Rising tensions and fears caused by isolation measures enacted due to the pandemic have led to an increase in Violence Against Women (VAW) in Canada. Since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, one in ten women is very or extremely concerned about the possibility of violence at home according to a survey of Canadians. Moreover, one Vancouver service provider reported a 300 percent increase in calls related to family violence. This doesn’t even take into account the incidents that aren’t reported.
The Effects of COVID-19 on VAW
Violence against women is a public health issue that worsens in times of emergency, including epidemics. According to the World Health Organization, the current COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates violence against women in a number of ways, including:
- Stress: Financial pressures from job loss, sustained close contact with abusive partners, increased care work (e.g. childcare), and general fear as a result of the pandemic seriously raise the risk of conflict and violence in the household.
- Obstructed protective social networks: Social distancing from supportive friends and family gives perpetrators of abuse opportunities to cut their partners off from psychosocial support and ways of seeking help. Abusers can also hold back details or even give false information about COVID-19 to their partners.
- Limited access to important sexual and reproductive health services: Pandemics strain health care systems and can cause reproductive health services to become non-essential or “elective”. Stay-at-home measures and travel restrictions also make these services more difficult to access.
What’s more, factors such as a woman’s age, race, class, ability, and geographical location can further heighten the impact the pandemic has on gender-based violence in their specific situation. For example, the partners of older women or women with disabilities may also be their caregivers, taking power through making decisions concerning their health. New immigrants, displaced women, and refugees will also face increased vulnerability.
Shelter Movers’ Response to COVID-19
Women experiencing violence take back their agency when they make the pivotal decision to leave an abusive relationship. Shelter Movers is Canada’s only organization that empowers these individuals by providing moving and storage services at no cost.
Shelter Movers addresses the financial, safety, and logistical concerns associated with moving, making it easier for women to transition to a life free of violence. In collaboration with local businesses and community agencies such as trunk rental companies, storage facilities, and private security firms, Shelter Movers helps women leave and safely bring their treasured belongings with them in the process.
Shelter Movers supports those affected by violence during the COVID-19 outbreak while placing priority on the safety of both volunteer move teams and clients. In addition to general safety practices (frequent handwashing, physical distancing), Shelter Movers volunteers strictly enforce the following operational procedure for moves:
- Additional screening of both volunteer move teams and clients before moves
- Limiting the number of people involved in each move to a maximum of five individuals
- Limiting the number of people sharing one vehicle to a maximum of three individuals
- Providing volunteers with resource kits filled with masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, and disposable gloves
- Wiping down all equipment, vehicles, and other frequent points of contact before, during, and after moves
Sticking to these guidelines ensures the safety of both movers and clients. Click here for more details about Shelter Movers’ approach to serving the community during the pandemic.
Since COVID-19 related restrictions began in March 2020, Shelter Movers Vancouver has completed a total of 35 moves, not only through helping clients move to safety but also by delivering furniture donations to transition houses.
How You Can Help
The increased demand for emergency shelter in Canada highlights the importance of organizations like Shelter Movers. When Shelter Movers helps women move out of shelters, space is made available for more people leaving gender-based violence.
If you would like to contribute to our cause, consider joining Shelter Movers Vancouver as a volunteer mover or driver.
You can also support us by donating — any amount helps. Each move costs just under $200, covering the costs of:
- Vehicle rentals
- Volunteer management and staffing
- Storage and packing materials
- Security and language interpretation services
Every $200 makes a huge difference in putting an end to the cycle of violence against women. Learn more about the impact of your support, how to volunteer, the moving process itself, or where to donate.