What does gender-based violence prevention look like in the face of COVID-19?

Friday, 27 March 2020

By Casey Keene, Director of Programs & Prevention for the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

Despite the fear, despair, and uncertainty our communities are experiencing, there is an abundance of connectedness, support, and hope. And while the scope and impact of COVID-19 has been unprecedented, so has been the outpouring of community care, deep concern about the varying adverse impacts on our siblings across the globe, and efforts to take tangible action to support each other’s well-being. At this moment in time, each of us is experiencing both the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the systemic response to it, which has exposed structural injustice and inequity in new and profound ways. 

“[Domestic violence] advocates can find a health equity approach useful in their efforts to prevent DV, as this approach counters the unequal and unjust conditions that lead to violence and inequities in violence, and aims to ensure that every person has an equal opportunity to achieve optimal health and safety.” – Prevention Institute, from A Health Equity and Multisector approach to Preventing Domestic Violence

At its core, prevention work is about fostering thriving individuals, families, and communities, which makes addressing the impact of COVID-19 imperative at this challenging and uncertain time. Preventionists are skilled at identifying the root causes of violence and oppression, and their work is to dismantle these systems through social change efforts that promote compassion, respect, equity, and peace. Specifically, at this time we are seeing the work that must be done to promote 1) health equity, 2) racial justice, and 3) community care as sustainable remedies to foster healthy and thriving communities. Various resources capturing diverse perspectives on this work as it relates to the COVID-19 crisis are compiled below.

Additionally, recognizing that schools at all levels have shifted to virtual learning environments, and the challenges inherent in that shift, we have gathered online resources that can be utilized by preventionists, educators and caregivers alike to promote the continuity of school-based prevention efforts and help to foster family resilience, justice, and hope.

Community Care & Organizing

“We wish to build the social fabric and transform the isolation within our communities into connectedness and caring for the whole.” – Peter Block, from Community: The Structure of Belonging as featured in Building Beloved Community from Transforming Communities

There is a certain irony to the notion that physical distancing is an act of love for our neighbors. But this single act, when practiced in solidarity with others, can unify us towards the common goals of healing, restoration and connection. It’s a way to build beloved community. In response to COVID-19, we are seeing communities across the country mobilize around collective care and mutual aid in creative and impactful ways that center those who are most vulnerable. At this time when people are looking for ways to support the health and well-being of their neighbors, preventionists are uniquely positioned to lead and support these organizing efforts.

Learn more:

Health Equity

“This pandemic reminds us that we are all only as safe and healthy as the most vulnerable and under-resourced among us.”Taking Action for Health, Justice, and Belonging in the Age of COVID-19 from Medium

A health equity approach seeks to address the factors that contribute to health disparities, including structural drivers (access to power, money, opportunity and resources) and community determinants (the circumstances in which people are born, and grow, live, work, and age). We are seeing the ways in which drivers such as structural racism and socio-economic inequity are impacting communities as they cope with COVID-19.  Activists representing diverse marginalized groups, including queer, disabled, incarcerated, and undocumented immigrant communities, are bringing visibility to this disparate impact. Preventionists have an opportunity to partner with these community groups to help mobilize collective action to promote health justice and community resilience for those most impacted.

Learn more:

Racial Justice

“We are among millions of people in our country who are choosing one another, knowing in this moment the forces of fear, hate, and violence have become more visible and empowered. We Choose All of Us is a (r)evolution for humanity, a time to plant and nurture the seed that reconnects us to us.”We Choose All of Us from the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence

Implicit and explicit systemic racism, driven and sustained by the exploitation of fear, has led to a surge in acts of hate, bigotry and discrimination across our communities, and drives the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. It is the work of anti-violence advocates and preventionists to center the voices, needs, and livedexperiences of people of color in our efforts to dismantle racism. Asian American individuals, families, businesses, and communities are facing racism in the form of violent attacks, discrimination, and xenophobia. At this critical time, we must be explicit in our efforts to promote racial justice, and stand boldly with those who are hurting and healing together.

Learn more:

Online Tools for Virtual Learning & Connection

"Free your emotions, put your thoughts on a piece of paper or in a document on your computer! And, hey, maybe this will be the start of a desire to write more often! People need to hear you, by any means possible!" – Ilinca, a young blogger taking part in UNICEF Romania's #StayAtHome journal, as captured in Studying at home due to coronavirus? This is how young people around the world are keeping their mood up from Voices of Youth

As families adjust to this new reality of both physical distancing and increased responsibility for independent learning, preventionists can play a key role in promoting family resilience by offering resources, tools, and strategies for strengthening emotional well-being, fostering positive connections between family members, and helping to build families’ capacity to navigate what may be new and unfamiliar roles.

“Physical distance… does not mean we need to remain socially disconnected or isolated. In fact, individuals, families, and communities can maintain the one thing we all need right now…social connection!”Coronavirus Resources & Tips for Parents, Children & Others from Prevent Child Abuse America

Preventionists, parents/caregivers, and educators alike are exploring new and creative ways to engage students in continued education and development during this time when schools have closed and/or shifted to virtual learning environments. While the reality of the digital divide limits the opportunity for equal engagement, there are several interactive online tools available to engage students at various levels who do have access. These resources support the development of healthy relationships and help to build students’ understanding and capacity to promote justice, equity, and connectedness on a larger scale.

Closing the Digital Divide

For Teachers

  • Take a Stand for Healthy Relationships: A self-paced online learning module from NCADV that teaches students healthy relationship skills.
  • HEART Women & Girls: Website offers culturally relevant health and relationship education resources for Muslim women, as well as access to virtual health educators so users can ask anonymous questions.
  • The G Word: Global storytelling platform around experiences of gender – educators can encourage students to read stories and submit their own.
  • Respect Effect: App that encourages young people to build healthy relationship skills by completing daily challenges with their significant others, friends, and families.
  • Teaching a People’s History: Online resource hub with links to videos, websites, audio, teaching guides, etc.
  • Getting Together for Social Justice: Website with videos, articles, and other online resources for education around racial, gender, and economic justice, as well as other root causes of violence.

For parents/caregivers/mentors

  • Small Moments: Website with videos and other resources on building safe, stable relationships and environments for children to thrive.
  • Everyday Mentor: Online resources to help mentors support young people’s emotional and physical health and academic success.
  • Talk Now Talk Often AK: Conversation cards to help parents build trust and talk to their kids about relationships.

In Closing

“The work of equity requires us to slow down in the midst of challenges and crises, and take a bold stand in the interest of safety, first. Safety means many different things, and this is where centering equity becomes increasingly essential.” – The Justice Collective, from Coronavirus and Racial + Social Equity

We must work together to bring visibility to our collective resilience and strength, and to promote health equity, racial justice, and community care as actionable solutions to foster thriving individuals, families, and communities.

We’d love to hear from you! What does your prevention work look like? What resources have been helpful to you? Please contact us to share.

Notice of Federal Funding and Federal Disclaimer: This website is funded through Grant #90EV0410-03 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau, Family Violence Prevention and Services Program [which incorporates funding provided by the National Center on Injury Prevention and Control/Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCIPC/CDC)]. Neither the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse this website including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided.

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