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Self-isolation not always an option: women's advocacy group amid coronavirus outbreak

Last Updated Mar 17, 2020 at 10:00 pm PDT


A women's advocacy group still offering services during the COVID-19 outbreak

Battered Women's Support Services is open since women in abusive relationships can't always self-isolate

However, BWSS admits it is struggling to keep supplies stocked

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) —¬†With COVID-19 keeping many at home, one advocacy group is reminding you that isn’t an option for women in abusive relationships.

Battered Women’s Support Services remains open during the public health emergency, but admit they are struggling to keep up. Executive Director Angela MacDougall says for many women who use their services, self-isolation at home is not a safe option.

“This social isolation, the social distancing, all can, unfortunately contribute to fertile ground for increased domestic violence,” she says. “We are concerned for women who access services currently who are in dangerous situations and, and who are having to make decisions about their safety right now.”

She explains when women are stuck at home with an abusive partner, that abuse can get even worse especially during long-term quarantines.

“It really is compounded when you’re living in a relationship that’s abusive. When you’ve been confined to at a home with a violent man it’s dangerous,” she says. “Along with that when it’s recommended that you not go outside it kind of confirms everything that we want to disrupt in our effort to end domestic violence.”

Because of this, MacDougall says they remain busy during the pandemic.

She says while staff continue to work each day, they’re having a hard time keeping up and are now asking the provincial and federal governments for financial help.

“We’ve asked for support with staffing with you know, kind of identifying staffing protocols needing assistance around service modification,” MacDougall says. “We’re wanting to be able to ensure that we have sufficient supplies to keep our facilities clean.”

She adds while they have about a two-week supply on hand, it’s been difficult to restock due to panicked shoppers who have cleared out store shelves.

“I know for our counterparts all around British Columbia, and here in Metro Vancouver is the need for supplies, for cleaning supplies,” she says. “Having sufficient supplies on hand, including masks and, and I know it’s hard to find the supplies that we need. We’ve got probably two weeks worth of supplies now. Masks are an essential part of some aspect of the cleaning we do. There’s lots of leafy, green vegetables, lots of produce but the premade food has been¬† shopped up.”

In terms of social distancing, MacDougall says they’re doing the best they can to keep people apart.

“What we’re doing right now is where we’re having to make some modifications to our to our services,” she says. “Effective tomorrow we’re having to really look at our ability to maintain social distancing within our facility and so we’re we’re moving to just straight crisis services, which will largely be delivered over the phone.”

She says while it’s been difficult for staff, many are still coming in.

“It’s very tough because on one hand, everybody is really concerned about wanting to ensure that survivors have access to support knowing all the risks and how they are potentially compounded other this situation, but the reality is that everybody’s really concerned about their own their own health and, you know, in our own well being”

MacDougall says they are accepting donations to help during the pandemic, the most valuable items include disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, paper towels, and cleaning masks.