WORKING TOGETHER TO END SEXUAL VIOLENCE

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Covid-19 April 2020 Update:

We are following health directions and our staff are working from home.  If you need to reach us immediately, call our 24/7 Women's Sexual Assault Help line at 1 800 461-2929.  Your counselor will be calling you at your regular individual appointment time, and our groups are now running online.  Office messages are checked daily and new referrals will be responded to shortly.  Stay well, follow our social media for assistance with social isolation activities.  Don't hesitate to call if you need to speak with us.  

 

Offices

705 646-2122 Muskoka

705 774-9083 Parry Sound

Leave a message and we will return your call in 1-2 business days.

New - Chat Service!

We are now offering an online chat service.  You will be able to chat with a counselor, anonymously.  We don't  know your IP address or URL - chat safely with one of our counsellors.  Click the floating chat link to find out more.  Hours are being increased but presently are Mon. and Weds. 2-5pm

Gender Based Violence - Covid-19 Resource Link

A Message from the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres
Regarding COVID-19:

Support for survivors of sexual violence in our communities continues. Ontario sexual assault centres are operating, with some modifications to services that include the closure of their physical offices. Learn more and find your local sexual assault centre here.

Some Facts: Global Emergencies, Pandemics and Gender  

Public health outbreaks have a gendered impact on women and girls[1].

 

Women and girls' roles in the home and community can increase their exposure to COVID-19 in ways that others may not experience: for example, women and girls often have ongoing domestic and care responsibilities. In paid work, women commonly have roles as frontline health professionals, in hospitality, as cleaners, as personal support workers in health environments, and as social sector responders[2], among others.

 

We also know that crisis events such as pandemics tend to worsen pre-existing social and economic vulnerabilities. Racialized communities, those living in poverty “and other groups that have traditionally been marginalized, tend to be harmed by a disaster more” than others, and have less access to helping resources; women face similar protection risks, “including sexual exploitation and abuse, unequal access to assistance, discrimination in aid provision…and violence” [3].

 

The economic fallout from business closures, job loss and other impacts can also lead to increased

household stress. This reality “can (1) increase the risk for intimate partner violence, (2) lead to risky coping strategies including survival sex, early/forced marriage, and (3) increase the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse”[4].

 

These phenomenon and potential harms are all informed by gender.

 

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 those at risk of experiencing violence at home.

 

It has also created unique access barriers for any and all survivors of violence who utilize sexual assault centres, shelters and other community supports in order to find support.

 

 

At increased risk: Gender-based violence, violence at home and COVID-19

We are well-aware that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, more survivors of gender-based violence were reaching out for support than ever before. For example: 

  • While shelters for women and children experiencing violence provide a critical – and often life-saving – service in our communities, many were at their limit in resources and shelter space[5] well before the COVID-19 pandemic.  

  • In one year, Ontario Sexual Assault Centres took over 48,000 Crisis Line calls, supported over 16,000 individual survivors of sexual violence; and provided 3000 prevention education workshops to youth and others in the community[6].

  • With the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in recent years, community-based sexual assault centres have seen a significant upswing in calls, leading to wait lists for supportive counselling to survivors of sexual assault across Ontario.

  • Rates of gender-based violence are high in Canada, pandemic or not: on average, every six days, a woman is killed by her intimate partner[7]. In the last year, Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH) notes that 37 women died in Ontario as a result of intimate partner violence[8].

 

Today, 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 those experiencing violence[9]. Since the virus started spreading, OAITH, which represents over 70 shelters across Ontario, states that 20 percent of their organizations have experienced an increase in calls[10].

 

“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

 

It also means that those at risk of sexual violence at home -- as well as survivors of past sexual violence -- must contend with challenging support realities: for example, limited opportunities to safely and confidentially call a sexual assault centre; balancing one’s own support needs while caring for children now at home; and changes in access to group and individual counselling.

 

Add to this that 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[11]. 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[12] . Supporting this data, Durham Region – a community just east or Toronto, Ontario -- said domestic-related calls have increased by 14 per cent year-to-date, and there was a two per cent increase in the month of March. Sexual assault calls have also increased by 22 percent year-to-date[13].

 

Many women, girls, and trans and non-binary people now face a heightened risk of violence at home with COVID-19 isolation measures[14]

 

In recognition of this, the federal Government recently announced $40 million to support those experiencing gender-based violence in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of this, $30 million will be used to “address the immediate needs of shelters and sexual assault centres”, with up to $4 million being distributed to sexual assault centres across Canada.

 

 

COVID-19 and community-based sexual assault centres in Ontario

Supports for survivors of sexual violence in our communities continue. Ontario sexual assault centres are operating, with some modifications to services that include the closure of their physical offices. Continued services include[15]:

 

  • 24-hour telephone crisis support: all 24-hour support and crisis lines continue without disruption

  • Counselling over telephone  

  • Counselling over video

  • Some centres can provide support through web-chat and texting

  • Increased online presence and supportive social media

  • Engagement of support-seekers through social media and web-based programming: for example, some centre re providing live stream self-care, education and support programs  

  • Prevention education in online formats

  • Developing volunteer training in online formats.

  • Where possible, helping support-seekers with little or no income to access basic practical supports, such as grocery store and food vouchers.

 

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, we are here to support you: Find the sexual assault centre nearest you, and check their website directly for service updates related to COVID-19.

 

 

Getting Help: Resources for survivors of violence 

 

  • If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, we are here to support you: Find the sexual assault centre nearest you, and check their website directly for service updates related to COVID-19.

 

 

  • 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.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] CBV Guidelines. Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action. Reducing risk, promoting resilience and aiding recovery. COVID-19 resources to address gender-based violence risks. Online: https://gbvguidelines.org/en/knowledgehub/covid-19/

[2] CBV Guidelines. Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action. Reducing risk, promoting resilience and aiding recovery. COVID-19 resources to address gender-based violence risks. Online: https://gbvguidelines.org/en/knowledgehub/covid-19/

[3] International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva, 2015. Unseen, unheard: Gender-based violence in disasters. Online: https://www.ifrc.org/Global/Documents/Secretariat/201511/1297700_GBV_in_Disasters_EN_LR2.pdf: 16

[4] Global Protection Cluster GBV Protection and Response and Inter-Agency Standing Committee.  Last updated: 6 April 2020. Identifying & Mitigating Gender-based Violence Risks within the COVID-19 Response. Online: https://gbvguidelines.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Interagency-GBV-risk-mitigation-and-Covid-tipsheet.pdf: 10.

[5] Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH). Posted on Jan 24, 2020. Dying to Get In and No Way to Get Out: 2020 Pre Budget Submission. Online: https://www.oaith.ca/news-media/news-blog.html/2020/01/24/dying-to-get-in-and-no-way-to-get-out-2020-pre-budget-submission/

[6] This information was compiled by Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres in 2019, with data provided by 23 member centres. Online: https://sexualassaultsupport.ca/ontario-sexual-assault-centres-what-we-do/

[7] Gunraj, Andrea and Jessica Howard for Canadian Women’s Foundation. April 9, 2020. Why is the COVID-19 Pandemic Linked to More Gender-Based Violence?. Online: https://canadianwomen.org/blog/covid-19-pandemic-gender-based-violence/

[8] Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH). Femicide in Ontario: #30YearsAndStillCounting. Online: https://www.oaith.ca/assets/files/Femicide%20Bios%202018-19%20Nov%2024%202019.pdf

[9] Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH). Tuesday March 17th, 2020. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Violence Against Women Shelters in the Face of COVID-19. Online: https://www.oaith.ca/assets/files/FOR%20IMMEDIATE%20RELEASE_Covid%20VAW%20Shelter%20Response_March%2017th%202020.pdf

[10] Amin, Faiza for CityNews. April 8, 2020. Domestic violence calls surge during coronavirus pandemic. Online: https://toronto.citynews.ca/2020/04/08/domestic-violence-calls-surge-during-coronavirus-pandemic/

[11] Enarson, Elaine. Women Confronting Natural Disaster: from Vulnerability to Resilience. Boulder: Lynne Reinner. 2012.

[12] International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva, 2015. Unseen, unheard: Gender-based violence in disasters. Online: https://www.ifrc.org/Global/Documents/Secretariat/201511/1297700_GBV_in_Disasters_EN_LR2.pdf: 8

[13] Amin, Faiza for CityNews. April 8, 2020. Domestic violence calls surge during coronavirus pandemic. Online: https://toronto.citynews.ca/2020/04/08/domestic-violence-calls-surge-during-coronavirus-pandemic/

[14] Gunraj, Andrea and Jessica Howard for Canadian Women’s Foundation. April 9, 2020. Why is the COVID-19 Pandemic Linked to More Gender-Based Violence?. Online: https://canadianwomen.org/blog/covid-19-pandemic-gender-based-violence/

[15] While 24-hour crisis phone support is part of centres’ core services, none of the other technology-based service models mentioned here are included in centres’ core funding from the province of Ontario. OCRCC has been able to provide introduction to significant technical support to community based sexual assault centres in part through the Government of Ontario’s (Office of Women’s Issues) support of our project, Using Technology to Better Support Survivors: Innovation in Frontline Settings.

A Non-Profit Organization

We are an intersectional feminist organization dedicated to providing leadership, education, advocacy and trauma-informed support to end sexual violence and harassment. 

Gender-based violence, including sexual violence, is a global issue. We develop strong collaborative responses to shift longstanding societal beliefs and systems to create social change.

We honour all people who have experienced sexual violence and harassment. Their diverse voices are heard and reflected in the design and delivery of our programs to facilitate empowerment and healing.

Services & Programs

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