We are experiencing two pandemics in one world. COVID-19 highlighted the existing global gender-based violence pandemic and it’s harmful outcomes for women and girls. It’s hard to believe that it has been 16 months since the COVID-19 pandemic first impacted the lives of everyone worldwide. Even after the initial shock of the global pandemic declaration, nobody knew the extent in which our lives would be affected.
Prior to the pandemic, the issues of gender-based violence (GBV) in Canada were alarming. Nearly half of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence, since the age of 16. Perhaps even more disturbing is that one woman is killed by her partner every six days. Despite the incredible shelters and agencies that offer support to victims of GBV, the issue of GBV is still quite concerning.
In fact, the issues of GBV are far more concerning since the onset of the global pandemic. According to the Violence Against Women Learning Network, it is suggested that pressures associated with the pandemic and lockdowns have led to more violence and less access to support. Some of these “pressures” include things such as social isolation, job layoffs, and financial stress, and can increase household conflict, or domestic violence. In terms of access to support, women shelters experienced significant challenges ensuring pandemic measures are adhered to, and that the safety of clients and staff were upheld. Early on, some shelters even had to limit their client intake due to COVID-19 outbreaks or lockdown measures. Also, due to government leaders consistently advising people to stay home, there may have been some ambiguity or hesitation around access to GBV supports.
As we get closer to the end of the global pandemic, many COVID-19 related pressures will lessen. However, it is crucial that we continue to put forth our energy and focus on raising awareness of the issues of GBV so that the lives of so many can be protected and saved.
You can learn to safely intervene when you see or know of someone who is experiencing gender-based violence by learning to #bemorethanabystander
Authored by: David Isaacs, Steering Committee Member, MentorAction