Welcome to The Pixel Project’s VAW In A Time Of Coronavirus blog interview series!
As the Coronavirus pandemic rages on, millions of women and girls are isolated with their abusers during mandated lockdowns in countries worldwide. This has resulted in rates of domestic violence and other forms of violence against women surging worldwide.
In this series, we highlight what activists, advocates, and organisations from communities worldwide are doing to help victims during the pandemic when social distancing rules are in place. Interviews are published every fortnight on a Thursday.
Today’s interview is with Bea Cote, founder and executive director of IMPACT Family Violence Services.
Bea Cote is the Founder and Executive Director of IMPACT Family Violence Services and Step Up to Family Safety and has worked with abusers for over 25 years. Her work is nationally recognized. Bea trains clinicians on identifying, treating, and referring when DV is present. She knows that in order to reduce risk to women, their batterers must be given the tools to change. Educating the community about this is the key to the DV movement’s future.
Picture and logo are courtesy of IMPACT Family Violence Services.
If you are an anti-violence against women activist, advocate, or organisation who would like to be featured in this series, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. What is Impact Family Violence Services (IMPACT) doing to help victims of domestic violence, rape, and other gender-based violence during the Coronavirus pandemic?
IMPACT immediately converted all services to virtual platforms 6 weeks ago without any break in services. Using interns before they were pulled by their universities, we contacted all of our clients’ victims that we could reach to give them a heads up. Because of our small size and innovative spirit we were able to do this quickly.
Directives and procedures that followed only confirmed what we discovered: that while not a perfect solution, online groups, when done well, can be a good alternative in crises or for certain populations. Men in our more rural counties, those who have transportation issues, and those with physical handicaps are advantaged.
Most importantly, we are present, available and aware of the increase in crises among our clients and can de-escalate situations that place victims in danger.
2. What would IMPACT recommend people do to help women and girls who are victims of gender-based violence during the current Coronavirus lockdowns?
I’m on social media and every now and then I notice that a friend has been AWOL. I would suggest making a list of friends who may be vulnerable and make a point to check in on them on a regular basis. If you suspect someone is at risk, set up a safe word or phrase or action: for example, messaging you to ask how **** is doing when you know no such person. And clarify what they want you to do if they send that signal. It’s important to be present and aware. Don’t let your friends just disappear; that may be a sign that they’re being isolated.
Another thing: post as much good domestic violence information as possible on whatever social media you like. Just make sure it’s legitimate, and post about non-criminal or non-physical abuse too. Women may not know they’re victims if he’s not beating them.
3.What can people do to support IMPACT’s anti-violence against women work during the Coronavirus pandemic?
Remember to include us in every conversation and every meeting where DV is discussed. We are typically left out of many efforts to provide “comprehensive” DV services, such as Family Justice Centers. I have to say that if we are not at every table, every time you meet then you do not have a coordinated community response or anything close to it, because you are only putting Band-Aids on victims; you are NOT addressing their safety needs. Their need for safety would include:
- Abuser accountability
- Physically securing him to give her time to get to safety or to get her things out of the house
- Not having to see him at hearings
- Not having to fight him for custody of the children
- Believing her when she says she’s safer with him there and just wants him to get help.
There should be many more men in behaviour intervention programs (BIPs) than there are.