The Shadow Pandemic

The Shadow Pandemic

May 07, 2021Cheyanne Lobo

Hi friends,

The pandemic has certainly been... an experience. We've been caught between stay-at-home orders, patio beers with friends, park hangouts, then back to stay-at-home orders. I think I speak for everyone when I say, being in this seemingly never ending cycle of lockdowns has been draining.
But amidst this global pandemic, another pandemic bubbles beneath the surface. The Shadow Pandemic. Named after a UN awareness campaign, the Shadow Pandemic refers to the global uptick in domestic violence since the start of COVID. 

The thing is, domestic violence hasn't been lying dormant or hiding in the shadows. It's been here all along. The pandemic just amplifies its severity and its frequency. Safety for abuse victims during COVID is a double edged sword - the government may deem going outside a risk, but for many staying inside can be just as dangerous.

How has pandemic has changed domestic violence?

This phenomenon isn't new. During public health crisis and natural disasters 
vulnerable communities are more at risk of violence. As we all struggle through this global emergency, abuse victims are often left behind. Here's a brief look at the different ways pandemics change what abuse looks like:

1) Control
With lay-offs and uncertainty about the future, everyone is experiencing a clear lack of control. For abusers, this frustration manifests into violence - a way for them to exercise control against another person. For victims, this change has been palpable. In a Canada-wide survey, 82% of victims say violence became more frequent in the pandemic while a fifth of those interviewed said abusers' tactics changed and control over victims increased.

2) Social Support
The CBC notes those surveyed in Canada said abusers took advantage of conditions by, "using isolation at home as a tool to ramp up violence, using information about coronavirus to exert control, or monitoring and controlling access to technology to limit the amount of help a victim was able to access." At the crux of escaping abusive relationships, is a strong social support network. Knowing there are family, friends or other allies, who can help may push victims to trust themselves and eventually leave their abusive relationship. COVID is unique in that this pandemic has allowed for abusers to use different tactics to increase control while decreasing social support.

(Source: CBC)

Staying Safe
If you are trapped indoors with your abusers there are small steps you might be able to take to protect yourself.
Reach Out
Yes, as I mentioned it has become more challenging to physically meet with loved ones, but start small. Make a list of the people you feel comfortable talking with - friends, family, or organizations.
Taking that one step further, if it's possible, create scheduled check-ins. This doesn't necessarily have to be videocalls - texts are one way to reach out if phone or videocalls are unsafe.

Create A Safety Plan
Violence can escalate quickly and without warning. Trusting yourself and knowing when it's the right time to leave is essential. Mapping out where it's safe to go, when it's safe to leave, and who you will reach out to, can make a huge difference. If you need help organizing a safety plan, you may be able to text “loveis” to 22522 for help creating one.

(Source: TalkSpace)

Naturally, as the pandemic winds down and people begin to get vaccinated, urgency around abuse decreases. But domestic violence isn't over. It's a different type of pandemic - hidden beneath the surface and without a fix-all solution. Leaders need to think about the future - what happens when we encounter another pandemic or a natural disaster? How do we ensure the future of emergency planning is inclusive? 
Reading this article, engaging in discussions, and taking action brings us one step closer to casting light on the Shadow Pandemic. What we're doing here and what other organizations continue to do every day, will hopefully disrupt abusive patterns during the national emergencies and beyond. 


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Until next time,
Your friends at briar de wolfe
Additional message: **During COVID-19, there has been a significant rise in domestic violence and abuse. Where isolation is an effective strategy for everyone's safety, it is not the case for several victims. Please call 9-1-1 if you are feeling unsafe and please find a local shelter by any means necessary.

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