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The Pandemic and its Pandora’s Box

An eye, golden, is close up reflecting a fist and a cowed child

Dispatches from Digby by Shawnalynn Cromwell

The pandemic shone a light on many things, but one issue that has been affected to the extreme is the domestic violence of women and children. The government shut the entire country down due to COVID-19 rearing its ugly head. The country went on lockdown. This action opened Pandora’s Box’s, causing misery and fear for women and children in Canada and around the world.

An ironic turn of phrase, “lockdown”—women and children in a domestic violence situation are always in some state of lockdown. Each day they live in fear. The danger is lurking around every corner. In the past, most women and children had a “temporary reprieve” from the abuse, by women going to their workplaces and children going to school. Now, with COVID-19, women and children are forced into being housed, trapped with their abusers day in and day out.  It is especially problematic for women now working from home: they are at the mercy of their abuser while attempting to do their jobs! Children home-schooled due to the pandemic are put into a highly volatile situation.

As soon as the lockdown came into effect a year ago, I instantly thought about women in abusive relationships. The thought of these women was so prominent in my mind, how they would have no way of escaping their abusers. This month, a report published by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability stated an extraordinarily dark and disturbing statistic.  It shows 160 women and girls in 2020 were killed by their abusers, compared to 146 women in 2019.  I had no idea there was even a body that studied this kind of crime!

The violence at home signal for help. Step one, hold up your hand, palm out to camera and fold your thumb in. Step two, curl your fingers down, trapping your thumb. Provided by the Canadian Women's Foundaiton.
Canadian Women’s Foundation #SignalForHelp. Link below.

The pandemic has made these women and children sitting ducks!  It is an abuser’s paradise where women are in a constant state of “Fight or Flight.”  The situation is a pressure cooker—most women cannot take advantage of the existing supports that are in place, like domestic abuse helplines, women’s shelters,  connecting or visiting with family or friends. The pandemic has made this all but impossible! 

 I was intrigued by the step the Canadian Women’s Foundation took with the advertisement called “Violence at Home #SignalForHelp”.  The ad uses technology in the form of a Zoom call to a friend—where the woman asks her friend for her mother’s banana bread recipe (Code) and uses a hand signal to indicate that she is in danger and let her friend know that she needs help.  The pandemic has made it crucial to find other avenues for women to access services or contact others for assistance. Please check out the link to the advertisement below.

A women’s shelter in Alberta, Rowan House, is trying a different approach.   It is a shelter for the abuser to break their precarious patterns of behaviour while permitting their victims to stay home.  It is a pilot project they are trying out as a way of trying to break the cycle. Weirdly, it gives the power back to women. They are not fleeing the home and the situation in the middle of the night and wondering what the next steps will be or if they were followed and found out.  It is a pilot project, so I guess we will see what comes from this experiment.

The rise in violence against women is frightening; the laws to protect women need to change. The pandemic has opened a Pandora’s Box and given the abuser the keys to the castle.  What needs to happen is the access to be returned to women. Our mothers, daughters, nieces, granddaughters, girlfriends deserve to be safe and not at the mercy of abusers.  

Featured image by Alexandra ❤️A life without animals is not worth living❤️ from Pixabay

Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability

Rise in Violence against Women – horrible tip of the iceberg Article
Rise in deadly violence against women ‘the horrible tip of the iceberg’ in Canada: expert | CBC Radio

Signal For Help Article
Signal For Help | Use Sign to Ask for Help | Canadian Women’s Foundation

Rise of Domestic Violence during COVID-19 and what you can do Article
Domestic violence on the rise during COVID-19 — here’s what you can do about it | CBC News

New Domestic Violence Shelter Article
New domestic violence shelter offers support for an unexpected client — abusers | CBC News

Nova Scotia Domestic Violence Centre

Shawnalynn Cromwell is a community ambassador with Inspiring Communities’ nested initiative Turning the Tide in Digby. Shawnalynn is a writer, changemaker and active community member in Weymouth Falls. 

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