The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for many people, especially women who experience abuse. The economic and social support systems of women and their families have faced constraints in the wake of the pandemic, which has impacted their well-being. Research has shown that social and emotional supports are essential to the mental health of women experiencing abuse (Levendosky et al., 2004). One study notes that “…high levels of emotional support were related to better mental health functioning, including lower levels of depression, anxiety, and PTSD…” (Levendosky et al., 2004, p.96).
Unfortunately, during the pandemic, there has been a decrease in support available to women who experience abuse, given the restrictions and lockdowns occurring worldwide. Formal supports were limited as organizations were forced to close due to the virus, and informal supports like friends and family were limited due to isolation efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Not only are women systematically experiencing isolation due to the pandemic, but abusers will also isolate women as a means of control (El-Bassel et al., 2001). Thus, the impact of isolation on women and their families is two-fold. The effects of this isolation are catastrophic. In Canada, there was a 12% increase in reports of domestic abuse to police, and crisis lines saw almost double the number of callers during the pandemic over the same time pre-pandemic (CBC, 2021).
So, what can you do to help? To help improve the mental health of women experiencing abuse, you can reach out to friends and check in on their well-being. Not everyone experiencing abuse will open up to a confidante, but research shows that approximately 95% will (Levendosky et al., 2004). Keeping the lines of communication open in these isolating times can help improve the lives of women experiencing abuse by increasing connection and the number of social supports available to them, should they ever need to reach out for help. We’re in this together, and every effort makes a difference in the lives of the women experiencing abuse and living in isolation today.
You can #bemorethanabystander and take your #firststepfirstchange towards ending GBV by joining the Steel City Allies – an online call-to-action campaign.
Blog submitted by Student Placement, Interval House of Hamilton