The Facts: COVID-19 and Social Distancing
In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) a pandemic. The Government of Ontario declared a state of emergency, closing private schools, child care centres, restaurants, social venues, all facilities providing recreational programs, and all non-essential workplaces.
The public has been asked to invest in public safety and reduce the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home and limiting physical contact with others outside one’s own household.
While these recommendations support public health and safety, they create unique risks for women and children experiencing violence at home in our communities.
At increased risk: Women and children experiencing violence at homes and COVID-19
We are facing an unusual situation, in which “self-isolating at home” is both the primary advice to deal with the current public health crisis; yet the most common location of violence and lethality for women and children experiencing violence.
“It’s never easy for a woman to leave an abusive relationship… however both the virus itself and the measures being put in place to control its spread have a particularly challenging impact on women who are living with an abuser.”
- Pamela Cross, legal director of Luke’s Place
Pandemic and other large crises, unfortunately, give way to increased incidences of gender-based violence: research shows that during times of natural disasters, including pandemics, women and children are at a high risk of sexual and intimate partner violence. A report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies notes that “both domestic violence and sexual violence (assault, sexual abuse, and exploitation) increase following disasters” including pandemics .
Crisis events also tend to exacerbate pre-existing vulnerabilities and patterns of discrimination. Minorities, those living in poverty “and other groups that have traditionally been marginalized, tend to be harmed by a disaster more” than others; and “women face similar protection risks, including sexual exploitation and abuse, unequal access to assistance, discrimination in aid provision…and violence” .
Given this, it is important that those in our communities continue to have access to supports and services where possible.
Getting Help: Supporting Women and Children Experiencing Violence
Social distancing? Here are some safety tips for women living with an abusive partner: Read about safety planning here.
Need help with Family Law during the COVID-19 pandemic? Luke’s Place Support and Resource Centre wants everyone supporting women leaving abuse to have up-to-date information about what family law services and supports are available across Ontario at this time: Read more here.
Having problems with housing, income supports or other needs during COVID-19? Here are some updates on the law and legal services related to COVID-19 from Steps To Justice. Read more here.
Many GWAC member agencies also provide support to women and children experiencing violence in Guelph-Wellington. Check our member agencies’ websites directly for service updates related to COVID-19.
We can help
Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis is open. An important note: due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have modified some services.
- Shelter and 24-hour crisis line remain functional
- Guelph Women In Crisis 24 Hour Crisis Line: 519-836-5710 or 1-800-265-7233
Our many thanks to Luke’s Place for providing many of the useful COVID-19 resources collected here.
Our thanks to Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH) for providing additional information on COVID-19 and its impacts on domestic violence.
Our thanks to Steps to Justice for providing a summary of legal information related to COVID-19.