Tribulations of the New Normal: Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Gender-based Violence and Related Essential Services

Grant Agency: Office of Crime Reduction and Gang Outreach (OCR-GO)’s Crime Reduction Research Program

Awarded: 2020-2022

Primary contributors:

Dr. Richard Frank 

Amanda Champion 

April Chai 

Hana Ryu 

Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic is a major health crisis that has taken a toll on people’s everyday lives – impacting hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide (Tessler et al., 2020). As a result of the global spread of the virus, Canada implemented restrictions and recommendation measures (e.g., school, work, and/or business closures) in March of 2020 and declared a state of emergency when the virus surfaced in Canada. According to a recent article by Ending Violence Association of Canada (EVAC; 2020), advocates suggested that the conditions created by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures in Canada increased gender-based violence (GBV). Indeed, results from a recent national survey from 376 service providers who work in sexual assault centres, shelters, and transition houses across Canada found that the circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown has created an increase in GBV and additional restrictions/access to GBV support services – advocates have termed this the “shadow pandemic” (EVAC, 2020). The negative impacts associated with GBV are extensive and far-reaching. For instance, GBV can create intergenerational cycles of violence in families/communities and has been linked to negative mental health, social, and financial impacts (Government of Canada, n.d.). Importantly, particular populations are at a higher risk for violence, these include the following: women of all ages, Indigenous women of all ages, LGBTQ2 and non-binary peoples (Government of Canada, n.d.).

Objective: In responses to these issues, our project aims to collect survey and interview data from residents living in B.C. regarding how the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown experiences have impacted their lives. A main objective is to identify possible effects or issues (i.e., experiences with gender-based violence, and/or negative mental health outcomes) that have not been addressed by current policies or support measures. The survey is conducted anonymously and is designed to gain a comprehensive understanding of the safety, psychological, economic, and social impacts associated with the COVID-19 lockdown for residents in B.C. At the end of the online survey, participants are provided the option to participate in a follow-up semi-structured interview to allow for more in-depth understanding of their experiences.

Outcomes: The results from this study will contribute to the literature on GBV, the issue of underreporting for this type of incidents, and victim experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, this study will contribute to the immediate need in addressing the increased risk/needs of vulnerable populations in B.C. amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, our project will result in several different outcomes: (1) knowledge dissemination through peer-reviewed publications, conference attendance, and governmental reports, (2) application towards crime preventative programs, (3) theory testing, (4) the enhancement of research partnerships within our community, and (5) graduate student training and skill development. The knowledge gained from this project will provide valuable information for policymakers and community service providers including mental health workers, sexual assault centres, transition housing services, shelters, and law enforcement on anticipating individual and community needs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic for B.C. residents.