COVID presents new challenges for groups helping women experiencing violence

Wednesday marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism, a global campaign between Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.

The Centre Victoria pour Femmes in Sudbury said it can't meet women face-to-face right now because of the pandemic.

So it's offering French language services for women affected by violence on the phone and some virtually, which can present challenges.

"We need to know that the partner is not in the environment, is not listening in on what is being discussed," said Gaetane Pharand the executive director of the Centre Victoria pour Femmes.

"We need to know that this person is in a safe place and we need to know what's happening is not being recorded also for the person's safety and for our own safety."

The centre said another barrier to reaching out for help is many women are at home, either working or because of a job loss.

"One of the preoccupations that were have is that not everyone is able to reach out for help," said Mireille Charlebois, communications officer at Centre Victoria pour Femmes.

Never quite alone

"So if you are still living with a violent partner, for example, it might be hard to reach out to a crisis line. It might be hard to pick up the phone and call a support service because you are never quite alone, right."

The centre said it has seen a steady increase in demand for services since the pandemic began -- and even more recently.

"COVID has created, you know, that more closed, confined environment, women are seeing that it is not changing, this is not improving and we now want to move forward, we have to do something to create a better life for ourselves," said Pharand.

The centre said it expects to see an increase in demand for services post-COVID because of the long isolation and lack of connection many women are feeling.

On Dec. 6, Canada's Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women marks the 1989 Montreal Massacre. Centre Victoria pour Femmes will be holding a tree-lighting ceremony.