YWCA drives donations to any organization fighting domestic violence

The non-profit is calling in extra support for women forced to quarantine with their abuser.

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While the federal government has been telling Canadians to stay safe by remaining at home in order to combat COVID-19, for some women in Canada, staying at home can have the opposite effect.

The executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) recently described the national state of affairs of domestic violence as “a pandemic on top of a pandemic.” Since the COVID-19 crisis began, calls to BWSS have increased between 50% to 300%, with 40% coming from women who are living in abusive situations isolated with their abusers.

On Tuesday, the Women’s Y Foundation Montreal, YWCA Montreal’s funding arm, launched an appeal for donations to help the most vulnerable women in the country. A 30-second spot shows empty public places, such as streets, parks, theatres, and bars. But even though “the distance between us has never seemed so deep,” as the creative says, women who are victims of violence have “never felt the threat so close by,” showing a door to a house slamming and then a man raising his voice at someone inside.

In an approach atypical of other campaigns, it is calling on the public to donate not just to the Women’s Y Foundation or YWCA, but to any organization in Canada that helps women.

Isabelle Gélinas, director of communications at YWCA Montreal, says the purpose of the YWCA is to address social issues, but one the size of violence against women – as well as the increased urgency brought on by the pandemic – requires multiple organizations to work on it. Gélinas adds that there are several organizations in Canada that do good work for women and target different women-related issues.

Gélinas says the organization always tries to attach messages and campaigns to various parts of the calendar year, which many people might not realize can bring increased rates of domestic violence. For instance, a campaign during Christmas was based around the message that “violence doesn’t take a break during the holiday season.” This campaign expands that approach to show how the current state of affairs could have a similar effect on an experiences that already tend to be “very hidden” from public view.

“Where everybody is so far away from each other, women are so very close to violence every day,” Gélinas says. “Many of the women that we work with – [not only] in our transitional housing services, but also in our employment services, our legal information clinic – we can see that violence, domestic or family, is a common threat for many of them.”

The campaign officially launched this past on “Giving Tuesday Now,” a second global day of charitable donations as an emergency response to COVID-19 (building off the Giving Tuesday that typically encourages generosity during the holiday shopping season). Gélinas estimates that the YWCA has raised in between $2,000 to $3,000 from Giving Tuesday, thus far.

Gélinas says the campaign will continue to appear on social media and community TV in Quebec. The creative for the campaign was done by FCB Canada.

The potential for quarantine to lead to a spike in domestic violence is one that other organizations have recognized. The Canadian Women’s Foundation and Juniper Park\TBWA created “Signal for Help,” a hand gesture that can be “visually and silently” shown during video calls to notify family, friends or colleagues that a person needs help without tipping off an abuser, who may be nearby or monitoring communications on a partner’s devices.