The Shadow Pandemic. A Case Study on Knowledge Translation and Domestic Violence

Adjusting to the “new normal” has led to a widespread use of social media as an effective platform to conduct Knowledge Translation (KT).

2020-10-14

There have been several initiatives that have effectively used social media for KT since the beginning of the pandemic. One such notable cause that has used Social media in this manner has been those trying to engage for change around domestic violence and its increase during the lockdown period. COVID-19 has seen a dramatic rise in domestic violence (DV) around the world. While physical and emotional violence often accompany domestic violence, another important factor to consider is the mental health of victimized women. When it comes to the mental health of victims and survivors of domestic violence, many women experience a level of trauma associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. The increased rates of domestic violence across the world have sparked activists and organizations like UN Women to come up with creative ways to translate knowledge to engage the public around its prevalence, and inspire people to become agents of change within their own spheres of influence.

*Trigger Warning* (This blog piece contains content describing various details about domestic violence)

Demonstrating the Power of KT Methods in Social Media

Whether we like it or not, the COVID pandemic has pushed many of our lives online. Social media has become the hub where we socialize, learn, work, and spend our leisure time. As a result, many people have realized that the most effective way to reach people during the pandemic is through the platform of social media. At the same time, mental health problems have risen at an unprecedented measure during the pandemic. Some argue that the combination of remaining in close quarters with abusers, job insecurity, the stress and anxiety of being forced to stay home, boredom, drug and alcohol use all work to elevate rates of intimate partner abuse (Lewis, p.12). Lewis (2020) argues, “Stay home, stay safe. Yet the ubiquity of domestic violence means that for millions of people, home is anything but safe” (p.12). Further, it is chilling to note that the same prevalence of PTSD in war veterans is experienced by women in domestic violence relationships (Sheehy, p. 2). Not only so, but according to Dr. Judith Herman, “Traumatic experience overwhelms and disorganizes the psyche” (p.21). The combination of PTSD coupled with the stress and anxiety associated with a future beating, emotional abuse, and potential harm to children and loved ones leaves domestic violence victims in an extremely vulnerable state mentally. In this way, the mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing of domestic violence victims led UN women to make a difference within the landscape of this pressing issue globally. Here is how they did it:

  1. UN Women located a pressing problem: the increased rates of Violence Against Women during COVID.
  2. Through conducting several rapid assessments with stakeholders (122 civil society organizations in 5 regions across 49 countries), UN Women uncovered the limited awareness of available services to vulnerable women and their advocates around the world.
  3. Following this, UN Women ideated the creation of both the #ShadowPandemic hashtag, its accompanying PSA video (https://bit.ly/3kXDpmz), and several policy briefs (“The COVID-19 shadow pandemic: Domestic violence in the world of work: A call to action for the private sector”, “Violence against women and girls data collection during COVID-19”, “Prevention: Violence Against Women and Girls and COVID-19”) to turn dormant and scattered knowledge about the increased rates of domestic violence around the world, into active knowledge shared with varying government and nongovernmental organizations to create change.

Outcomes

Through the recommendations of UN Women, many vacant hotels have been repurposed into domestic violence shelters for vulnerable women (https://time.com/5812990/france-domestic-violence-hotel-coronavirus/, https://www.dw.com/en/russia-hotels-shelter-victims-of-domestic-violence/av-53620451). At the same time, information shared by UN Women on the Shadow Pandemic has provided social media engagements on how to effectively support women that are vulnerable to domestic violence. In the end, Both the “#ShadowPandemic” campaign, along with the Shadow Pandemic public service announcement, “highlights the alarming upsurge in domestic violence during COVID-19 and delivers a vital message urging people to act to support women they know or suspect if someone is experiencing violence” (UN).

While our hope is that the rates of domestic violence will drastically end within our lifetimes, there are various ways that we can each do our part to spread information about DV within our networks, and provide the necessary supports to women we know and encounter who are vulnerable to domestic/intimate partner violence.

Here is how you can personally become an agent of change within the “shadow pandemic” and spread the knowledge of this area and what can be done:

  1. Watch the “Shadow Pandemic” PSA video https://bit.ly/3kXDpmz and share it with your networks
  2. Share some of the resources listed below on your respective social media networks. One post seen by the right woman has the potential to save a life

If a woman confides in you about subsequent abuse, or if you suspect that a woman is being abused redirect her to the list of resources below and connect her to local Violence Against Women’s agencies and shelters.

Canadian Resources for Women Vulnerable to Domestic Violence

If you are a woman who is in fear for her safety or know of a woman vulnerable to domestic violence, please find some supportive resources below. If you are an ally, feel free to share these resources with your respective networks:

Canada-wide

Alberta

British Columbia

Quebec

Manitoba

Newfoundland and Labrador

Nova Scotia

Ontario

Saskatchewan

Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan. https://pathssk.org/

Sources

Lewis, H. (2020). “The Shadow Pandemic.” The Atlantic https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/08/are-refuges-only-solution-domestic-violence/614392/

Herman, J. (1992). Trauma and Recovery. New York; Basic Books.

UN Women. (2020). “The Shadow Pandemic: Violence against women during COVID-19.” https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/in-focus-gender-equality-in-covid-19-response/violence-against-women-during-covid-19

UN Women. (2020). “The Shadow Pandemic: Domestic violence in the wake of COVID-19.” https://bit.ly/3kXDpmz

UN Women. (2020). “COVID-19 and Violence Against Women and Girls: Addressing the Shadow Pandemic Policy Brief No.17 https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2020/policy-brief-covid-19-and-violence-against-women-and-girls-en.pdf?la=en&vs=408

https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2020/06/brief-domestic-violence-in-the-world-of-work#view

UN Women. (2020). “Prevention: Violence Against Women and Girls and COVID-19.” https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2020/05/brief-prevention-violence-against-women-and-girls-and-covid-19

UN Women. (2020). “Violence against women and girls data collection during COVID-19.” https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2020/04/issue-brief-violence-against-women-and-girls-data-collection-during-covid-19

Elizabeth Peprah is a current PhD Student in Human and Social Services with a concentration in Community Intervention and Leadership at Walden University. She is a graduate of a master’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies at Carleton University where she researched the connection between mental health and sexual assault trauma. Elizabeth further discovered the importance of adequate mental health services for victimized women while working with women in a bail residency program with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa. She blogs on gender-based violence at serwaaspeaks.com and has been a Knowledge Broker with the MHCC since January 2020.

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The content in our blogs is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health provider with any questions you may have regarding your mental health. If you are in distress, please contact your nearest distress centre. If it is an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency department.