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 Valerie Barter, executive director of Violence Prevention Avalon East.

Valerie Barter is a Mikmaq native of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Within the past 20 years, she has worked in the non-profit sector of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). She is a strong feminist, intimate partner violence survivor, and long-time advocate and supporter of abused women and children. She is dedicated to anti-violence organisations and currently works as the executive director of Violence Prevention Avalon East (VPAE). As an equality-seeking organisation whose mandate is to address violence at its roots, VPAE educates and advocates, increases awareness around the issues of violence, and lobbies for enhanced services in the prevention and early intervention of violence.

Picture and logo are courtesy of Violence Prevention Avalon East. 

If you are an anti-violence against women activist, advocate, or organisation who would like to be featured in this series, contact us at info@thepixelproject.net.


1.What is Violence Prevention Avalon East (VPAE) doing to help victims of domestic violence, rape, and other gender-based violence during the Coronavirus pandemic?

I am the only staff member in our office. I work on crisis/support calls, coordination, programming, media, volunteer program, financials, community outreach, student internships, government and community organisation collaboration–all things related to daily operations.  

Our emergency calls have increased by 75% during Covid-19. We saw domestic abuse rising in NL and despite many calls to action from other advocates, our provincial government wasn’t addressing the issue. Nobody seemed to be responding to the call. At the same time, on an international level, the UN was also putting out a call to action to help mitigate the onset of domestic violence during the pandemic. We developed and launched the Unsafe At Home: Domestic Abuse Support During COVID-19 website page which includes:

  • Local Support Directory during COVID-19.
  • Are you isolated with your abuser during COVID-19?
  • How COVID-19 affects domestic violence.
  • Do you know how to spot signs of abusive behaviour during COVID-19?
  • Do you know somebody who is in an abusive relationship during COVID-19? 
  • Are you afraid that you’re going to hurt a loved one during COVID-19?


2.What would VPAE recommend people do to help women and girls who are victims of gender-based violence during the current Coronavirus lockdowns?

When someone tells you they’re being abused, it’s hard to know how to react. You want to help, but you don’t want to make the abusive situation worse. Ask how they would like you to support them, but don’t ignore your gut instinct, especially if they or a child are potentially in danger.

  • Check in on a regular basis to ask them how their isolation is going, and if they need anything. Ask open-ended questions; it often gives you more feedback.
  • Try to do a video call instead of a phone call, if you can.
  • Help the person develop a safety plan.
  • Now that women are home with their abuser, they may not have an opportunity to check the internet. If a crisis does occur, they may be experiencing too much trauma to know how to get the help they need. Take it upon yourself to know what supportive resources are in NL during COVID-19 and share it with them.
  • Never let the abuser know that you are onto them. This could cause more harm.
  • If you feel safe doing so, and it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary to the abuser, drop some cookies off on their doorstep, knock on the door, then move at least 6-ft back. Just say you were dropping off cookies to a few friends you were thinking about and wanted to give a quick hello to whoever was home as you made your rounds. This gives you an opportunity to find out about your loved one’s whereabouts, without letting on that you know about their issues.
  • Above all else, NEVER put yourself in danger.


3.What can people do to support VPAE’s anti-violence against women work during the Coronavirus pandemic?

  • Donate Money. Your generous donation is needed now, more than ever before. Your donation goes to good use, and no amount of money is too small, or too large. 
  • Donate Items. We are accepting NEW in-kind donations such as care packages, food gift cards, arts and crafts, healthy relationship books, empowerment books, self-care coloring books, arts and crafts, and blankets that we can deliver to our clients. 
  • Volunteer. There are still ways to volunteer, while continuing to socially distance!