Identifying and contextualizing best practices in responding to violence against women during the COVID‑19 pandemic: a mixed-methods study of the experiences of staff and survivors in three Canadian provinces
Violence against women (VAW), including domestic violence and sexual violence, has increased during the COVID‑19 pandemic with detrimental impacts on women’s health. VAW organizations across the country quickly adapted to meet these conditions. However, what is unclear is how VAW interventions were implemented, what factors internal and external to VAW organizations impacted these processes, and the outcomes for VAW survivors. This is a barrier to identifying which VAW response strategies worked best and the contextual factors that facilitated success, critical to ameliorating the impacts of COVID‑19 on VAW and preparing for future emergencies. This research aims to address these gaps by building upon our previous rapid research on the processes and experiences of adapting VAW services in Toronto. As a diverse team of academics, VAW organizations, and women with lived experience of violence, we will mobilize our existing networks and extend this research across the provinces of Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Our research will include a survey of VAW staff and in-depth interviews with staff and survivors who have accessed VAW services during the pandemic to develop an up-to-date understanding of how VAW services were adapted during the pandemic, the contextual factors (like funding, staff wellbeing, and collaboration with other sectors) that impacted these adaptations, and how well services have been meeting the needs of VAW survivors, including how these needs have been impacted by COVID-19. In line with our earlier study in Toronto, we will investigate the experiences of VAW survivors facing different forms of marginalization (e.g., racialized women or women experiencing economic instability, who use drugs, or who identify as sexual or gender minorities). This research will further examine how provincial and municipal policies and practices have served as barriers or facilitators and the experiences of VAW survivors in rural and remote areas.